Six. That’s how many times I watched Jurassic Park in theaters. Nearly 20 years later, the Steven Spielberg movie continues to be an entertaining and exciting classic that can be re-watched over and over again. Its sequels… not so much.
Jurassic Park, The Lost World and Jurassic Park III were released last week on Blu-ray for the first time in an “Ultimate Trilogy” package, which naturally features a new documentary that looks back on the franchise, offers even more behind-the-scenes footage and includes all of the archival featurettes released in previous editions. More importantly, the Ultimate Trilogy set gives fans the ability to watch the three movies in “high definition” for the first time.
It also gives me the opportunity to recount on the decline of quality from one movie to the next.
There were plenty of movies released in 1993 that appear dated by today’s standards. Jurassic Park is not one of those films. It’s just as entertaining, exciting, imaginative and moving as it was 20 years ago. Spielberg’s pitch-perfect direction coupled with John Williams memorable score still hit all the right notes. The dinosaur sequences, especially the T-Rex attack and the velociraptor climax, remain the benchmark for dinosaur sequences. In fact, the special effects, despite their age, remain the quintessential standard for dinosaur effects. No movie or TV show since, including the next two Jurassic Park movies, have come close to matching the seamless integration of dinosaurs into real surroundings.
The movie looks great on Blu-ray, with crystal clear footage and excellent sound. Unfortunately, the “crystal clear” aspect of Blu-ray actually makes some of the special effects look… old. The scene where Dr. Grant and Ellie see the brachiosauruses for the first time is where the film’s age shows worse, the effects not as seamless as they once appeared. Thankfully, the T-Rex and velociraptor sequences still hold up well.
Steven Spielberg returned with this adaptation of Michael Crichton’s sequel. Like the book, the movie comes off as a bit of a retread, even a cash-in. Still, Spielberg is at the helm; The Lost World features many strong sequences and is consistently entertaining. Even when the story devolves into complete stupidity in the third act, with a T-Rex going on a rampage in downtown San Diego, the movie is fun.
The original Jurassic Park was fun, but it was also much more than that. The Lost World is popcorn entertainment, nothing more. Elements like the San Diego climax and Malcolm’s kid stowing away to inject some kiddie action into the movie only distract from what could have been an otherwise quality sequel.
While The Lost World had its shortcomings, it wasn’t a complete waste of film reel. The degradation of the Jurassic Park franchise accelerated significantly with its third entry, however.
Joe Johnston took over directing duties with the third movie, which, for the first time, was not at least based on a story by Crichton. The result is a silly, over-the-top and annoyingly acted affair that suffers from all the problems sequels tends to suffer from: namely the urge to go “bigger and better,” which often result in “bigger and worse.”
The movie looks good on Blu-ray, but the CGI special effects still drag behind the original Jurassic Park. More importantly, and much to the film’s detriment, the original top-of-the-food-chain dinosaurs – the T-Rex and the velociraptors – are neutered. In this movie, the Spinosaurus uses T-Rex as dental floss. The velociraptors, such vicious and frightening creatures in the first two movies, are reduced to being desperate mothers who want their eggs back. They’ve been upgraded in the form of pteranodons, who are creepy but not nearly as frightening.
Jurassic Park III is mindlessly entertaining thanks to its fast-paced plotting, but Johnston strips out the sense of magic and wonder that graced the first two movies. It’s much more comedic than the first two movies, but not in a funny way. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni combine forces to make one of the most obnoxious on-screen couple in cinema history. The plot is littered with stupid elements, most of which revolve around these two characters. Poor Sam Neill.
Joe Johnston still claims that Jurassic Park IV is going to happen. The trend established by the franchise indicates this would be a mistake, especially with Johnston at the helm. But if the inevitable does occur, Spielberg and Johnston need to recapture the magic from the first movie and approach the story as if Michael Crichton had written it. They owe him that much.