Should anyone feel bad for poor old Ray Harryhausen when a kid rents Jurassic Park instead of One Million Years B.C. – the 1966 film that starred a fur bikini-clad Raquel Welch running away from impressive-looking stop-motion animated dinosaurs? I feel a little sorry for the guy, but his 50-year reign of being the special effects king had to end sometime. 1993 was the year that CGI-animated animals/monsters changed drastically when Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park stomped into theaters.
We may take Jurassic Park for granted and think of the Jurassic Park movies as some fun dinosaur films, but the problem with any new film technology is that other directors get lazy. For every amazing special effect film created by Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator) or James Cameron (Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2, Titanic, Avatar) showing off some new technology, countless other filmmakers try to use that same technology but can barely produce something as good or memorable. Too often nowadays, filmmakers try to impress us with a CGI-enhanced creature (such as the creatures from the Star Wars prequels or the new Clash of the Titans movies) but they just look like a cartoonish creature from a video game. Even with every hair of the creature’s body getting CGI-animated, I am more often bored by these CGI-creatures that don’t look real nor merge smoothly with the live actors. Think of all those supposed money shots where the creature shows up on screen for the first time and then does the clichéd roar – instead of going “wow”, I more often yawn. As much as filmmakers want to use better and more convenient ways of filming special effects, ignoring methods used in the past is a good way to make your film forgettable. CGI-animation looks best when combined with animatronics, costumes, puppets, real locations and sets (such as the original Star Wars trilogy, Labyrinth, E.T., Alien, Aliens, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, The Neverending Story). When any dinosaur shows up on screen in the Jurassic Park movies, I get goose bumps because the filmmakers made sure to make these creatures seem real. The Jurassic Park movies are a perfect example of flawless CGI-animation and live-action animatronics which have brought dinosaurs to life.
A group of scientists named Alan Grant (Sam Neil), Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are invited to an island by a rich entrepreneur named Richard Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to give their expert opinion about a secret business. Upon arrival, they are shocked to learn that dinosaurs have been genetically brought back to life from extinction, and Hammond shares his plans that he wants to turn the island into one big dinosaur theme park called Jurassic Park. Not too enthusiastic about the dangerous plan but curious nonetheless, the scientists take a tour of the dinosaur park. Thanks to a massive rain storm and a traitorous employee (Wayne Knight), chaos enters the park and the scientists fight for their lives as they run from a menacing T-Rex and hungry raptors.
Based on Michael Crichton’s book, Jurassic Park was the first movie to feature realistic-looking CGI creatures that were totally not questionable of looking silly or cartoonish. Mixing CGI and live-action animatronics, Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs still look realistic and look even better when compared to many CGI-enhanced creatures in current films.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
In 1997, Spielberg returned to direct the sequel that was based on the second (and last) Jurassic Park book written by Michael Crichton. The Lost World is a pretty respectable and exciting sequel that starts off with a nerve-wracking opening scene of a vacationing little girl (Camilla Belle) eaten alive by those cute miniature dinosaurs at the abandoned dinosaur park. The plot of this film has Ian Malcom convinced by Hammond to go to Site B (another dinosaur location at Jurassic Park) to study the dinosaurs in their natural habitat. Malcom has no plans on going back to that hell hole but changes his mind once he finds out that his scientist girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is already there observing the dinosaurs. Along with his new team (including Vince Vaughn, in his first big Hollywood movie after Swingers) and his teenage daughter, Malcom finds his girlfriend but are shocked to find out that Hammond’s evil nephew (Arliss Howard) sent in a whole slew of hunters to the island to capture and bring the dinosaurs to a new mainland location in San Diego.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is sort of like two movies merged into one. The first half of the movie is reminiscent of the trigger-happy, gung-ho soldiers confidently swooping into an unknown land of dangerous creatures in James Cameron’s Aliens. As sad as it is to watch the sadistic hunters hurt the dinosaurs, we all know the trespassing poachers are going to eventually kiss their lives goodbye. In the second half of the movie, Spielberg creates his version of King Kong with a T-Rex running around the streets of California. Both ideas merge well together to make a very exciting sequel with tons of action and plenty of dinosaurs to root for!
Jurassic Park III
In 2001, director Joe Johnston (Captain America, The Rocketeer, Jumanji) took over for the third film which was a great choice since he is like a Steven Spielberg-lite. Even Spielberg himself has recently become Spielberg-lite, so all three Jurassic Park movies feel consistently stylized which is always a nice feeling – giving the impression that the trilogy is one long story. Not based on a Crichton book or any other book, this film surprisingly fits nicely with the previous two films. The last Jurassic Park movie brings Alan Grant (Sam Neil) back to the dinosaur island along with sidekicks Billy (Alessandro Nivola) and Mr. Udesky (Michael Jeter) to help a divorced couple (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) find their son who got accidentally stranded on the island. While the story is not as interesting as the ones in the previous two films, the stars of the films are the dinosaurs – we get more raptors, pterodactyls, and a kick-ass spinosaurus.
As I remember being sick of Jurassic Park movies by the time the third one came out, this movie has aged well. Watching Jurassic Park III today is just as entertaining as the previous two films. With so many unconvincing CGI-creature movies (Journey movies, Titans movies) nowadays, I enjoyed returning to Jurassic Park III because the island still felt like a real dinosaur island.
Universal has treated us to gorgeous-looking video on all three Jurassic Park movies. The 1.85:1 1080p image on this UK Region-free boxset is a huge improvement over the DVDs. While the first movie is slightly grainy and has a bit of edge enhancement, the video quality still looks awesome. As expected, the newer films look a tad better but all three films look equally impressive on Blu-ray. One of the big concerns about the high-definition treatment of CGI-creatures mixed with live-action is that they may obviously stand out from the real elements, but that’s no problem here. I was especially expecting the CGI-enhanced dinosaurs from 1993 to seem more cartoonish in the first movie, but I was surprised that everything merged well perfectly and those dinosaurs still look real even with more detail. All three films look crisp and finely detailed. The colors pop with clarity and the bright images have no signs of smearing. Blacks and contrast are totally pleasing and non-problematic. Check out the first scene of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park to see what a good Blu-ray this is – the combination of nighttime, storm, and rain did not hamper the video quality. As expected, all films are free of dirt and scratches as well.
Damn, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is dangerous! If you live in an apartment, be careful! These are reference-quality audio mixes and are loud! While I didn’t get any knocks on my door to turn the volume down, the audio scared me – the mixes were that good. I’m not surprised though – these are, after all, dinosaur films. For all you people who still think that all movies can be enjoyed on VHS or watched on a small computer screen with tiny sound, these movies are examples why some movies need to be heard on Blu-ray. These immersive surround soundtracks are one of the most important aspects of the three Jurassic Park movies. To listen to these movies with mono or stereo sound or with headphones would be a total insult to the filmmakers. While I’m not against new mixes added to old films as long as they include the original audio mix, I feel bad for so many old monster/creature films from the past when they get put on DVD or Blu-ray that have lacking audio options. If those movies got immersive audio tracks as these Jurassic Park Blu-rays, they would be given new life. I know it’s expensive for studios to tinker with the audio for home video releases, but it’s worth it.
This UK Region-free Blu-ray boxset has more audio and subtitle options than the USA version. The Jurassic Park and The Lost World Blu-rays include French DTS 5.1, Italian DTS 5.1, German DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1, Japanese DTS 5.1 audio choices, as well as English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles. The Jurassic Park III Blu-ray includes Portuguese DTS 5.1, Czech DTS 5.1, Hungarian DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian DTS 5.1, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio choices, as well as English, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Spanish, Polish, Thai, Turkish, Croatian, Greek, Romanian, and Slovenian subtitles.
I don’t know how anyone can be disappointed with more than seven hours of extras. Everything you want to know about Jurassic Park is here. This Ultimate Trilogy Blu-ray boxset includes the extras that were on the previous DVDs as well as new ones made for Blu-ray. I was happy to see one commentary on the third film, but I was hoping for commentaries on the first two films as well. Nitpicking aside, a couple of days will be needed to watch everything in this generous boxset!
Jurassic Park extras
- Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era (25:25)
- Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory (20:16)
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution (15:03)
- Archival Featurettes:
The Making of ‘Jurassic Park’ (49:39)
Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (4:50)
Steven Spielberg Directs ‘Jurassic Park’ (9:07)
Hurricane in Kauai Featurette (2:09)
- Behind the Scenes:
Early Pre-Production Meetings (6:20)
Location Scouting (1:59)
Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen (3:04)
Animatics: T-Rex Attack (7:21)
ILM and ‘Jurassic Park’: Before and After Visual Effects (6:32)
Foley Artists (SD; 1:25)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:18)
- Jurassic Park: Making the Game (4:43)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park extras
- Deleted Scenes (7:09)
- Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World (27:40)
- Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived (16:30)
- Archival Featurettes:
The Making of ‘The Lost World’ (53:14)
Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (13:17)
The ‘Jurassic Park’ Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton (15:27)
The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg from ILM (1:38)
- Behind the Scenes:
ILM and “The Lost World’: Before and After Visual Effects (20:44)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:58)
Jurassic Park III extras
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure (25:20)
- Archival Featurettes:
The Making of ‘Jurassic Park III’ (22:43)
The Dinosaurs of ‘Jurassic Park III’ (7:52)
The Special Effects of ‘Jurassic Park III’ (10:31)
The Industrial Light and Magic Press Reel (10:14)
The Sounds of ‘Jurassic Park III’ (13:35)
The Art of ‘Jurassic Park III’ (7:55)
Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs (4:21)
- Behind the Scenes:
Tour of Stan Winston Studio (3:14)
Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane (1:48)
Raptors Attack Udesky (00:59)
The Lake (1:38)
A Visit to ILM (14:52)
Dinosaur Turntables (6:23)
Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison
- Theatrical Trailer (1:16)
- Feature Commentary with the Special Effects Team
For any other parent out there, I know how we all love to teach our kids about animals and dinosaurs, so here’s a list of dinosaurs that were shown in the Jurassic Park movies. If your kid (or any adult) goes bonkers over a particular dinosaur, you can use this quick guide to see where that dinosaur shows up. Letting them watch these PG-13 movies is another story – if you let your child watch Indiana Jones and Star Wars, these Jurassic Park movies are no big deal in comparison.
Jurassic Park: Brachiosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Gallimimus, Parasaurolophus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor
The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Anatotitan, Compsognathus, Gallimimus, Mamenchisaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor
Jurassic Park III: Ankylosaurus, Baryonyx, Ceratosaurus, Compsognathus, Corythosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Pteranodon (aka Pterodactyl), Spinosaurus, Stegosaurus, Suchomimus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor
The dinosaurs are the stars of the Jurassic Park films, but don’t forget that the actors are the ones that helped make these dinosaurs seem real. While not labeled as Oscar-worthy performances, the actors pulled off an astonishing job of expressing amazement and fear when confronted with the dinosaurs. We have seen too many unrealistic/cartoonish CGI-overkill films and not enough convincing ones (such as King Kong and Lord of the Rings) to know that acting in front of animatronics or CGI-creatures is not as easy as acting with someone or something that is real. Anytime I think of these Jurassic Park movies over the years, I have images engraved in my mind of Laura Dern and Tea Leoni absolutely flipping out in reaction to the dinosaurs. These movies have so many types of characters – scientists, hunters, lawyers, businessmen, parents, children, computer specialists – all with different personalities, but each one drops their identities or egos when faced with real fear.
With the actors’ convincing expression of fear, outstanding filmmaking by Spielberg and Johnston, and flawless special effects, all three Jurassic Park movies still rank at the top of the list of being the best animatronics/CGI-enhanced creature films. Exciting movies, great video transfers, reference-quality audio, and plenty of extras make this Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy Blu-ray boxset a definite must-buy!