Last night I saw Jurassic Park 3D, which Univeral is opening on April 5th in 3D, RealD and IMAX 3D. The 3D conversion is very nicely done, although at my screening the 3D went out of register (i.e, you’d see double) if you tilted your head just a little bit to the right or the left. The effects were quite something 20 years ago, of course, and even by today’s standards they’re pretty wallopy. Especially the Stan Winston model work and the close-ups of the T-Rex heads. And I loved the digital sound. Definitely a more intense ride than I recall.
But what happens, of course, is that the 3D doesn’t matter after a while. You get used to it, you sink into it and you’re left with the film itself. And good God, what a shameless Spielberg wank! It’s not just aimed at 12 year-olds — it feels like it was almost written by them. I think I prefer The Lost World, which at least is aimed more at 15 or 16 or 17-year-olds. In Act One there’s an animated cartoon explaining the process of dinosaur rebirth by way of extracting blood from ancient mosquitoes frozen in amber. The tone of it tells you what the filmmakers think of the likely mentality of the average JP viewer. It’s on the level of Sesame Street.
Put aside the visual effects and Jurassic Park is just one cheap amusement-park trick after another. All of it feels cravenly pre-meditated. You don’t “believe” a frame of it. It feels like a movie made for the mall. Everything is fizz and popcorn. To think that Spielberg made the masterful Schindler’s List the same year. If Steven Soderbergh, say, had been persuaded to direct this fresh today, he would do a much, much better job. Spielberg is such a jolt and tingle and spook whore. He’ll do anything to get a rise out of an audience. The problem is that he doesn’t think it through. E.T. was much better written and more carefully made.
The computer screens look so old…wow. I remember those days. And all the actors look so young, it’s amazing. Jeff Goldblum‘s hair is all black and wavy and his face is smooth and toned. Sam Neill looks like he’s in his 30s, like he’s just starting out in life. These days the middle-aged Laura Dern looks agitated and stressed but 20 years ago she was full of that youthly glow. Imagine what Taylor Swift is going to look like in 2033.
The Jurassic Park formula is (a) deliver a big scare or a special effect or a “whoa!” moment, (b) scare the audience by pushing the threat factor to the max while the actors shout and scream and then (c) deliver temporary escape or safety at the very last possible second. And then repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat again.
50% of the film is filled with closeups of the actors delivering their Spielberg awe-face or Spielberg terrified face. The dialogue is almost all clumsy or grasping character exposition mixed with hurried-up plot exposition. I was grimacing except for the dialogue by Goldblum and that Australian hunter guy who get skilled by the raptors in Act Three. They’re the only two actors I really liked in the whole thing. So what does Spielberg do with Goldblum, his finest actor and most interesting character? He tears his leg up and makes him lie on a gurney and wince for the second half of the film….brilliant!
Neill is okay but grating at times. Dern is fine. The subplot about Neil getting adjusted to being a dad with the two kids is overplayed to death. I got so sick of watching Samuel L. Jackson smoking half-finished cigarettes I was thisclose to shouting at the screen, “Will you give it a rest with the smokes, Sam?”
Every scary or threatening thing that happens is pushed to the limit before a rescue or an escape occurs. And so much of it is cheap movie bullshit. The shuddering earth impact causing water in a glass to vibrate…bullshit. Dern not paying the slightest attention to a massive brontosaurus-type creature walking 75 feet away while she sits in an open-top jeep, looking instead at a guide book…bullshit. Neill and the young boy dangling below the precariously balanced SUV and managing to yank themselves to right just as it’s about to fall off the concrete wall…bullshit. The SUV about to crash through the branches in the big tree, and Spielberg waiting until the last second before Sam and the kid get out…bullshit. The kid refuses to jump off the soon-to-be-electrified fence and then is jolted off and then recovers a minute later…bullshit. The T-Rex pops in at the last second and basically saves Neill, Dern and the kids from the approaching raptors…bullshit. The T-Rex decides to go right for the lawyer as he hides in the crapper…bullshit.
The raptors in the kitchen is a good sequence. Caring for the sick Triceratops (“sick Tryke”) is a good sequence. But I really hate that grotesque little fat kid in the Montana archeology sequence who claims raptors are like turkeys. If only this kid could have travelled to Jurassic Park with Neill and Dern and then, you know, whatever.
The opening with the raptor being transferred out of an iron cage is cheap and cloying and labored. The greedy obese guy who appeared on Seinfeld…I really despised seeing him again. Richard Attenborough is either smiling way too much — those teeth! — or acting frustrated or peevish or he’s screaming too loudly. He never just settles into a semblance of normal steady behavior.
Jurassic Park is basically a bad movie with first-rate animatronics & CG effects (certainly by the standards of 20 years ago) and some nice atmospheric stuff…a bad movie that made a lot of money.