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Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy - Limited Collector's Edition - Blu-ray Review

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Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy



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With the current crop of technology pretty much unshackling anyone with a half decent imagination to realize whatever they can dream up, it’s easy to forget that, not so long ago, it wasn’t always the case.

In the early 90s, Stephen Spielberg was having a chat with his buddy Michael Crichton about what he was working on, and when Crichton nonchalantly said, ‘Oh this thing about bringing back dinosaurs with DNA’, a new franchise was born. That in and of itself is auspicious alone, but as Spielberg developed the film toward production, the technical wizard Dennis Muran at Industrial Light and Magic presented the bearded one with test footage that would give cinema it’s next quantum leap in capability.

For the first time in history, we all got to see living breathing dinosaurs, in all their beautiful and terrifying variations, brought back to life as convincingly as a wildlife documentary. It was astounding. It motivated George Lucas to start on a new Star Wars trilogy, and set countless other filmmakers on their respective paths to show us things that we have never seen before.

Ironically, the debate now rages some 18 years later whether or not technology has made Hollywood forget about story, with spectacle seeming to win out more often than not, but that is something to explore in another article.

Let’s take a look back at an unforgettable trilogy.

Jurassic ParkJURASSIC PARK

5 Stars

In 1993, Jurassic Park had the world’s jaws (pardon the pun) on the floor, and Spielberg was the king of the box office yet again.

Drs Alan Grant (Sam Neil) and Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) are summarily bribed from their dinosaur dig by a billionaire philanthropist John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) to come and assess a new park he is developing. With a lawyer, a chaos theorist (Jeff Goldblum), and a couple of the philanthropist’s grandchildren in tow, the true test won’t be assessing the park but surviving it.

All the awe we felt along with these characters came with the first film—such was the impact of those images. We quickly became spoiled in the following years, but when this adventure unfurled it dazzled us. The story is a rollicking adventure, with flavours of Swiss Family Robinson and King Kong throughout; and of course, as he did all those years before with Jaws, Spielberg masterfully creates tension and pays it off spectacularly, the T-Rex scene being the most iconic of all the set pieces. Everyone knows what movie it is when they see the concentric circles appearing in the cup of water, don’t they?

The characters themselves are well drawn and memorable­—Goldblum being a highlight, earning himself the lead in the sequel—the good guys are relatable and flawed and the bad guys, especially Dennis Nedry (Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight), are so underhanded you can’t wait for them to get their comeuppance.

But the stars are, and were intended all along, to be the dinosaurs—and what an impression they make. From the giant brachiosaurs to the sick triceratops to the sinister raptors and the king of them all, the tyrannosaur, you are bombarded with classic scene after classic scene. This was definitively a game changer in cinema come the final credits, and pioneered a new form of filmmaking.

Spielberg had himself a new franchise. What would he do with it next?

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK

4 stars

It didn’t take long, in the wake of the first film, for other filmmakers to start employing the ground-breaking techniques for their own stories, and by 1997 we were in the dawn of a new era of genre offerings. Spielberg had decided to come back after personally pressuring author, Michael Crichton, for a sequel novel. Crichton delivered in ’95. While differing greatly from the source, even more so than the first film, the follow up to Jurassic Park was hotly anticipated, and reflected that anticipation upon release, breaking box office records that stood for several years after, until Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises kicked into high gear.

This sequel is a much darker film than the first that jettisons a lot of the wonder of the first (in a brilliant throwaway line, Goldblum says: ‘Yeah, that’s how it starts—Ooooh, Ahhhh—then there’s running… and screaming.’) and most of characters with it. Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm takes centre stage this time, with cameos from Attenborough and the two kids at the beginning. Instead, we have the likes of Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, and Vince Vaughn offered up on the dinosaur buffet.

John Hammond has been dethroned from his company InGen by his nephew (the delightfully unscrupulous Arliss Howard), who had plans to plunder a second island, Isla Sorna, and return some attractions to the United States for a park in San Diego. Hammond, who it seems has grown something of a conscience—but still is a dangerous man to know—seeks Malcolm out to go the island and expose the plot with a small group of wildlife experts. After Malcolm’s narrow escape last time, he quickly and summarily rejects Hammond’s offer… until he discovers his girlfriend (Moore) is already on the island at Hammond’s behest.

Without the fun park surroundings of the first one, this film immediately feels more untamed and more dangerous for it. It is brutal in both the demise of some of its characters and in its depiction of man’s disregard for the natural world around him. There’s immediacy in this film that improves on the original, and a scale that also tops it.

What it doesn’t do anywhere near as successfully is give you people to root for. The characters are all fairly well drawn, if not one note by and large, but you simply don’t care about them as much as you did the original lot. Goldblum’s Malcolm is the exception, because we’ve had an entire movie to get to know him before; and in this film he develops. We see the family man side of him more than the cavalier lothario of the original­—he makes the movie.

The effects are a leap again, even in the short four years since the original. There was much more CGI employed this time out, as the ILM magicians mastered their new toys, but the film never falls into noticeable artifice for it. It’s amazing to this reviewer, looking back, that even as short a period of four years we were taking for granted the artistry involved in bringing this stuff before our eyes. The awe we felt when the first one released was gone, and we were either buying the story or we weren’t. From all consensus of the day, The Lost World was a worthy but inferior follow up. This reviewer disagrees. Characterization aside (and maybe because I have a predisposition to the darker tales in life) this film was a more effective in thrilling me: the mood of the picture was more ominous; the T-Rex and raptor sequences were more terrifying (although neither has the wondrous reveals afforded the first one); the spectacle was eclectic, imaginative, and wholly satisfying.

The Lost World ended its theatrical run 300 million less than the original, but it was a rousing success. We all waited for the announcement of Spielberg’s next dinosaur adventure.

Jurassic Park III

JURASSIC PARK 3

3 Stars

There was little doubt, after The Lost World’s success there would be another one, only Michael Crichton wasn’t writing anymore books and Spielberg was focused on other things. Behind the scenes, after the original, special effects wizard Joe Johnston had asked Spielberg if he could direct the sequel. While Spielberg wanted on more turn on the dinosaur ride, he did promise his chum the director’s chair after that, and was true to his word.

Writing began in 1999 for a 2001 release, based on a very vague idea of Spielberg’s to bring Sam Neil’s character back. Many incarnations followed, including one where teens get stuck on the island, but all were jettison at the last minute, and the cast of Jurassic Park 3 started filming in August 2000 without a concrete concept or script ready.

In this one, Dr Grant is hornswoggled again into going to one of Ingen’s dinosaur islands, this time by a couple trying to save their son, who has disappeared there. They lure the good doctor under the pretext of an expert-guided flyover of the island and their chequebook inscribed with many zeroes. Of course, as soon as their plane lands, Grant’s warnings not to gain sobering clarity, and it is left to him to lead what’s left of them toward the coast from the centre of the island—all the while evading T-Rex, Velociraptors, Pteranodons, and a new giant man eating menace: the Spinosaurus.

This story is slapdash, weak in character, remiss of the wonder of amazing tension Spielberg managed with the other two, and ultimately, despite a capable cast and adroit technical skills behind the production, it’s unfulfilling. Having said that, considering this film was in essence a piece meal salvage operation from the outset, it’s not terrible. There are a few moments throughout that are genuinely thrilling to experience. The actors, including William H. Macy and Tea Leone, do more with their one note characters than many could. It’s a credit to the hard work of all involved that the film is coherent at all, let alone worth a look, and it can hold its shoulders high amongst an ever increasing (and disturbing) trend where a release date seems more important than getting a story right.

Johnston makes an enjoyable picture, but this reviewer always finds he lacks any sense of suspense and fails to execute it in each film I’ve seen him direct (2009’s Wolfman remake also suffered for this). This is a hard blow to recover from in a movie such as this, and coupled with rushed writing and bland characters, Jurassic Park 3 is a passable entry at best.

With word getting louder another entry may be on its way, here’s hoping they make sure the story is locked and clear next time around.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense science fiction terror.
Director
: Steven Spielberg
Writer
: Michael Crichton
Cast:
Sam Neill; Laura Dern; Jeff Goldblum; Richard Attenborough
Genre: Adventure | Sci-Fi
Tagline:
Life Finds A Way.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I am not a computer nerd. I prefer to be called a hacker!"
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Release Date:
June 11, 1993
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 25, 2011

Synopsis: During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence.
Director
: Steven Spielberg
Writer
: David Koepp
Cast:
Jeff Goldblum; Julianne Moore; Pete Postlethwaite; Richard Attenborough; Arliss Howard
Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Tagline: They're Walking Our Streets.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Violence and technology... not good bedfellows!"
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Release Date:
May 23, 1997
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 25, 2011

Synopsis: A research team is sent to the Jurassic Park Site B island to study the dinosaurs there while another team approaches with another agenda.

Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence.
Director
: Joe Johnston
Writer
: Peter Buchman
Cast:
Sam Neill; William H. Macy; Tea Leoni; Allesandro Nivola; Trevor Morgan
Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Tagline: Something Unexpected Has Evolved.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Be careful with that. T-Rex. It scares some of the smaller ones away but attracts one really big one with the fin."
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Release Date:
July 18, 2001
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 25, 2011

Synopsis: A decidedly odd couple with ulterior motives convince Dr. Alan Grant to go to Isla Sorna (the second InGen dinosaur lab.), resulting in an unexpected landing...and unexpected new inhabitants on the island.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 25, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (3 BDs); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live; Mobile features
Playback: Region-free

5 Stars

Universal cop a lot of flak about their—shall we say—‘generous’ use of digital noise reduction on back catalogue titles. This set does not seem to have befallen the trend as badly as some that have gone before it. What this reviewer did notice was some pretty distinct edge enhancement, which peeps either argue gives the flick clarity and dimension or hate with a passion. Overall, unless you are a complete film nut/videophile, the VC-1 Codec transfer is leagues ahead of the DVDs and the best the films have ever looked for the home market. Sound is perfection: a 7.1 DTS-HD lossless master that’ll make the neighbours think you’ve brought a T-Rex home to roost.

The extras for the UK set are the same as the US, highlights being a lengthy retrospective set of featurettes spread throughout the discs (mush like the Back to the Future set), but the version this reviewer was lucky enough to review came in a nifty red tin box, replete with posters, postcards, stickers, and all manner of printed paper add-ons Universal no doubt charged a premium for (genius, guys!). It’s a beautifully presented box set and worthy of the trilogy contained therein.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • With Special Effects Team

Special Features:

  • Booklet
  • Double-Sided Poster
  • Photo Stills
  • B&W Artcards
  • Colour Artcards
  • Logo Sticker
  • New to Blu-ray - 'Return to Jurassic Park' – this six-part documentary features all-new interviews with the many of the cast members from all three films, the filmmakers and Steven Spielberg.
  • Dawn of a New Era
  • Making Pre-history
  • The Next Step in Evolution
  • Finding The Lost World
  • Something Survived
  • The Third Adventure
    Also:
    • The Making of Jurassic Park
    • The Making of The Lost World: Jurassic Park
    • The Making of Jurassic Park III
    • Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park
    • Early Pre-Production Meetings
    • The World of Jurassic Park
    • The Magic of Industrial Light & Magic
    • Location Scouting
    • Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors In The Kitchen
    • The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton
    • Industrial Light & Magic and Jurassic Park: Before and After The Visual Effects
    • Industrial Light & Magic and The Lost World: Jurassic Park Before & After
    • The Industrial Light & Magic Press Reel
    • A Visit to Industrial Light & Magic
    • Hurricane in Kauai Featurette
    • Dinosaur Turntables
    • The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III
    • Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs
    • Animatics: T-Rex Attack
    • The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III
    • The Sounds of Jurassic Park III
    • The Art of Jurassic Park III
    • Tour of Stan Winston Studio
    • Feature Commentary with Special Effects Team
    • Production Archives: Storyboards, Models, Photographs, Design Sketches and Conceptual Drawings
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Theatrical Trailers

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