Jurassic Park DVD Review

Everyone has his or her favorite movies. These are the films we almost live by, memorizing the script and repeating famous quotes in our daily lives. These are the films that impact us and specific moments are forever cemented in our minds. Welcome to "Jurassic Park."

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), leasing an island off the coast of Costa Rica, has cloned dinosaurs from ancient DNA and produced a theme park unlike anything else in the world. After a tragic incident involving a worker and one of the re-created inhabitants, a lawyer (Martin Ferrero), two paleontologists (Laura Dern, Sam Neil), and a chaotician (Jeff Goldblum), are brought to the island so they can take the grand tour, proving that the park is safe to wary investors. After a disgruntled employee (Wayne Night) shuts down the park security systems for his own purposes, the tourists are unexpectedly thrust into a battle for survival against creatures no man has ever seen alive.

Never before has a film so masterfully brought to life those creatures most children grow up only dreaming about. Pioneering CGI effects that litter countless movies in unrealistic fashion today, "Jurassic Park" is a landmark in adventure, special effects, and an all-out assault on your movie going senses. After years of men-in-suits and jerky stop-motion, the dinosaurs portrayed here are real living, breathing creatures, interacting with the cast in a flawless manner. The film does not require a high body count to convey horror. The simple fact that these creatures look so realistic is enough.

Shot almost entirely on location in Hawaii, the cinematography here is nothing short of breathtaking. The early shot of the InGen helicopter making the way into the heart of the island is unforgettable in its beauty. The first appearance by one of the extinct giants, surrounded by lush plant life, is only one of the moments that will stick in the minds of anyone who watches this stunning Spielberg achievement.

The script (penned by book author Michael Crichton and David Koepp) manages to find that perfect mesh of action, humor, and horror that so many films struggle to find. Every scene serves a purpose and during the full two-hour running time, there is never a wasted moment. Richard Attenborough goes through a range of emotions as the man responsible for everything, including a scene with Laura Dern were he finally realizes he has no hope of salvaging the park. Jeff Goldblum is generally the audience favorite, receiving the bulk of humorous and memorable quotes, delivering each one with a style all his own.

Many will gripe that the movie fails completely when compared to Michael Crichton's book, but hardly any movies actually live up to the original written story. Films simply do not work the same way books do. Character development in a book is far more engrossing than it is on screen. As such, the script for "Jurassic Park" includes a few key scenes, a little back story, and then rolls on. Also, the John Williams score (robbed of any awards), used only when necessary, is something a book could never replicate.

There is no need to lie. This is, without any doubt, my all time favorite film. Nothing has ever come so close to capturing those dreams and nightmares that I and just about every other child had growing up. No, this film doesn't have some barely noticeable underlying purpose. No, it doesn't have deep, depressing drama. It doesn't need any of that. "Jurassic Park" does, in flawless fashion, what every movie should set out to do: Entertain its audience. In that, it succeeds on every level, even today 11 years after the initial release. (***** out of *****)

Brought out on DVD in many different versions (including a must-own-for-fans limited edition box set), Universal wasted no time in milking the franchise when it came time for the second sequel. Reviewed here as always is the widescreen version, presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Sadly, all of that lush island photography is butchered here, mostly due to some awful compression problems. The issues begin early on in the film and become annoying during the paleontologists first meeting with John Hammond in the trailer. Overly noticeable blocks begin moving across walls and the actor's faces. Once the film takes it's dark turn past the hour mark, things clear up a little bit thanks to rock solid black levels, but when night passes, things go right back to normal. Other than this compromising problem, the print used is flawless, while the transfer is sharp and accurate. (***)

The first film to ever use Dolby Laboratories DTS format, "Jurassic Park" is a tour de force in the audio department. To get this DTS track at home, you must purchase a separate and somewhat overpriced edition of the film, which also deletes some of the special features. Reviewed here is the standard 5.1 edition.

Subtle sound effects of the island habitat are just the beginning for this discs sound. Footsteps of the titles Tyrannosaur are filled with massive bass, easily shaking the room to enhance the experience. Rain, which is relentlessly falling during the creature's initial appearance, bounces off the cars roof and directly into all five speakers without any compromises. These are the little touches that go a long way to immerse the viewer and make this one of the best sounding discs on the market. The DTS versions is, of course a step up, but the slightly more impactful bass and just a little more noticeable separation in the front are hardly worth the loss of special features for all but die-hard audio buffs. (*****)

This is likely not the final time we will see this film on DVD as this is not the ultimate JP package*, but still offers up some good stuff. Originally available on VHS (and premiering on network TV), "The Making of Jurassic Park" is an extensive look at how the film came together. Hosted by James Earl Jones, this is a much better documentary than most discs come with and accompanies the film well. One of the more interesting features is a short stop-motion animatic of the raptor kitchen scene, created by Phil Tippett. Though soundless, it gives fans a look at what might have happened if the film had used the effects format as originally planned. More of these were done and have been shown in various other specials but are not included.

Excellent insight to the filmmaking process is shown with some pre-production meetings. Spielberg and his crew discuss various sequences and effects shots along with other problems. In the same vein are some location scouting videos shot on VHS with a camcorder. Spielberg reveals his plans on how he intends to use the environment for specific shots, though video quality on both of these features is pretty abysmal. A brief feature is also included on the foley artists. Rounding off the disc are some production photos, sketches, and proposed storyboards (including some of a scene in which the 'Rex attacks Grant and the kids in a raft). A few trailers are also included along with the original teaser for "Jurassic Park III." (****)

"Jurassic Park" is one of the new classics. Not quite old enough to really solidify its high ranking spot in movie history, rest assured when the time comes, it will be right up there with the best Hollywood has ever offered. The sequels don't even come close to achieving what this film has done, nor do any of the copycats. This is a once in a lifetime movie, and one that will never be equaled.

*It must be noted that purchasing the box set of all three films in the series buys you a special fourth disc with only special features on it, covering all three films. The disc is rather unremarkable, though some of the footage does make it worth owning.

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