There is one shot in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that actually does benefit from the process of 3D. It comes late in the film, after the Velociraptors escape from their pen, prove their intelligence to both the characters and the audience, and begin stalking the lead characters as they try to get out of the main compound alive by crawling in the spaces just above the ceiling; a Velociraptor breaks through one of the ceiling tiles, falls to the floor below, nearly takes Ariana Richards with it, and then leaps back up towards the camera, snapping its jaws at Richards’ dangling leg, which is taken out of the way just in time. I don’t know if Spielberg had 3D in mind when he originally released the film back in 1993, but if he did, I now understand why this one frightening shot was included.
But in the grand scheme of things, Jurassic Park 3D didn’t much benefit from an extra dimension. This shouldn’t come as a great surprise to you, given how unimpressive 3D films generally are when they have been converted in postproduction rather than actually shot using cameras made for the process. It doesn’t help that so much of the film is dark, and as we all know by now (since I’ve told this to you more times than I can remember), 3D tends to have picture-dimming side effects on projected images – save for those that are digital, and even then, it’s a crapshoot. The only conceivable reason the film has been converted is because 3D is at this point in time a popular trend. Like James Cameron with Titanic, surely Spielberg must have known that the conversion was unnecessary.
Apart from the chance to present the film in 3D, it has been rereleased to commemorate its twentieth anniversary. Seeing it on the big screen once again was a nostalgic experience, calling to mind the day I saw it for the very first time. Specific details have grown dim – after all, I wasn’t yet ten years old at the time – but I certainly remember that it was released on June 11, 1993, and that my mom, being the world’s coolest, allowed me to skip school that day so that we could see the first show. I remember a theater full of people, and strangely enough, I remember their laughs above all other noises. They got a kick out of the scene where Sam Neill scares the hell out of a bratty kid at an archeological dig, and when Jeff Goldblum made an obvious yet astute observation about Triceratops droppings.
Now that I’m much older, I’ve learned to look at movies I see with a much more critical eye. Jurassic Park remains a great deal of fun to watch, although I wonder if Spielberg was more interested in making a creature feature rather than a real science fiction story. The idea of extracting dinosaur blood from the bodies of prehistoric mosquitoes and using it to clone dinosaurs back into existence after millions of years of extinction is indeed engaging, not to mention rife with scientific and ethical quandaries. These avenues are explored in the film, but not to the extent that they probably should have been. The dinosaurs are essentially no different from monsters in a horror movie, waiting in the shadows before attacking and/or eating their prey. This is especially true of the sequence where Laura Dern is under threat from a Velociraptor in a power shed; the sudden appearance of a severed arm on her shoulder is nothing if not a typical horror movie shock tactic.
Having said all that, if you’re going to make a monster movie, Jurassic Park is one of the best to pattern it after – second only, perhaps, to Cloverfield. The film is certainly a sight to behold, the groundbreaking digital effects just as awe-inspiring today as they were twenty years ago. And as monster movies go, it has a superb sense of pacing, atmosphere, and suspense. One of the best sequences has Neill and Richards hanging precariously from a cable off the side of a concrete wall while an escaped Tyrannosaurus Rex pushes a crushed tour vehicle over the edge, directly over their heads; the vehicle falls just as Neill and Richards swing to grab hold of another cable, and it misses them by mere inches. Adding tremendous tension to this scene is the fact that Joseph Mazzello, who plays Richards’ younger brother, remains inside the vehicle the entire time.
As was the case with Titanic a year ago, along with a handful of Disney films, the 3D conversion should not be what motivates you to see Jurassic Park 3D in theaters. You should see it for the same reason audiences flocked to see it back in 1993: It’s a spectacular work of entertainment. If it could reach audiences twenty years ago with a traditional 2D presentation, chances are it could do the same today. Still, if you absolutely must see it in 3D, my advice would be to save up your cash and see it on an IMAX screen, which will allow for a more immersive experience. If that isn’t feasible, then make sure your theater is equipped with digital projectors, or go to a theater that is equipped with them. It won’t be ideal, but at least the picture won’t be quite as dim.