Andy Bockelman: ‘Jurassic Park’ still a towering achievement
April 18, 2013
"Jurassic Park 3-D," rated PG-13
Rating: 4 out of 4 stars
Run time: 127 minutes
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough
Steamboat Springs — I was right there in line at the ticket counter, ready to get my stub for the biggest movie of the year and, in my mind, the biggest of all time. My emotional state was a mixture of the usual excitement one has when they're about to witness a cultural phenomenon and wariness that I was about to be scared out of my mind.
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Closer and closer I got to the front of the line, the butterflies in my stomach raging more and more until finally my wussy nature got the better of me, and I ran out of the theater.
And that's how 8-year-old me missed seeing "Jurassic Park."
Back in summer 1993, seeing a movie like this was a rite of passage, and once I returned to school that fall, I was out of place among all my classmates who had proved their chutzpah by sitting through the magnum opus of dinosaur flicks not once but multiple times.
Of course, I lied and acted like I hadn't chickened out at that all-important moment of my life at the Carmike Cinemas of Casper, Wyo., never certain whether my peers could see through my bravado.
The fact that half my birthday and Christmas presents involved that fossil silhouette didn't hurt — T-shirts, pajamas, toys, coloring books and more kept me en vogue throughout second and third grades.
Even so, there was always something nagging at me, telling me I was purely a poser, a sensation alleviated only somewhat when I finally watched the film for the first time on video a couple of years later.
Is watching a movie like "Jurassic Park" the same kind of experience on a TV screen? At one point in my life, I might have thought so, but how wrong I was.
Two decades have done nothing to diminish the sense of grandeur that comes along with Steven Spielberg's blockbuster based on Michael Crichton's novel. You all know the story: kooky billionaire (Richard Attenborough) figures out how to clone extinct creatures and tries to turn playing God into a family vacation spot, only to have the whole affair blow up in his face once a bevy of dinosaurs are unleashed.
Attending the trial run is paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), the Indiana Jones for the 1990s, a kid-hating luddite who turns out to be a natural father figure when it comes to protecting two children (Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards) from the mayhem inflicted by species that died out eons ago. Meanwhile, Grant's associate, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and park employees try to get things back on track following the shutdown by computer guru Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) in an attempt at corporate espionage.
The plot and human characters are as two-dimensional as ever, though whether in childhood or as an adult, how could you not be jealous of the brother/sister combo of Tim and Lex, the boy who survived a 10,000 volt shock from an electric fence and the girl who got drenched in brachiosaurus snot?
It's the dinosaurs we want to see, perhaps more than ever now.
There's the good — the ailing triceratops; the bad — the malevolent master hunting trio of super-smart velociraptors; and the ugly — the lumbering behemoth Tyrannosaurus rex, known for going to town on SUVs, eating lawyers (Martin Ferrero) off the toilet and inadvertently saving the day when the chips are down.
To fit in with my clique 20 years ago, you had to know only the abbreviated terms "raptor" and "T. rex" were acceptable, and only the extra-cool could pronounce the names of the minor dinos like the stampeding gallimimus and the dilophosaurus, whose favorite activities include playing peekaboo and spitting acid in people's faces.
Are these scaly beasts more impressive when you're wearing 3-D glasses? That's like asking if chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is better when you dump more chocolate chips in your bowl. You don't need it, but it doesn't hurt, which is more than can be said of other 3-D re-releases.
Spielberg's special-effects team had a watershed moment with his biggest hit to date as a director, mixing then-state-of-the-art computer creations with animatronics and rubber suits, techniques that are being phased out. What truly matters in putting a movie like this back into theaters is the ironic moral behind it as the beginning of a new age and the end of another.
While the character of John Hammond is left to ponder whether he's gone too far in bringing long-dead animals back into the environment, it's worth considering whether Hollywood has sacrificed quality for quantity with ever-progressing technology that becomes a weapon more than a tool.
We all know the answer, but to be fair, there still exist filmmakers of Spielberg's ilk. To paraphrase chaos theory proselytizer Malcolm, "Substance, uh, finds a way."
Should you see "Jurassic Park" during its limited run for the sake of 3-D enhancements? No, you should see it because it's simply an awesome movie with the kind of splendor that can only be viewed properly on a big screen.
Take it from my 8-year-old self, you don't want to wait another 20 years for such an experience.
Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Steamboat Springs.
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