Jurassic Park 3D
Opens Friday (see times below)
If ever there were a film that justified a re-release in 3D format, it's Steven Spielberg's dinosaurs-run-amok blockbuster Jurassic Park. In both its visual style and its pulpy adventure spirit, Jurassic Park was pretty much 3D already when it hit theaters 20 years ago.
The good news is that the 3D effects in the new edition of Jurassic Park, screening locally in select IMAX theaters as well, are used with evident care and restraint. There's none of the goofy zoom-into-your-lap nonsense, and no George-Lucas-style overhauls of classic scenes.
The even better news is that the 3D effects genuinely enhance the thrill-ride storytelling techniques which made the movie so popular in the first place. Watching this movie again after (I don't even want to say it) two decades, I was cheered mightily by the experience. Jurassic Park remains a pretty much bulletproof piece of popular entertainment.
Everyone knows the story, right? An eccentric billionaire uses DNA technology to create a tourist island theme park of actual free-range dinosaurs. They get loose. Sam Neill, Laura Dern and two cute kids run like hell.
Those set-piece spectacles we remember so well are presented once again for our consideration. The T. rex attack on the stranded Jeeps remains the film's most iconic sequence, and the 3D makeover gives the images new texture and thrust. Blown back up to proper big screen proportions, after years of rattling sadly through the television, the scene is restored to its original glory. And the sound! When the T. rex roars, you can feel it in your ribcage and your brainstem. It's like some atavistic predator danger switch gets thrown.
The calmer dialogue scenes are punched up in 3D as well, subtly for the most part. Occasionally you get that strange terrarium effect, where foreground figures pop from the frame, and that can be distracting. But other sequences seem designed from the ground up for 3D. The velociraptor kitchen attack, with those long stainless steel counters, is nicely enhanced by selective 3D flourishes. Jurassic Park 3D does not look, sound or feel like a 20-year-old movie. The original creature designs and special effects, only slightly tweaked for 3D, hold up very well indeed.
For the thrills and the effects to really land, you need a sturdy story and characters to care about. I'd forgotten — or more likely never even registered — just how effortlessly Spielberg doles out the goods. In regard to all the weird science, Jurassic Park simply sets up its premise, then plays fair by its own rules. You get the precise amount of information you need to accept what's happening. The characters are sharply drawn and the relationships are clearly established. Spielberg's ever-present emotional themes are threaded throughout — innocence in peril, wonder and awe, reluctant fathers, abandoned kids.
Here's a testimonial for you: I brought my 9-year-old boy to Jurassic Park 3D and he completely flipped out over it. I know he's seen special effects on par with what's onscreen here, but he's never been put through the old Spielberg sentiment machine at the same time.