Judge Patrick Naugle is a product of Chaos Theory.
Our reviews of Jurassic Park (published September 20th, 2000), Jurassic Park III (published November 22nd, 2001), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (published September 21st, 2000), and Universal 100th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray) (published November 26th, 2012) are also available.
Three adventures 65 million years in the making.
Steven Spielberg's epic dinosaur trilogy hardly needs much of an introduction. I challenge you to find anyone on the planet who hasn't heard of this film (Nagoobo tribesmen not included). Jurassic Park rumbled through theaters in the summer of 1993 and was the dominating movie of the year. Followed up by two sequels—1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park and 2001's Spielberg-less Jurassic Park III—the entire trilogy is now available on Blu-ray care of Universal Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park III
Few films can be considered "groundbreaking," but that label is applied liberally and deservedly to Steven Spielberg's original Jurassic Park. It's a movie that truly broke ground, with its awe-inspiring practical and computer generated effects work. Even two decades later (!) the film's dinosaurs live and breathe with as much realism as anything I've seen on film before or since. The movie became a monster hit in 1993 and rightfully so—while this 'creature feature' sports some famous acting faces, the real stars are Stan Winston and Industrial Light and Magic's awesomely titanic creations. The practical and CGI effects are melded seamlessly together to create a rollercoaster experience that can still induce fevered nightmares in 10 year old kids in stegosaurus pajamas everywhere.
The original Jurassic Park transcended its "monster movie" genre limitations because Spielberg knew exactly how to film the material with both skill and confidence. The screenplay by the late Michael Crichton (whose book was the basis for the film) and David Koepp (Spider-Man) clips along relentlessly, even when it's not wallowing in the dinosaurs; it gives audiences characters we actually like and care about. Sam Neill makes a perfect Alan Grant, a mild mannered paleontologist who becomes an unlikely action hero throughout the process of the film. Jeff Goldblum (who, for a time, became the go-to star in summer action blockbusters) as the quirky Ian Malcolm gives the movie a dose of levity needed to offset the tension and scares provided by the Tyrannosaurs Rex and Velociraptors. Rounding out the main cast is Laura Dern as Grant's girlfriend Ellie who is, shockingly, given more to do than most women in these kinds of films. Most pleasing is watching Richard Attenborough's performance as kindly park owner John Hammond, a man with good intentions, a deep wallet, and truly bad luck. Although he's still alive, this will most likely be one of Attenborough's final films, and it's a grand performance.
Now the bad news: there are children. Oh, how there are children…bad, bad children. Spielberg's Achilles' heel is the need to include kids in his movies so the tween set has something to relate to (Hook, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, just to name a few). While Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards (Tremors) as Hammond's grandchildren aren't totally god awful, they are cloying and unneeded. Luckily, they're offset by some wonderful character actors including the late Bob Peck as the park's security man/hunter, Seinfeld's Wayne Knight as the slimy Dennis Needry, and (of course) Samuel L. Jackson smoking cigarettes like one badass mutha.
Spielberg really hit Jurassic Park out of the…well, park. Cap it all off with John Williams' iconic score and you've got a near perfect movie. It's a first rate example of a film that came along at the right time in history, utilizing groundbreaking effects and an original story that gripped audiences from start to finish. Nearly 20 years later, the movie is still a visceral joyride into the heart of the past…with dangerous consequences.
Not surprisingly, Universal commissioned a sequel that was culled from Crichton's own novel, The Lost World (a nod Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story). Able to woo Spielberg back into the director's chair, The Lost World: Jurassic Park arrived in theatres only a few short years later. Audiences came out in droves to see how he would follow up one of the singular most exciting move events of the 1990s. Unfortunately, he couldn't, even though it was a noble attempt.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a good movie, make no bones about it. Much like the original, it's filled with state-of-the-art effects and good (if limited) performances. The biggest hurdle is that it feels like stale leftovers from a high-end steakhouse; while the meal is still tasty, it's just not as good warmed-over. There's a "been there, done that" vibe that permeates the entire experience, save for the ending where we get to see what happens when man meets dinosaur on humanity's home turf.
Blame can't be placed on ILM or Stan Winston's work. Sequels are meant to be larger and more lavish affairs, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park doesn't disappoint. Unlike the first film's ability to tease and build up to the dinosaurs' majestic reveal, this one jumps right in. Spielberg stages some amazing action set pieces—the best being a sequence involving a large motor home vehicle dangling over a cliff while deadly T-rexes linger outside in the rain—and it's here where his talent comes into full focus, able to wring maximum thrills out of his audience. It's just a shame the rest of the movie didn't measure up.
Performances in The Lost World: Jurassic Park are decent, if sometimes perfunctory. Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as the wisecracking Ian Malcolm, a welcome return from the original. Happily, this time around Goldblum is given more to do than just sit around with broken bones. Julianne Moore—almost out of place in a big budget action flick—plays his determined girlfriend, Sarah, with pluck and gusto. A young Vince Vaughn, fresh off his breakthrough role in Swingers, does a rather forgettable turn as Nick Van Owen (doing his Vaughn shtick to limited effect), while the late Pete Postlethwaite (The Town) generates the most interest as the quiet, determined hunter Roland Tembo. Sir Richard Attenborough, Joseph Mazzello, and Ariana Richards all put in a quick cameos to link this film to the first; not that it was really required.
By the end, the T-rex has escaped into San Diego and I think I speak for the bulk of the audience when I say this is what everyone was waiting for: carnage on the mainland. We'd seen the dinosaurs creating mass destruction on the island, now let's see 'em loose in a populated area! Spielberg doesn't let us down, with a rampage through downtown San Diego (actually Burbank, which I know because I lived there for a while) that is both expertly crafted and a great way to end on a high note.
Even with all of its blemishes and issues, I really like The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It's a fun popcorn movie, but I still can't shake the feeling this was Spielberg phoning it in. Which may be why he passed on…
Jurassic Park III. The third and final film is the black sheep of the family, never getting the respect it craves. Most people seem to hate this movie with the passion of a thousand fires, which is something I've never understood. While far from a perfect film, Jurassic Park III is still a hoot, filled with fun dinosaur carnage and great effects. By this point, it feels like the filmmakers looked at the franchise and said, "Let's strip this sucker down to its bare essentials: people trapped on an island with man-eating dinosaurs." And that's basically what it is: people trying to get off an island, before they end up as appetizers for some very hungry reptiles.
The performances here are a non-issue. Actors like Tea Leoni and William H. Macy simply recite lines, run from special effects, and hug their children. There's little else required of them, which means almost zero in the way of character exposition or depth. Sam Neill makes a welcome return to the series (as does Laura Dern in a quick cameo) but has little more to do than bitterly tell everyone "I told you so!" Sorely missing here is Goldblum's Ian Malcolm, who gave the first two films a lively injection of humor and acerbic wit. While there are a few amusing moments in Jurassic Park III, the film itself feels like a by-the-numbers rehash that never reaches the dizzying heights of the first two adventures.
And yet…I really do like Jurassic Park III. While it has obvious weaknesses, the movie is just a lot of fun. Joe Johnston (no stranger to creature features with movies like The Wolfman and Jumanji under his belt) trims the fat and dives into the action as fast as humanly possible. While character development and an original story have all been sacrificed, the movie's special effects are top notch and well worth the money viewers plop down for this thrill ride. New dinos like a pterodactyl (in one of the film's best sequences) make Jurassic Park III a worthwhile, if uneven, event. And, of course, there's the obligatory set up for another sequel whose day has yet to come.
All in all, I'm a big fan of the series. Maybe it's the little boy in me who never wants to let go of the mystery and danger of dinosaurs, or maybe it's just the man in me who likes to see fleeing humans being eaten by a T-rex. Either way, Jurassic Park: The Ultimate Trilogy (Blu-ray) is well worth the investment.
All three films presented in 1.85:1/1080p high definition widescreen and all I can say is "WOW!"—these transfers look absolutely gorgeous. Many of these images practically pop right off the screen. The dinosaurs—with their scaly skin and beady eyes—contain details I've never noticed before. As for flaws or issues, I honestly didn't spot anything that would detract from any of these movies. Though nitpicky reviewers may notice a minute defect here and there, I just can't find much to complain about.
The soundtracks of all three films are DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and easily some of the best mixes I've ever heard. Aggressive and bombastic, with all of the speakers utilized to full effect, there's a generous amount of directional ambience in use, making this an immersive experience. As a critic, I'm supposed to criticize, but I can't find any flaws here.
Bonus material included in this three-disc Blu-ray package:
• Jurassic Park: Brand new documentaries ("Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era," "Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory" and "Return to Jurassic Park: Next Step in Evolution") covers the production, the effects work, the technology, and the impact of the final film. Some archival featurettes ("The Making of Jurassic Park," "Making of the Film," "Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park," "Hurricane in Kauai") follow the production and are essentially ports from the original DVD. Finally, there are eight short behind-the-scenes featurettes, a theatrical trailer, and a look at a new Jurassic Park video game.
• The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Two brand new documentaries ("Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World" and "Return to Jurassic Park: Something Has Survived") look at the film's production history, Spielberg's reasons for returning to the franchise, and the effects work (focusing often on Stan Winston). Also included are some older archival featurettes ("The Making of The Lost World," "The Making of the Film," "The Jurassic Park Phenomenon," "The Compie Dance Number"), a few short behind-the-scenes featurettes, seven minutes of deleted scenes, and a theatrical trailer.
• Jurassic Park III: Brand new documentary/retrospective "Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure" which covers the bases of production, a new director, and the effects (including an interview with producer Steven Spielberg). Rounding out the final disc are archival featurettes from the previous DVD edition ("The Making of Jurassic Park III," "The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III," "The Special Effects," "The Industrial Light and Magic Press Reel," "The Sounds of Jurassic Park III," "The Art of Jurassic Park III," and "Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs"), some behind-the-scenes featurettes, a commentary track featuring Stan Winston's F/X team, and a theatrical trailer.
Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy (Blu-ray) is an exceptional release that will thrill any dino-junkies waiting to see their favorite monster gobble up unsuspecting lawyers, sleazy computer technicians, and big game hunters. Even though Universal doesn't have the best track record when it comes to their catalog releases (see the horrible Army of Darkness as exhibit A), they've done the Jurassic Park franchise justice.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Jurassic Park
Perp Profile, Jurassic Park
Distinguishing Marks, Jurassic Park
Scales of Justice, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Perp Profile, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Distinguishing Marks, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
• Deleted Scenes
Scales of Justice, Jurassic Park III
Perp Profile, Jurassic Park III
Distinguishing Marks, Jurassic Park III
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.