Peter Suderman Reviews Jurassic Park 3D in The Washington Times


Jurassic Park via Universal Studios

Steven Spielberg's technophobic creature feature, Jurassic Park, hits theaters again today, this time in 3D. In today's Washington Times, Senior Editor Peter Suderman looks back on how the film changed blockbuster moviemaking—and why it's still a great movie: 

When "Jurassic Park" — director Steven Spielberg's big-budget, special effects-driven feature about a dinosaur-filled theme park gone disastrously awry — first hit theaters in June 1993, the studio advertised it as "an adventure 65 million years in the making."

Twenty years later, watching it on the big screen still offers a certain historical perspective — not on dinosaurs, but on the evolution of the cinematic creature we know as the summer blockbuster. If you want to know how today's blockbusters came to be the way they are, few films will give you a better idea than "Jurassic Park."

The movie was a Tyrannosaurus-sized success when it first came out, earning $357 million at the U.S. box office, instantly making it one of the most commercially successful movies ever. In the two decades since its first release, the movie has become a popular classic — beloved by former kid dinosaur nuts and remembered fondly by a generation awed by its trailblazing use of computer-generated dinosaur effects.

Starting Friday, the movie takes an anniversary tour through theaters, complete with a 3-D upgrade. Sadly, it's more of a downgrade; the 3-D conversion is unnecessary and distracting, serving mostly to muddy cinematographer Dean Cundey's crisp photography and darken the visibility of Mr. Spielberg's carefully crafted frames.

Even still, the movie is an absolute blast, a classic big-budget thrill ride that deserves its reputation and more. The movie retains an ecstatic, primal intensity, and the relentlessly eventful final hour remains an almost flawless exercise in cinematic high terror. The big set pieces, especially a midfilm encounter with an angry T. rex, are paced with heart-stopping precision; Mr. Spielberg and screenwriters Michael Crichton (who also wrote the novel on which the film is based) and David Koepp dole out information just fast enough that the audience is always a half step behind — still processing the last scare when the next one hits.

It is also arguably the last film by Mr. Spielberg — the blockbuster auteur behind trendsetters like "Jaws," "E.T." and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" — to provoke genuine awe and wonderment. For that, you can credit his innovative but surprisingly restrained use of computer-generated special effects.

"Jurassic Park" represents a turning point in the history of big-screen effects tech. It was among the first megabudget productions to rely extensively on computer-generated animation, with many of its dinosaurs created by microprocessors and digitally inserted into the shots after the fact.

Read the whole thing.  

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  1. That looks like its gonna be good. Wow.

    1. First CGC for first CGI!

  2. The special effects still hold up, which is a disappointment really. That suggests the effects produced by Spielberg’s 486 computers can’t be improved on, even by the processing power of today.

    1. For me,Jurassic Park held up pretty well until just recently. I might have watched once in the past year, and I seem to remember thinking “Those special effects look fake.”

    2. What’s the point of a bunch of special effects in service of a lousy story?

      The effects in the 1960 version of Village of the Damned are rudimentary, but the story is outstanding.

  3. Now, that’s a great big pile of shit.

    1. Uhh, ah ha, hmm, mmm, yes.

      Sorry, I’m Goldbluming.

  4. What next, the Smell-O-Vision version?

    Or maybe they will digitally change out the actors? Justin Bieber being chased and eaten might get generate some box office cash.

    1. Closer than you think:…..t-why.html

      Imagine the scene where Laura Dern is digging thru the pile of stegosaurus crap.

      1. How can someone write about Smell-O-Vision without name-checking “Polyester,” one of the all time great films, and easily the best thing Waters ever made?

        1. Well, I’ve just demonstrated my ignorance…

          1. Be ignorant no more. I still have a load of the original scratch and sniff cards that they handed out during the theatrical run. If your handle is any indication of a B’more background (I grew up near Park Circle and bleed Ravens purple), you owe it to yourself to run right out etc etc.

            I first saw it while I was living in Salt Lake City, accompanied by my then-fiancee, also a Baltimorean. When Tab Hunter said, “Hell, honey, I’m RICH, I own the Edmonson Drive In!” we screamed with laughter and got hundreds of confused stares.

            1. Thanks. Not from Baltimore but I’ll add it my list.

      2. Wasn’t it a triceratops?

        1. Yeah, think you’re correct.

  5. I was listening to the radio last week, the liberal talk station (it gives me a feeling of infinite intellectual superiority) and the guest was an anti-GMO salmon guy. In response to a softball question from the credulous host (Bill Press), he actually cited Jurassic Park as an illustration of how scientists are perfectly happy to foist unknown and untested dangers on an innocent public.

    Glad it’s just the right wingers who are anti-science…

  6. Alt-text: “Let’s see those long arms save you now, monkey boy.”

    1. The T-Rex is racist?

      1. I think that is specieist

      2. Nah, I was just trying to tie in Goldblum’s supporting role in Buckaroo Bonzai. But she might have been specist. I don’t know, I think she was a pretty equal opportunity predator.

  7. Jeff Goldblum in 3D? Only for Buckaroo Banzai would I endure that.

  8. This movie always makes me laugh because my father broke his streak of not going to the movies that started with… ET, ROTJ? He took me to one of those in theaters, and then didn’t go back until this. I don’t think he missed it, because he didn’t go back until about 2004 and still hasn’t seen his one movie for the ’10s.

    1. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a movie theater, but then I prefer the old movies anyway.

      1. Ditto. I just don’t go to theaters any more.

        Actually, I remember – True Grit. Well worth it – WAY better than the original, and much closer to the book.

        Before that….? Years. Since? None.

    2. Good man. I won’t see any movies that end in a number. No Spielberg. No Zemeckis. No Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Meg Ryan, or Julia Roberts. Nothing that looks like a bunch of menopausal women discussing their relationships with their mothers. Nothing French about a beautiful teenage girl and her angst. Nothing where the CGI is the main draw. No remakes of old TV shows or video games or comic books.

      It’s no wonder that it’s been years since I went to the movies.

      1. Well, your standards aren’t very high, but they protect you from wasting time and money on some really awful drek.

        1. Sturgeon’s Rule goes double for movies. I have to confess that the wife and I streamed “The Darwin Awards” a couple weeks ago and enjoyed the hell out of it. Sheer junk, but it got us by while we wait for Mike Judge to make another masterpiece.

      2. No 70’s De Niro?

        1. He more than made up for it in the ’80s with King of Comedy and Brazil.

  9. I remember being disappointed that Spielberg went from the wonder of seeing prehistory come to life to horror movie cliches much too quickly. Of course, I’m not a big slasher movie fan. Speaking of which, I would also have preferred that the girl being chased by dinosaurs be older, bustier and wearing carefully torn shirt and shorts.

    1. Its been a while since I read the book but I seem to recall the book being more slasher than the movie.

    2. I knew I raised my 12 year old right when he told me that the scene where the dinosaur ate the lawyer was his favorite. “I could watch that part again and again!”

  10. with many of its dinosaurs created by microprocessors

    Ugh. Nails on a chalkboard.

  11. So, how 3D is it actually?

    I’ve only seen one 2D movie updated for 3D, and I really wasn’t impressed. It seemed to me that compared to a real 3D movie, the 3D effect in a converted film is very subtle.

    1. I’ve only seen a couple of 3D movies since the fad restarted, and only Avatar has stood out. Toy Story 3D was a sad excuse for an upcharge. And Coraline sucked in any format.

      I’ve yet to spend a nickel on a converted 3D movie.

      1. “Finding Nemo” conversion worked well. I’m sure the conversion is easier if it’s all CGI all of the time.

        1. I would assume that “Finding Nemo” wasn’t a conversion, but a re-render in stereoscopic 3D.

      2. Dredd in 3D was awesome. Then again I thought it was beautifully filmed with I saw it in 2D the first time.

      3. The Amazing Spider-Man in 3D was pretty freakin sweet.

  12. OK…I forgot about the lawyer snack. Too bad they didn’t have a politician and a bureaucrat for desert.

  13. Is this just normal Jurassic Park but in “3D”? Not worth it just to see Newman get raped by raptors in “3D”.

  14. I rewatched this on TV a few days ago. Jeff Goldblum, the one articulating Crichton’s technophobic viewpoint, was wrong about everything! Sure “life” is hard to contain. But a few animals? All you need is a non-corrupt computer guy who won’t turn off the damn fences! And a few female animals won’t in fact “find a way” to reproduce, unless of course there’s some random miracle having to do with frog DNA. Richard Attenborough was the only sensible one in the story (except when it came to skimping on a corrupt IT guy–why spare expense only for him??). It’s jus’ science, nothing to be afraid of. Build better fences if you want to make it into an amusement park.

    1. It might also be a good idea to leave out the velociraptors.

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