Steven Spielberg holds a special place in my movie-loving heart. I know its taboo for a reviewer to state a bias towards a particular filmmaker, but when that said filmmaker has had such a profound impact on the direction of your life, it warrants mentioning. After all, if it weren’t for Spielberg’s movies, Saving Private Ryan and Raiders of the Lost Ark in particular, I wouldn’t have been the movie obsessive I am today.
While I credit those two films as being the ones that instilled the movie bug in me, interestingly enough, it’s Jurassic Park that stands as the film I’ve revisited the most from his filmography. I use the word “interesting” because I don’t particularly think of Jurassic Park as one of Spielberg’s greater achievements. In fact, when I recently put together a list on Letterboxd, ranking his works, it only managed to come in at #12. This is partly because I find the film’s characters, including Alan Grant, Eli Sadler and even Ian Malcolm, too broad, too stock-y, too simplistic. Additionally, the film’s primary human antagonist, played by Wayne Knight, is such a ridiculous iteration of the evil conniving nerd type that it goes beyond caricature. Even the plot, which finds the human characters scrambling for their lives, is too much of a re-thread of classic monster movies.
Yet, despite these flaws, no matter how many times I sit down to watch the film, be it with friends, family or all alone on a rainy weekend, it continues to have this remarkable transfixing effect on me. This effect was only amplified as I watched the film for the first time on the big screen last week – in 3D at that. I think this is because, in spite of the film’s storytelling flaws, taken as a straight-up thrill ride, this is one of Spielberg’s finest achievements. His technical mastery and ability at staging high-tension set-pieces are unmatched. Just take the first T-Rex attack and the Raptors in the kitchen scenes as examples. They’re extremely simple in their conceit, but the way he shoots it… slowly building the tension by lingering on the tiniest details, a ripple in the water, a door handle, a spoon falling on the floor, is remarkably effective in cranking up the tension. Even today, those scenes make me think, “What would I do in their place?” The answer, if you’d like to know, would probably be “die” but I digress.
Going back to the 3-D, let the record state that I’ve never been a proponent of the 3D racket. I tend to think of it as unnecessary but it’s a gimmick that’s here to stay so I deal with it. That being said, if you’re having doubts about seeing his sucker on the big screen, but aren’t convinced about the 3-D, rest easy. This may be the richest post-conversion 3-D job I’ve seen on a film thus far. The depth of field the 3-D creates for the film is extraordinary, proving that a lot of time was spent on it. Additionally, the digital transfer only enhances Dean Cundey’s already lush cinematography. Even though some of the film’s depictions of technology may have aged horribly – in some cases, comically – the film’s overall impact, including it’s still effective visual effects, remains as thrilling as it were 20 years ago. So, if you’re thinking about revisiting it on the big screen, I highly urge you to watch it on the biggest possible IMAX screen.