Salisbury Press

Thursday, April 9, 2020

'JP3D': New life in old dinos

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Why would anyone want to see "Jurassic Park" in 3D when director Steven Spielberg's blockbuster 1993 movie has been available in multiple formats for two decades?

Two words: Steven Spielberg.

And you thought I was going to say: T- Rex.

Oh, T-Rex is big and frightening especially in 3D.

However, T-Rex wouldn't exist in "Jurassic Park" if not for Spielberg, perhaps the United States' best contemporary director who can and does direct all genres (for contrast, see "Lincoln").

"Jurassic Park" is "Jaws" of the jungle.

With "Jurassic Park," Spielberg crafted one of the scariest creature-features ever.

With "Jurassic Park 3D," the creatures are bigger and scarier than ever.

The spine-tingling movie is based on the novel by Michael Crichton, who wrote the screenplay with David Koepp ("Mission: Impossible," 1996; "Spider-Man," 2002). Crichton died in 2008.

Crichton wrote a cautionary tale about man playing god and tampering with nature. With DNA cloning back in the news, including the possibility of creating living, breathing dinosaurs, Crichton's "Jurassic Park" is more relevant than ever.

The story takes place on a Caribbean island in a park where live dinosaurs have been recreated. During a preview to drum up investor interest, a power outage sets the creatures lose.

The panic is set in motion by a greedy park computer geek who wants to steal dinosaur embryos and sell them for his own gain. Visiting paleontologists, the park staff and two children are imperiled.

Sam Neill (Dr. Alan Grant) Jeff Goldblum (Dr. Ian Malcolm) and Laura Dern (Dr. Ellie Sattler) play a trio of scientists.

Director Richard Attenborough ("A Chorus Line," 1985; "Gandhi," 1982) is in full-elfin form as John Hammond, a kindly, but misguided idealist whose only previous experience operating a park that is a combination theme park and zoo was running a flea circus in England.

Wayne Knight plays the computer nerd, Dennis Nedry, whose avarice sabotages the park.

Samuel L. Jackson has a supporting role as Ray Arnold, a park technician.

The children, Tim and Lex, who are Hammond's grandchildren, are played by Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards.

"Jurassic Park" is a cinematic time capsule. As with the symbolic mosquito in amber shown in the film, "JP" is a kind of fly in amber. When released, the film was cinematic state-of-the-art, receiving three Oscars: Sound effects editing, visual effects, sound.

The film was one of the first to use night-vision views on the big screen.

Moreoever, it combined animatronic dinosaurs (for many of the closeups of, for example, velociraptors and T-Rex) with computer-generated imagery (CGI) of dinosaurs (for the majority of the distance shots of, for example, the trotting gallimimus dinosaurs).

Director George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) pushed the boundaries of CGI and ushered in the era of contemporary cinema. Unfortunately, many directors let CGI overwhelm and dominate their movies at the expense of story and plot.

"Jurassic Park" is a primer in action-adventure screenplay writing, with traditional set-up, tension, conflict, parallel action, motivation moving the story forward and with character development at every plot turn.

The movie is not above interjecting quips to break the tension. Goldblum has most of the wisecracks. When Hammond compares the Jurassic Park preview problems with those of the opening of Disneyland, Goldblum, as Dr. Malcolm, cracks, "If 'The Pirates of the Caribbean' breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists."

The 3D is not necessary for every scene in "JP." There's a Jabba the Hutt size pile of dinosaur you-know-what. "That was worth the price of admission," said Michael "Movie Maven" Gontkosky, who was with me at the film.

Goldblum, as Dr. Malcolm, also delivers some of the film's best-known dialogue that speaks to Crichton's, Spielberg's and the film's apparent core values and take on dinosaur (and animal and human) cloning: "Life will not be contained. Life finds a way." Kind of ambiguous, wouldn't you say?

And perhaps foreshadowing Universal Studios, which has two Orlando, Fla., theme parks, one of which, "Islands of Adventure," has a "Jurassic Park" ride, Attenborough, as Hammond, says, "Why didn't I build in Orlando?"

My quibble with "Jurassic Park 3D" is that many of the scenes seem blurry.

Also, the movie screen aspect ratio seems to be off. The film, at least at the screening I attended, didn't seem to be in the horizontal or letterbox format, but rather was more square-ish. From a technical standpoint, the re-release of "Titanic 3D" is much more effective and impressive.

Nonetheless, get ready: "Jurassic Park 4" is in pre-production for a 2014 release date.

"Jurassic Park," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for intense science fiction terror; Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction; Run time: 2 hrs., 7 mins.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Jurassic Park" was filmed on location in Hawaii, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica; Red Rock Canyon State Park, Mojave Desert, Griffith Park Observatory; and in several sound stages at Universal Studios and Warner Brothers Burbank Studios, Calif.

Box Office, April 12: The Jackie Robinson biopic, "42," hit it out of the park with the best first weekend gross of any baseball film ever, opening at No. 1, with $27.2 million, keeping "Scary Movie 5," opening at No. 2, with only $15.2 million.

3. "The Croods," $13.2 million, $126 million, four weeks; 4. "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," $10.8 million, $102 million, three weeks; 5. "Evil Dead," $9.5 million, $41.5 million, two weeks; 6. "Jurassic Park 3D," $8.2 million, $383 million, two weeks; 7. "Olympus Has Fallen," $7.2 million, $81.9 million, four weeks; 8. "Oz the Great and Powerful," $4.9 million, $219 million, six weeks; 9. "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," $4.5 million, $45.4 million, three weeks; 10. "The Place Beyond the Pines, $4 million, $5.4 million, three weeks

Unreel, April 19:

"Oblivion," PG-13. Tom Cruise stars in the sci-fi thriller as a man on a mission concerning Earth's dwindling resources. Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko also star.

"The Lords of Salem," R: Rob Zombie is back to direct a horror film about a gift box that triggers flashbacks to the New England town's terrible past.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@