"Jurassic Park" has been re-released in 3-D, and you should go see it. The original version has been available on DVD for years, but this new release is a powerful reminder that some movies are meant for the big screen.
For those who don't remember (or never saw) its original run in the early ’90s, "Jurassic Park" tells the story of a multimillionaire named John Hammond who populates a tropical island with cloned dinosaurs. Through a technique that would probably sound a lot more ridiculous if I remembered anything from AP biology, dinosaur DNA is extracted from the blood of fossilized mosquitoes and used to create modern-day thunder lizards.
(Except they're not thunder lizards — "Jurassic Park" marked popular culture's transition from the dinosaur-reptile connection to the dinosaur-bird connection).
Thanks to these prehistoric mosquitoes, Hammond (played by Richard Attenborough) is able to create an amusement park full of contemporary dinosaurs. But before he can open its doors to the world, he has to get some legit scientists to sign off on the venture, so he flies a trio of doctors (played by Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum) out to tour the island with his grandkids.
Hijinks ensue. Also, Samuel L. Jackson is killed.
At the time, "Jurassic Park" was celebrated for its groundbreaking CGI, merging animated dinosaurs with live-action characters. Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Michael Crichton's best-selling novel, the film grossed more than $350 million in the U.S. alone, and spawned a couple of entertaining if underwhelming sequels. Going into the 3-D screening, I was concerned that these effects were going to look awkward and dated next to 20 years of digital progress, like the retrofitted CGI characters of the "Special Edition Star Wars" re-releases that stick out so painfully today (See: Hutt, Jabba the). Fortunately, this was not the case. The dinosaurs look as great as ever. And thankfully the 3-D retrofit is more focused on creating immersive depth instead of throwing a lot of hokey objects at unsuspecting viewers. "Jurassic Park" doesn't need 3-D to provide its scares.
The film has all kinds of other fun elements that justify the scope of the big screen. Spielberg's opening scene of nameless workers trying to herd a raptor into its cage sets a foreboding tone that reminds viewers of films like "ET" and "Close Encounters." A sweeping and dramatic score from John Williams hits all the highs and lows of the plot. Zany supporting actors color the human side of the canvas, like Wayne Knight (better known as "Seinfeld's" Newman), who shows up as a scheming computer geek, and another character who feels like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter, bent on keeping short khaki shorts in style, at least on tropical islands.
Altogether, "Jurassic Park" is an excellent example of how special effects are best used to support a good story, not supplant it. The plot is believable enough to lose yourself in, the characters are interesting enough to enjoy and the sum product is a fun movie. It's also more or less the last movie of this type that Spielberg made before shifting more heavily into his "mature, serious filmmaker" phase of his career, which is too bad. We could use more movies like this.
If the success of "Jurassic Park 3D" leads to the re-release of other early Spielberg films, then I say go see it. Twice.
"Jurassic Park 3-D" is rated PG-13, mainly for violence and intense situations. There is some scattered profanity and zero sexuality outside of some disturbing khaki shorts. While the gore is on the tame side of the spectrum — even for a PG-13 rating — the film is probably too scary for young children.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College and appears weekly on the KJZZ "Movie Show." You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.