Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jurassic Park in 3D - bigger, not better

The 20th anniversary re-release of Steven Spielberg's $900 million box office hit has been retrofitted for 3D. Somehow, all those dinos run amok look more fake, not less.

Jurassic Park in 3D – bigger, not better

West Indian lilacs, anyone? Laura Dern and Sam Neill worry over a wheezy triceratops in "Jurassic Park."
West Indian lilacs, anyone? Laura Dern and Sam Neill worry over a wheezy triceratops in "Jurassic Park."

Going back to turn Steven Spielberg’s 20-year-old dino thriller Jurassic Park into a 3D spectacle (required to watch with, yes, 3D spectacles) is almost as egregious an error, it turns out, as going back and bringing tyrannosaurs and triceratops to life again in the first place.

You’re not going to lose a limb like poor chain-smoking computer nerd Samuel L. Jackson does in the movie, but you may lose your patience while you’re sitting there in the dark. Remember the seamless way those gallimimuses (or is that gallimimi?) stampeded across the verdant Isla Nublar field, almost mowing Sam Neill  and those two kids down? Remember when that same trio is perched in the high branches of some Cretaceous-era tree, gazing out on a horizon dotted with a herd of giant grazing brachiosaurs? Visual effects technology was downright primitive back in 1993, but the CG artists, model artists, matte painters and digital renderers – Spielberg’s whole talented crew -- managed to create the illusion that Richard Attenborough’s genetically engineered theme park off of the coast of Costa Rica was real.

Ironically, Jurassic Park’s 3D conversion actually undermines that illusion, and compromises the experience. When Spielberg and his great cinematographer Dean Cundey shot the film in Hawaii back in 1992, they weren’t thinking 3D, and so foreground and background, actors, props and animatronic beasties were framed and shot with a traditional 2D viewing in mind. And, of course, with the dino visual effects in mind – how to make those raptors and tyrannosaurs look as if they’re really commingling with Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Wayne Knight and all. But the “depth mapping” and depth-image rendering required for a 3D conversion (which typically runs $10 million to $15 million) exaggerates and re-emphasizes the way those scenes are composed. Now , when that giant T Rex bears down on the two Jurassic Park Jeeps and their scared-silly passengers, the 3D retrofit makes the scene look phonier, cheesier, almost like 1950s sci-fi. The fakery becomes more apparent.

Yes, there are some close-up scenes – the raptors in the JP kitchen, stalking kiddie stars Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards, and that poor, sickly triceratops that Neil and Dern hug and poke – which benefit from the 3D-ization. But mostly, if you factor in the dimming effects of the 3D glasses (everything less bright, less vivid) and the reformulated depth-of-field perspectives, Jurassic Park 3D does this fun, scary, innovative family film a disservice. Get the original from Netflix and save yourself some dollars -- and disappointment.

Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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