- Despite looking long in the tooth, Spielberg’s tyrannosaurus still has some bite.
Jurassic Park: An IMAX 3D Experience | A-
Steven Spielberg’s financial windfall from the 1975 summer release of Jaws laid the foundation for what has since become known as the “summer blockbuster.” Unfortunately, a byproduct of that success was the untimely demise of a brief golden age in hip, sophisticated-yet-downbeat artistry practiced by auteurs like Hal Ashby, Michael Cimmino and Francis Ford Copolla.
Certain critics from the chattering class never forgave Spielberg and waited crouched in the shadows — daggers drawn — for the boy wizard to slip up (even as his groundbreaking hits kept piling up throughout the 1980s.)
In 1993, with flops like 1941 and Hook to console them, Spielberg’s distractors waited for the unveiling of the much-hyped, mega-budget monster mash Jurassic Park with a mixture of dread and anticipatory glee.
The old critiques that Jurassic Park was a triumph of marketing versus cinema, or that it was nothing but an overly elaborate funhouse, washed away in the tidal wave of box office profits and applause. There has been a constant stream of noisy, CGI-laden “event” movies that have followed in its wake. Now, the hit that made computer animation a must-have during the summer, has been spiffed up with today’s buzz-worthy gimmicks.
Seeing it again through modern, albeit bleary eyes (too much time behind 3D lenses), simply confirms that Jurassic Park is a better breed of moviegoing thrill ride.
The “aw shucks” enthusiasm gets tired, but the characters, both human and reptile, are still richly rendered — led by Jeff Goldblum’s sharp, seductively funny chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm. His memorable monologues are fueled by the probing intelligence of author Michael Crichton, whose book of the same name was the basis for the screenplay.
Crichton, a physician by training, had an uncanny knack for distilling complex scientific principles into digestible popcorn bites. Kiwi character actor Sam Neill was an unusual choice for an action star, but his brainy paleontologist, turned reluctant father-figure, anchors the movie with heart and precision. And, while the storytelling is as fluid and thrilling as ever, there are reminders that the movie is now 20 years old, like the cigarette perpetually dangling from Samuel L. Jackson’s mouth, as he works on computers less powerful than your average smart phone.
The then-revolutionary computer-animated dinosaurs are starting to show their age too, and being blown up to IMAX 3D exposes their cracks. Still, the quality of the animation, and the brilliant use of actual puppets, including the actual, gigantic animatronic T-Rex in the close-ups, makes these creatures the stuff of nightmares — and of movie magic. mt
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Rated PG. Run Time of 127 min.