Jurassic Park 3D
What It Is
Dinosaurs are walking the earth. Again. Just as they did 20 years ago, when Jurassic Park rumbled across big screens in that quaint technology now called 2D, the dinosaurs are the best part of Steven Spielberg’s movie. They’re accompanied here by some adults in need of lessons, from the theme park impresario John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to the paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and they menace children who need only to be protected by their grandfather, the same Mr. Hammond. The fact that Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex (Ariana Richards) are not better protected owes to their grandfather’s pride, which becomes the focus for all the film’s educational trajectories: humans must appreciate nature and not overreach in trying to control (and profit from) it.
That primary lesson begins when Hammond pays a squad of researchers, academics, and scientists to make dinosaurs out of prehistoric DNA. The film explains this process in a breezy cartoon Hammond has assembled for his audience with the film, consisting of Alan and his partner Ellie (Laura Dern), his grandkids, a lawyer (Martin Ferrero), and the highly entertaining chaos theorist, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). As they ooh and ahh, Hammond arranges for them to tour the park in a pair of automated jeeps, promising they will be able to watch the dinosaurs without risk, as the fences are high and electric, and the technology probably infallible.
It’s the “probably” part that makes for trouble, for it happens that a disgruntled worker at the park, a computer programmer named Dennis (Wayne Knight) plans to steal some dinosaur DNA and be well paid for it. That he undertakes this theft during a massive rainstorm only underscores the very badness of his very bad deed.
Yes the plot is unsurprising. But the execution is mostly clever, and sometimes brilliant. Of course, the dinosaurs find ways out of their enclosures, and the film arranges for the children to be set off with Alan — who is resisting the idea of having children with Ellie because the undersized beings make him nervous — in order to brave scary monsters, falls into ravines and be zapped off electric fences, and a very long walk back to the main compound. This while Ellie waits with Hammond and a chain-smoker in a lab coat, Ray (Samuel L. Jackson), who works with her to get the machines running again, until he goes missing. With Hammond in need of a cane, Ian wounded and unable to walk at all, and Alan absent, the job of facing down dinosaurs to restart the electricity falls to Ellie, who is magnificent.
That the smartest and most compassionate humans survive is no surprise. What may be, even after all these years, is how much fun it is to watch them do it.
Why It’s Fun
The 3D retrofitting is fine. While Stan Winston’s puppets (the ailing Triceratops, for example) need no improvements over their original versions, the 3D in other sections is often effective, with reptilian tails or jaws or poisonous spittle headed toward viewers at varying speeds.
The dinosaurs still work, and the 3D doesn’t dissipate the thrill of seeing the herd of birdlike creatures run at Alan and the kids, or the T-Rex thundering through mud and trees, or the wonderful raptors, their breath visible on glass and their claws skittering across linoleum.
The plot is alternately corny and delightful, the kids annoying and terrific, and Ellie, especially, a wonderful character, at once vulnerable and tough, nurturing and courageous. She’s the ideal action movie hero.
Who’s Going To Love It
Kids who love dinosaurs will love it. And who doesn’t?
Fans of this film may welcome the chance to see it in a theater again. Unlike other movies that pitch themselves as “events,” this one might just be. It’s smart, funny, enthralling, well paced, and as close to a fairground ride as movies can come.
What To Be Aware Of
The movie is still scary, even all these years later, in particular because it puts its youngest characters at risk, then carefully orchestrates and shows their wholly reasonable fears.
The scary parts are remarkably scary, beautifully orchestrated, loud, and perfectly edited, so as to solicit visceral reactions. Sometimes these effects are daunting for younger viewers — even those who are now much more used to them than many children back in 1993.
The violence includes a prolonged and infamous attack by a T-Rex, on the children in particular, and then another attack by a pair of raptors, in a kitchen. Again, as these attacks are brilliantly choreographed, they are especially effective.
Other attacks on adults include blood, splattered and spurting. One of Hammond’s employees, a hunter named Muldoon (Bob Peck), sports an Australian bush hat and accent, as well as his own sort of pride. Still, his valor in the name of protecting the children and Ellie makes him seem more of a gentleman and hero than the odious lawyer, bitten in half while hiding in a porta-potty (this bit of nasty-comic action is more allusive than graphic, though the body parts are visible).
Another body parts scene involves Ray, who is off screen ripped apart by a dinosaur, his arm left hanging off a screen such that Ellie briefly believes it’s him, whole. It’s a giddy scary trick, eliciting screams from her and audience members.
At the start of the movie, Alan and Ellie are celebrating finding a skeleton at their dig with champagne, when John Hammond arrives to solicit their help at Jurassic Park. By the end of the scene, they’re toasting with the champagne.
Dennis meets with a shady colleague in order to discuss his theft of the dinosaur DNA: they have drinks on the table.
Some characters smoke cigarettes (including the good researcher played by Samuel Jackson and Dennis, the bad programmer played by Wayne Knight).
Some mild language, including “son of a bitch,” “damn,” “pile of shit,” and “hell.”
9 out of 10
Jurassic Park 3D
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards
Studio: Universal Pictures
US General Release: April 5, 2013
UK General Release: August 30, 2013