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Is Jurassic Park Any Better in 3D?
Two weeks ago, I wrote a Hub discussing films to show children too young for Jurassic Park in light of its 20th anniversary re-release in 3D. Last week, I put down the extra money and saw the movie in that format on Friday night.
This was the first time I'd seen the film in years, as well as the first time I had ever viewed it on the big screen, and on the whole, it was a transfixing experience. While not a perfect film, Jurassic Park has aged remarkably well over the past twenty years, with very few moments where I didn't believe that I was witnessing living, breathing dinosaurs. The story structure and the key human performances held up for me as well, and like a great work of art, I picked up on things in the movie that had eluded or simply not interested me before (e.g. Dr. Grant's raptor claw representing his marriage to paleontology and reservations about having a family with Dr. Sattler, which he uses to intimidate a snotty kid in his first scene, but literally throws away after becoming Lex and Tim's savior and protector).
Yet the fact that I saw it in 3D had nothing to do with this. The purpose of films being screened in this format is to further immerse the viewers into the film, making them feel like they occupy the same space as the characters on screen. Oddly enough, the parts of Jurassic Park where I most felt like I was literally inside the movie were the talking heads scenes, like Hammond's proposition to Grant and Sattler or Malcolm's debate with him about the ethics of resurrecting long-dead species.
But these aren't the scenes for which you pay extra to see Jurassic Park in 3D. You want to feel like you're in the backseat of a jeep as the T. rex pelts towards you, or jolt back in your seat as the hissing Dilophosaurus expands its frill and spits tarry venom at you. Yet Spielberg and company simply didn't make Jurassic Park with the 3D format in mind. Like any filmmakers, they set out to provide audiences a means of escape, but the primary illusion they strove to cast was that of real dinosaurs, not something as abstract as a physical experience or as vast as an alternate world. Prior to Avatar in 2009, 3D wasn't the reality-blurring tool (or creative and financial crutch) that it is now.
If, like me, you love and grew up with Jurassic Park and want to thank Universal Studios for re-releasing it (in part to generate buzz for Jurassic Park IV), by all means ignore everything I've just said and throw your extra money at them. I certainly don't regret doing so. But while some films are fantastic in 3D or even work best in 3D, this ground-breaking film is best seen--if not in its original format--at least in its original dimensions. If, however, you have the chance to see this in IMAX--even if only in IMAX 3D--go for it. You'll feel more like you're actually sweeping over Isla Nublar or being chased by a T. rex from such a huge screen than you ever will from a standard-sized one.
And despite my reservations about recommending Jurassic Park in 3D, I'm not opposed to the idea of other prehistoric media being screened in that format. Consider this scene from BBC's Walking with Beasts, for example, especially the last thirty seconds: