As last rites are delivered to the physical medium of film and theaters that make repertory screenings of classic cinema a priority becoming fewer and farther between, any opportunity to catch a certified classic on the big screen is one worth celebrating. And even if Universal’s motives aren’t driven snow-level pure in releasing Jurassic Park 3-D starting today, it’s impossible to complain when presented with a movie that is literally capable of inspiring awe. It’s been 20 (!) years since we had this picture in theaters last, which means there’s more than likely a large cross-section of our nation’s youth who will enter theaters and see Jurassic Park for the very first time. I envy them such an opportunity.
The 3-D can best be described as inoffensive and functional, taking nothing away from the viewing experience, but bringing very little to the table at the same time. Beyond some depth of field trickery and a shot or two (a raptor leap here, a car crash there), it mostly passes by without cause for applause or alarm. The real gift here is the chance to see a movie specifically calibrated for the communal audience experience back in its intended environment. Spielberg is a master – of this there’s little doubt – and his tale of scientific hubris and the monsters that result from it is as straightforwardly a work of pure entertainment as he’s ever delivered. (Well, there’s also that shark movie…) From the initial reveal of the brachiosaur (which still gave this reviewer chills) to the initial T-Rex attack to the Velociraptor assault near the film’s conclusion, Spielberg packs one classic sequence after another without ever letting off the gas. It’s funny, smart, brisk, scary, touching – basically everything you look for in a piece of mass entertainment.
Most heartening of all, the movie emerges into theaters two decades after its initial release feeling not the least bit dated. Sure, the references to ‘interactive CD-ROMs’ and glimpses of slightly outmoded technology peppered throughout could hamper a lesser work, but the thrills Jurassic Park have to offer remain essentially timeless. And there’s no better time than now, the age of ‘all CGI everything’ for a movie to show that we still haven’t managed to best puppetry, animatronics and all effects practical in convincing the audience that what they’re viewing is actually occupying physical space on the screen before us. The computer effects work in concert with the practical ones here, creating and maintaining the illusion instead of green screen trickery, that for all its talk of being “photo-real” rarely manages to fully draw you in. In that sense, Jurassic Park is something of a fossil itself now. And it’s high time that we’ve dug it up.
Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson’s right arm
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Michael Crichton and David Koepp
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rating: PG-13 for ‘intense science fiction terror’
Running Time: 127 minutes
Budget: $65 million
Release Date: April 5, 2013