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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jurassic Park 3D

I have no idea why this isn't up on Channel 24 yet but I am tired of waiting so I will put up the links for this and the next review if and when they go live. For now though, here's my love letter to one of my all time favourite Hollywood blockbusters. 

And here's the link.

 What it's about

You know the score: A billionaire opens the most incredible theme park ever conceived. He invites a lawyer, a trio of scientists and his two young grandchildren to sample the park before it opens. Things go very, very wrong. Only this time, things go very, very wrong in 3D!

What we thought

I saw Jurassic Park during its original run in South African cinemas way, way back in 1993 (or maybe '94 – South Africa took ages to get things back then) at the tender age of eleven. To say that the I liked the film doesn't even begin to do justice to how much of an effect it had on my young life. Not only did it make me an instant fan of Steven Spielberg but, for me, it was one of those movies that you see when you're very young that almost single-handedly (it has a bit of help from Return of the Jedi) makes you a movie fan for life. It also turned me, for a few years at least, into a giant dinosaur nerd. It's not for nothing, in short, that I discovered Jurassic Park around the same time I discovered The Beatles, Star Wars and comic books.

As such, to be as clear as I can be, if you're looking for an even remotely objective review of Jurassic Park 3D, look just about anywhere else. I love, love, love Jurassic Park and, though I've seen it countless times on video, TV and DVD, watching it on the big screen for the first time in twenty years was like watching it again for the first time. I all but skipped out of the cinema with the kind of euphoric high that only the best cinema-going experiences can offer. Admittedly, having to go from that high to the latest Stallone crapfest put something of a damper on my mood, but such is the life of a film critic.

Now, the main draw of Jurassic Park 3D is presumably supposed to be the 3D effects but, though they're actually not bad for a post-conversion job, they're entirely secondary to the sheer joy of watching the consummate, quintessential Hollywood Blockbuster on the big screen. If you saw it before in a cinema, go again just for the hell of it. If, however, you've never seen Jurassic Park or if you've never seen Jurassic Park projected, do not pass up this incredible opportunity – especially, and just take my word on this, if you're an eleven year old boy.

And that, right there, is the key to Jurassic Park's brilliance. It has been twenty years since it originally came out but it works as well as it ever did, both in terms of its still spectacular special effects and as a funny, magical, scary and endlessly entertaining thrill ride of a movie.

In terms of the former, the special effects in Jurassic Park still put to shame many of today's CGI-heavy blockbusters by being, well, special. The total reliance on computer generated graphics for most of today's big budget visual effects means that many of these films look dated almost immediately and they often fail miserably to convey true physical presence. The fact that they're all “just” created on a computer also takes away from the “how did they do that!” magic of old school effects. Jurassic Park's expert mix of CGI and physical, animatronic effects brings the versatility of CGI together with the physical presence and “wow-factor” of old fashioned special effects.

It's also fitting, not so incidentally, that the film is being released in the same week as the passing of the legendary Ray Harryhausen, who contributed some of stunning model work to Jurassic Park and whose stop motion dinosaur films were a huge influence on a young Steven Spielberg.

Beyond its effects though, what we also have is a brilliantly put together adventure film made by the guy who is, only somewhat arguably, the greatest Big Hollywood Blockbuster filmmaker of all time. Not only is the film an expertly paced, beautifully shot and thoroughly effective and entertaining a thrill ride, it even has some very memorable performances, genuinely funny dialogue, great characters - including two completely non-annoying little kids – and even a thing or two to say about the relationship between humanity and nature, summed up best in the immortal line “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”

Some have written off the “human” side of the film but how anyone could see the film as nothing more than an “effects showcase” when you have Jeff Goldblum at his very best as the twitchy, smartass “rockstar” chaos mathematician Ian Malcolm, as well as plenty of human moments as John Hammond is faced with the destruction of his idealistic dreams and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) coming to terms with his fear of parenthood.

Top to bottom there is just nothing about Jurassic Park that isn't great. It has heart, thrills, intelligence and humour and is equally brilliant as a science fiction film as it is an adventure film as it is a horror film. It is, very simply, a thoroughly wonderful piece of work that we now once again have the privilege of discovering or rediscovering on the big screen. Bring on the next generation of Jurassic Park fans!

Oh, one last thing that I criminally forgot to mention in my original review: Along with everything else, Jurassic Park also has one of the all time greatest movie scores too. Certainly, to my mind, it joins Superman and Star Wars as one of the top 3 John Williams scores to date.  

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