Jurassic Park is, to me, a perfect film, one of a very small handful of films which can not be improved in any way. I’ve already talked at some length about my opinion of the film, so I’ll let that stand on its own and instead discuss the new 3D version here. We’re currently living the era of 3D re-releases, when 3D screens are commonplace, 3D is the chosen viewing experience of the worldwide masses, and conversion technology has become not only cost effective but immensely profitable. In fact, last weekend’s top release, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, was delayed almost a year so it could undergo conversion to 3D, a move that proved successful with $232 million in box office receipts so far.
Jurassic Park 3D is without a doubt the best 3D conversion I have seen. It’s clear that they took their time on it, carefully considering the 3D structure of each shot and even altering a few effects to better suit the format. The movie is still flawless, and the original effects still hold up perfectly after 20 years, even on the IMAX screen I saw it on. The new dimension is rarely shoved in our face in this new conversion, opting for subtlety and accuracy instead of the typical exaggeration and diorama look that is so often seen these days. The only other conversion that comes close was Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which was amazing in some scenes (the pod race) and less impressive in others.
The 3D particularly shines whenever the velociraptors are on screen, and the depth adds an added sense of terror when they pop out at you. The kitchen sequence, already one of the most terrifying scenes in film history, particularly shines. Other moments use the 3D in less memorable ways, even in large effects moments. The 3D in first brachiosaurus encounter, for example, made no impression on me, other than the fact that there were some framing issues due to the scaling required. In fact, the 3D was often noticeable for some of its more awkward moments than it was for adding anything.
Spielberg’s style, which uses lots of backlighting and reflections, does not exactly translate well to 3D. The dinner scene, with its projector-based lighting, was especially awkward, with distracting 3D lens flares that it seemed the technicians didn’t know what to do with. None of it is bad, just somewhat odd. The daylight scenes of the tour, with characters looking out of windows covered in sunny reflections, were also odd, if technically correct. It was almost distracting, as I started considering how window reflections look in the three dimensional real world instead of focusing on the film.
The highlight of this re-release is not the 3D, however, but instead is the remastered sound and picture. The Oscar-winning sound effects have never been more impressive, especially in IMAX (despite the typically painful volume level in IMAX). John Williams’ score, which I consider to be near the very top of his impressive body of work, especially benefits from this remastering, with every trumpet fanfare and every resonant boom of the cello crystal clear and deeply rich. The picture is also gorgeous, highlighting both the digital effects and Stan Winston’s animatronics. Winston’s T. rex, for my money the single greatest combined feat of engineering and physical artistry in movie history, is gorgeous to behold. The T. rex attack is as pulse-pounding and exciting as it ever was, and was so overwhelming I failed to even notice the 3D.
And that, of course, is the real question. Was there any need to do the 3D conversion at all? My first instinct is to say no, because I would have been just as happy, if not more, with a remastered IMAX 2D version. (There was a 2D version available locally, but not with the picture/sound quality afforded by IMAX.) They did this last year for Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was fantastic. I feel like there should be a market for simply re-releasing classic films in theaters, both for new audiences to experience it on the big screen for the first time, and for fans to get that chance once again.
And here’s the point in the review where I give a big sigh and get up on my soapbox. It’s an unfortunate truth that the big screen is no longer a draw for audiences. Movies still certainly make boatloads of money at the box office, but I think very little of that is due to the draw of the cinema experience. Seeing a movie in the theater is considered by many to be an exercise in frustration, because of rude audience members, high prices and the general lack of comfort when compared to watching something at home. I often hear from my friends that they haven’t seen a movie in the theater in ages, because it’s easier to wait for Netflix/Redbox/piracy, where they can watch it at home in their underwear on the comfy sofa, pausing whenever they need to go pee and using their phone throughout. I can completely empathize with this feeling, especially when I’ve had many cinema showings ruined by annoying people (the lady who impatiently tapped her foot through Lincoln deserved to be pelted with eggs).
I feel like movies still make money in the theater because of the desire of people to be current. The big tentpole films of the summer are successful due to the “now” factor, and everyone rushes out to see The Avengers or something similar so that they can talk about it with their friends. If new movies were instantly available on demand at home the same day as theater release, or on Netflix, just as many people would watch, if not more. So, given all of that, I can see the draw for studios in making 3D conversions instead of simple 2D re-releases. A film like Jurassic Park, which most people have seen, is not enough of a draw on its own even with remastered audio and picture to bring out crowds, but 3D is still something mostly unique to the theater. At some point, I imagine, 3D TVs will become more prominent and this current business model will die out, but until then it makes financial sense for studios to remaster classics in 3D.
So I guess I shouldn’t complain, because without the draw of 3D to spur ticket sales, we wouldn’t have gotten this fantastic re-release at all. And it is really spectacular. Jurassic Park 3D is most likely the best version of Jurassic Park, in terms of sound and picture quality, that we’re likely to ever get. The 3D is truly impressive for a conversion, the best I’ve seen, and even for those like me would would prefer 2D it’s still has some good things to add. The film is of course still a masterpiece, and you should definitely take advantage of experiencing it again on the big screen while you have the chance.