“I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before.”
“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Jurassic Park (1993)
Yes, I was one of those kids who was obsessed with dinosaurs. I read whatever books I could get my hands on, watched any specials that popped up on cable TV, and I marveled at the fossils on display at the museum. These were creatures of legend and myth, but they actually existed. Oh, what I would have given for the chance to ride a triceratops or touch a brontosaurus. Those were the emotions Steven Spielberg successfully tapped into with Jurassic Park, based on the bestselling novel by Michael Crichton. It’s the wonder of meeting space aliens combined with the fear and dread of a monstrous shark.
Eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has done the unthinkable through his genetics firm, InGen. Using DNA collected from mosquitoes fossilized inside prehistoric amber, InGen has cloned dinosaurs and paved the way for a theme park on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. Before Jurassic Park can be opened to the public, Hammond has called upon paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), and mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to ensure everything runs smoothly. The one thing they didn’t count on was human greed. Computer programmer Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) shuts down the park’s systems to cover his theft of dinosaur embryos for a rival corporation. The scientists and Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazzello) fight for survival as a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a pack of vicious and surprisingly intelligent Velociraptors hunt them.
Jurassic Park was made at a time when technology in computer effects was still growing. In fact, Spielberg had originally intended for the dinosaurs to be created through stop-motion animation. However, ILM surprised everyone with test footage of photo realistic creatures. The results are stunning. Just as Superman made you believe a man could fly, Jurassic Park made you believe humans and dinosaurs co-existed for the first time in millions of years. Yet, Spielberg didn’t rely entirely on CGI. These special effects were supported by animatronics and practical effects from the great Stan Winston. Spielberg utilized the tools given to him in a remarkable manner. Over the years, he has created iconic imagery that will live on in the annals of pop culture. He does so again in Jurassic Park with unforgettable sequences such as the ripples in a cup of water that heralded the arrival of a ravenous T-Rex.
The acting is superb all around with the stoic Sam Neill in the lead and Laura Dern looking the loveliest she’s ever been as his colleague and unrequited love interest. Richard Attenborough portrays John Hammond as the kindly grandfather by way of P.T. Barnum, who seems to have gone slightly mad. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum steals nearly every scene he’s in as man who’s more rock star than math geek.
Film Score: 8
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
After the rousing success of Jurassic Park, Spielberg urged Crichton to pen a sequel and the result was The Lost World, published in 1995. Production began almost immediately on the movie.
InGen has been thrown into disarray following the debacle at Jurassic Park with John Hammond ousted as CEO and his opportunistic nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), assuming control. Hammond calls upon Dr. Malcolm once more and reveals the existence of Site B, a secondary facility on Isla Sorna where the dinosaurs were nurtured before being moved to the main island. Malcolm is dispatched to Site B to maintain its secrecy along with his ex-girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), videographer/environmental activist Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), and equipment expert Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff). Unbeknownst to them, Malcolm’s daughter, Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), has stowed aboard their ship.
Ludlow also arrives on Isla Sorna with a regiment of trappers and mercenaries to capture dinosaurs and bring them to a brand new theme park being built in San Diego. This group is led by big game hunter, Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), whose only payment is the chance to hunt a Tyrannosaurus. Eventually they are forced to band together to avoid becoming dinosaur food.
The Lost World is essentially a repeat of Jurassic Park with many of the same beats amplified. Instead of a jeep dangling precariously from a tree after a T-Rex attack, there’s a high-tech trailer dangling over a cliff after a T-Rex attack. The body count is ratcheted up since Spielberg fills out his cast of characters with an assortment of ne’er-do-wells you don’t mind seeing eaten. The film gets really silly in the third act when the Tyrannosaurus is set loose on the streets of San Diego. There’s also a goofy sequence where Kelly pulls a Gymkata when she uses her gymnastics skills and conveniently placed uneven bars to evade the raptors.
Film Score: 6
Jurassic Park III (2001)
For Jurassic Park III, Spielberg handed the directorial duties over to Joe Johnston, who had previously helmed The Rocketeer and Jumanji. While Johnston had proved to be adept at directing family friendly adventure films, the third entry in the franchise lacks any sort of originality or genuine thrills. Jurassic Park III wasn’t based on a novel by Crichton nor was there even a completed script when production began. That says a lot about the slapdash feel of the completed picture.
Sam Neill returns to the fold as Dr. Grant, who is approached by a wealthy couple, Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni), to act as their guide on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. As it turns out, Paul is simply the manager of a hardware store searching for his son, Eric (Trevor Morgan), who went missing while parasailing near the island with his stepfather. Kirby’s trio of hired gunmen are quickly dispatched leaving the Kirby family, Dr. Grant, and his protégé, Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola), to fend for themselves against new menaces like the Spinosaurus and the Pteranodons.
The law of diminishing returns is in full effect with Jurassic Park III. Sam Neill tries his best to lend some credibility to the movie, but there’s only so much he can do while stuck in a hackneyed, C-grade plot. Johnston borrows heavily from the previous movies as well as from his own oeuvre. We get another dangling vehicle sequence as the wrecked fuselage of a private plane is attacked by another hungry T-Rex. The subplot of a young boy surviving in the jungle alone with his wits had been done earlier in Jumanji. There’s also a scene where Eric shows Dr. Grant a vial of Tyrannosaurus pee he had collected. They make a big deal about it, but the urine never comes up again.
The new characters add nothing to the mix with William H. Macy and the late-Michael Jeter absolutely wasted. Téa Leoni is called upon to do nothing more than scream and act like an idiot in a role similar to Kate Capshaw’s in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
You’d also think the governments of the world might insist on tighter security around a restricted island full of dangerous dinosaurs.
Film Score: 4
All three films are presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer on the first film has some noticeably grainy scenes, in particular the seated tour of the science facilities. Overall, the picture quality is phenomenal with crystal clear blue skies and lush foliage. High definition transfers tend to make CGI look obvious or phony, but the dinosaurs look as realistic as ever. The Lost World and Jurassic Park III fare a bit better with the latter receiving the most bold and cleanest transfer.
The audio for each film is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. This is reference quality sound highlighted by the bass thumping footsteps of the T-Rex and the soaring score by John Williams. Little details like the click clacking of the raptors’ claws across the tile floors in the visitor center are also superb.
Mankind will probably go extinct by the time you finish watching all the extras. This boxset is loaded with bonus material, both new and old.
For Jurassic Park, we get a three-part retrospective featuring all-new interviews and archival footage. Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era (25:25) is a look back at how CGI brought the dinosaurs to life, how Spielberg worked with the child actors, and the acting process of reacting to things that weren’t there on set. Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory (20:16) is a more detailed look at the special effects. The creation of the dinosaur sequences and how miniatures and stop-motion were still used as templates for the computer artists is touched upon, along with sound effects. Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution (15:03) goes even more in-depth on the computer effects, the difficulties of seamlessly blending them with the live-action footage, and the sound mixing.
Ported over from the original DVD release are the Archival Featurettes, which are presented in standard definition. Hosted by James Earl Jones, The Making of Jurassic Park (49:39) is a general overview about the film from pre-production to final product. Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (4:50) is a quick promo that acts as an extended trailer. Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park (9:07) focuses on Spielberg at work on the set. Hurricane in Kauai Featurette (2:09) is a look at how the cast and crew dealt with a hurricane that hit their location in Hawaii.
Even more vintage extras are available in the Behind the Scenes section. Early Pre-Production Meetings (6:20) is footage of Spielberg speaking with his effects team about how to construct the dinosaur sequences. Location Scouting (1:59) is footage of Spielberg surveying prospective locations in Hawaii. Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen (3:04) and Animatics: T-Rex Attack (7:21) are the stop-motion sequences used by ILM as blueprints. ILM and Jurassic Park: Before and After Visual Effects (6:32) breaks down some of the effects-heavy scenes and compares the raw footage with various layers of CGI. Foley Artists (1:25) is a short look at how the foley artists used cantaloupes, a pineapple, and ice cream cones to create the egg hatching scene.
Also included on the Blu-Ray are storyboards, a production archive with concept art and design sketches, the theatrical trailer, and Jurassic Park: Making the Game (4:43), a look at the creation of a new video game.
For The Lost World, we get Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World (27:40), a detailed look back at the making of the film, reuniting with familiar faces, adding new characters, and dealing with more complex effects shots such as the dinosaur round-up and T-Rex attack on the trailer. Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived (16:30) is a look at how they shot the T-Rex’s rampage in San Diego, creating new dinosaurs, and the score by John Williams.
Under Archival Featurettes, there’s The Making of The Lost World (53:14) is a vintage behind-the-scenes piece taking us through the development of the story and the challenges of creating a sequel. Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (13:17) is essentially an abridged version of the previous featurette. The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton (15:27) is an interview with the author who speaks on how he came up with the original story and his research into genetic engineering. The Complete Dance Number: Thank You Spielberg from ILM (1:38) is a tap dance number with Compsognathuses done as a gag gift for the director.
From Behind the Scenes, there’s ILM and The Lost World: Before and After Visual Effects (20:44) is a comparison between raw footage and completed effects shots. There are also storyboards and production archives, which include conceptual artwork, production photos, and merchandise.
Finally, the Blu-Ray includes deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.
For Jurassic Park III, Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure (25:20) opens with a discussion of the Universal Studios ride before going into the making of the movie. Some of the topics brought up are the return of Sam Neill and Laura Dern, the addition of William H. Macy and Téa Leoni, improvements on the raptors, and animating the Pteranodons
In the Archival Featurettes section, we have The Making of Jurassic Park III (22:43) delves into similar territory as the new featurette. The cast and crew discuss Spielberg passing the torch to Joe Johnston, how the third film compares to the previous installments. The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III (7:52) is a detailed featurette about the dinosaur species featured in the film and how the Spinosaurus replaced the T-Rex as the franchise’s big bad. The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III (10:31) focuses on the work of ILM and Stan Winston Studios and how their effects have grown over the years. The Industrial Light and Magic Press Reel (10:14) is a promotional piece about ILM’s work on the third picture. The Sounds of Jurassic Park III (13:35) is a featurette about the movie’s sound design, foley work, and how animal sounds were used to simulate dinosaur roars. The Art of Jurassic Park III (7:55) focuses on pre-production work such as storyboards and how artists matched up location shoots with sets constructed in the studio. Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs (4:21) is a featurette about Jack Horner, the paleontologist who served as technical consultant and partial inspiration for Alan Grant.
In the Behind the Scenes section, there’s Tour of Stan Winston Studio (3:14), a quick peek at the artists of Stan Winston as they create the models and puppets needed for the production. Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane (1:48), Raptors Attack Udesky (0:59), and The Lake (1:38) are montages that mix behind-the-scenes footage with the completed sequences. A Visit to ILM is a collection of brief featurettes about the various special effects work, such as concepts and compositing. Dinosaur Turntables are a peek at the 3D computer models used by the CGI team.
Also included: Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison, Production Photographs, and the theatrical trailer. Finally, there’s an audio commentary track by special effects artists Stan Winston, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Michael Lantieri. This is a very technical track that reveals how all the magic was done to create all the various effects shots of Jurassic Park III.
The boxset also includes download codes for digital copies of all three films.
Film Value: 8:
“Life finds a way…”
The first Jurassic Park is the only must own film of this new boxset. If you don’t mind shelling out a few extra bucks for a pair of subpar sequels, then this Ultimate Trilogy set will be a fine addition to your movie collection. The video and audio presentation is breathtaking and there is a wealth of extras to create what might be the definitive Jurassic Park collection.