A 20-Year-Old Dinosaur Movie Is Making a Strong Case for the Future of 3D

Though the not-going-away-apparently trend of 3D movies is largely an irksome one, prizing cheap aesthetics over anything else, there are times when it can be used for good. Such is the case with Jurassic Park 3D, which is being released on Friday.

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Though the not-going-away-apparently trend of 3D movies is largely an irksome one, prizing cheap aesthetics over anything else, there are times when it can be used for good. Ang Lee's Life of Pi comes to mind, in that it only used 3D to gently enrich rather than distract. And, I grudgingly suppose, that when a great older movie is touched up by the technology and rereleased, it can be a good thing too. Mostly because it's so fun to see the old thing back on the big screen. But, sure, because the 3D is cool too. Such is the case with Jurassic Park 3D, which is being released on Friday.

It's a little a terrifying to realize that Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg's dinosaur adventure opus based on Michael Crichton's novel, was first released twenty years ago, though that is the grim reality. But at least Jurassic Park 3D gives us a chance to revel in the mastery of the movie rather than glumly mourn all the time that's gone by since we first glimpsed its revolutionary special effects. Much like last year's Titanic 3D, this new and arguably improved version is chiefly a chance for giddy nostalgia, that sense of being young and awed by a beautifully crafted spectacle that will prove indelible.

Jurassic Park was the first big Event Movie that I remember seeing on opening day, so it will forever hold a place of prominence in my moviegoing life. (I still measure people's ages by how old they were when Jurassic Park came out. The idea that people in college currently were born after it was released is a source of constant wonder/terror.) So I was a little wary about all the 3D embellishments, fearful that Spielberg would have Lucas-ized — Special Edition-ed — his great film for the sake of technological curiosity. But no, the film is instead lovingly tweaked; all the same texture and tone is there, it's just blown up a little, thrown at you a bit more directly. I'm not sure how I'd feel about the movie were I seeing it for the first time, but as a return, a chance once again to see the movie as big as it was meant to be seen, the 3D struck me as novel, exciting, and only occasionally out of place.

In flat dialogue scenes the characters can appear to hover in the foreground, as if they're in their own versions of the John Hammond-talks-to-John Hammond bit. But during the bigger set pieces, when motion is constant and the pictures loom loud and large, it's a visceral thrill. There's no corny "It's coming right at you!!" stuff, it's all just somehow more present, placed just shy of your lap. I'd strongly advise, if you want to spend 16 or however many dollars on a twenty-year-old movie, that you see it in IMAX. That ridiculous, only occasionally vertigo-inducing scale is likely to provide maximum enjoyment. Oh and the sound! The sound. Though less heralded than its visual counterpart, movie sound technology has improved so much in the past two decades that I was truly shaken and, yes I'll admit as a just-south-of-30-year old, scared every time that T-Rex bellowed out his enormous roar.

The technological marvel aside, the movie itself holds up beautifully. Still surprising, funny, wildly imaginative, and in its own weird way subtle, Jurassic Park really did, and does, earn its status as a "classic." I know that's such a corny word to use about movies — everything's "a classic" these days — but the way that Jurassic Park so grandly advanced the field of visual effects while never losing sight of story, and character, and the careful build of momentum, makes it a paragon of summer tent-pole filmmaking. If only every big blockbuster release — Transformers comes first to mind — took as much care in telling an interesting story as well as Jurassic Park does.

This doesn't mean I'm some sudden 3D convert. It's just that this one particular usage — adding a little extra element to an already beloved and rewatched a million times film — is perfectly tolerable. Likable, even. This doesn't excuse The Hobbit or any other movie that slaps a 3D label on and brings its headache machine to market. I still wish 3D films hadn't become de rigueur. But for providing me with the chance to feel ten years old again, thrilled and delighted there in the flickering dark? Yeah, sure, I guess it's all right.

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