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Jurassic Park 3D Movie Review

Jurassic Park 3D movie poster Jurassic Park 3D

Theatrical Rerelease: April 5, 2013 / Running Time: 127 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Steven Spielberg / Writers: Michael Crichton (novel & screenplay); David Koepp (screenplay)

Cast: Sam Neill (Dr. Alan Grant), Laura Dern (Dr. Ellie Sattler), Jeff Goldblum (Dr. Ian Malcolm), Richard Attenborough (John Hammond), Bob Peck (Robert Muldoon), Martin Ferrero (Donald Gennaro), Joseph Mazzello (Tim Murphy), Ariana Richards (Lex Murphy), Samuel L. Jackson (Ray Arnold), B.D. Wong (Henry Wu), Wayne Knight (Dennis Nedry), Jerry Molen (Gerry Harding), Miguel Sandoval (Juanito Rostagno), Cameron Thor (Lewis Dodgson), Whitby Herford (Volunteer Boy)

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The original ad campaign for Jurassic Park proclaimed it "an adventure 65 million years in the making." In light of that,
the twenty years that have passed since its original theatrical release do not seem like such a big deal. But I'll gladly accept any rationale for classic movies being reissued to theaters. The milestone anniversary timing makes this release less random than the 2012 return engagements made by Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Beauty and the Beast. Yes, like those hit '90s films, Jurassic Park returns to theaters in 3D. If that's what it takes to see great films back on the big screen again, so be it.

Though dinosaurs in 3D kind of makes sense, the conversion adds nothing to this film clearly designed for plain two old dimensions. However, this is a film that leaves nothing to be desired. Seeing it with a crowd projected on a screen is a feast with or without manufactured dimensionality.

"What've they got in there? King Kong?", posits Dr. Ian Malcolm at the gates of Jurassic Park.

Two decades later, the perception on Jurassic Park seems to have changed from thrilling populist entertainment to a terrific piece of cinema. I've held that view since revisiting the film on DVD back in 2000 and my overdue return confirms that sentiment, even just days after lamenting being underwhelmed by director Steven Spielberg's most recent fare.

Spielberg has been Hollywood royalty for so long that it's tempting to believe that either everything he touches deservedly turns to gold or that he's the cinematic equivalent of a McDonald's meal. The truth obviously lies somewhere in between, as even his biggest fans and detractors will confess to thinking something he's directed is a gem or a stinker.

Jurassic Park is undoubtedly one of the gems. Primarily set in an amusement park, it is very much a two-hour thrill ride, but the rare one with a brain, a heart, and enough substance to captivate viewers of virtually all ages. Spielberg obviously has a sturdy foundation in the bestselling sci-fi novel by the late Michael Crichton, who also shares screenplay credit with David Koepp (Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible). But it's the execution of the material that dazzles.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) welcomes Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to Jurassic Park.

The film is perfectly cast to cover all ages, angles, and personality types. With the material evenly divided, everyone offers something worthwhile to the mix: Richard Attenborough as the park's avuncular proprietor, Sam Neill as the authoritative voice of reason, Jeff Goldblum as the regularly diverting comic relief, Wayne Knight as the bumbling villain, Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards as the endearing youth. We even get Samuel L. Jackson, on the cusp of becoming a household name, doing his thing as the park's engineer.
And Laura Dern adds a touch of feminist power while her short shorts show off her gainly legs.

Taut, well-paced, and unceasingly engaging, the movie has the emotional spectrum covered. It makes you laugh, it scares you, and alternating between the two simply elevates your spirit and makes you glad to be alive. Is that giving a movie too much credit, and a movie ignored by all but niche, technical, and MTV awards at that? I don't think it is, but I don't know that I can ever be completely impartial about this film.

After all, this is one of my generation's big event movies. Spielberg had made those kind of huge landmark films before in Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. Those are all familiar to those around my age as well, having been tough to miss in the home video era. But I was just the right age to experience Jurassic Park for the first time on the big screen with a healthy mix of fear and excitement. The only other movie I think had as huge an effect on my age group is Home Alone, another blockbuster I'm glad to have caught at the right time and happy to continue holding in extremely high regard.

"Hold on to your butts," Samuel L. Jackson offers sage advice as head engineer Ray Arnold. "Hacker" Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards) has her Jell-O interrupted by a dang Velociraptor.

Memories and nostalgia alone can't make an average film seem great. There is genuine greatness in Jurassic Park and I hope that more people recognize that. Not too long ago, the film cracked the IMDb's Top 250, a volatile but important achievement that I expect this rerelease to solidify. I'm ready for my fellow '90s kids with their adult voices growing more audible each day to identify this film as the masterpiece it is. I'm talking American Film Institute countdowns, National Film Registry selection, and so on. Clearly, as one of the still all-time highest-grossing films worldwide, it's got the cultural significance down. Now, I hope that all can see the film as not just a source of technical achievement, but of cinematic wonder.

I'm happy to report that twenty years later, those initially stunning visual effects still impress. This is very much a benchmark production in that regard, with Spielberg's crew able to employ both computer-generated imagery and audio-animatronics without a trace of artifice. On the whole, the film has aged very gracefully. The computer interfaces date it some and there's a moment where a kid is far too excited by a CD-ROM. Beyond that, though, this is quite timeless.

Dr. Alan Grant knows how to disarm a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Ian Malcolm, not so much.

I will close this review with an analogy that I've never had a relevant place to share and shockingly have never seen anyone else make. Steven Spielberg's 1993 compares to Victor Fleming's 1939 as one of the great, productive years of an important director. (For the purposes of this, ignore the fact that George Cukor and Sam Wood also briefly manned the helm on Gone with the Wind.)
From Fleming, 1939 brought both the summer release The Wizard of Oz and the December drama Gone with the Wind, two sensational hits still considered among the greatest films of all time. In 1993, Spielberg had Jurassic Park as a summer blockbuster and Schindler's List open around the holidays.

The longer, more serious, historical Gone and Schindler's each won the industry's highest honor, the Academy Award for Best Picture. Me? I'm partial to the other two, the imaginative fantasies that are about as widely seen as any feature films. One could easily draw parallels between Dorothy's company and those endangered on Isla Nubar. Having already written more than enough here, I will suffice to say that while there may be no place like home, carving out two hours every so often to journey to places like Oz and Jurassic Park, whether at home or in a theater, is a most rewarding experience that I wholeheartedly recommend.

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Reviewed April 5, 2013.

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