Jurassic Park (Blu-ray)
The tagline for the original Jurassic Park was “An adventure 65 million years in the making.” The incredible success of the film (spending more than 18 weeks as the top box office earner) lends credibility to this claim. Watching the recently released Blu-rays of JURASSIC PARK brought back all of the feelings that I had when I first saw the movie in 1993 (I was 14 at the time). Though it is not that long ago, 1993 seems like a completely different time. The technological advances that have occurred in this small time seem impossible, though I watched them with my own eyes as I grew up. In ’93, movies with special effects usually featured puppets and/or stop-motion animation, CGI had yet to place its grip firmly over Hollywood. And the tangibility of physical puppets or maquettes lends a credibility to the creatures we see on screen that is sometimes lost in the CGI worlds that have become commonplace over the last 15 years.
JURASSIC PARK opens with a terrible accident, the death of a worker during an “unknown lizard-creatures” transportation. Due to the accident, the owner of the park (John Hammond, played by Richard Attenborough) is required to bring in experts to tour and review the park and provide their feedback. This includes palaeontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), palaeo-botanist Dr. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), lawyer Donald Gennaro who represents all of Hammond’s investors, and mathematician/”chaotician” Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). When they arrive at the island (Isla Nublar, off the coast of Costa Rica) they are taken on a jeep tour and they start to learn about Hammond’s cloned dinosaurs. Unlike many movies from my childhood/early teens this one holds its own and really surprised me with the realism and detail in the CGI that was used.
As the experts review the island and begin the first official dinosaur tour with Hammond’s grandchildren, things start going wrong. The only things Hammond didn’t consider when creating the park was ego (his own) and greed (his staff). Nedry decides to steal some trade secrets (including dinosaur embryos) and shuts down all of park security to allow his escape, which puts the children and the experts in danger. The actors are excellent and you’ll find yourself rooting for them all the way through. This film is still a joy to watch and contains lots of moments that have become film icons since the films release. The outright message is that “nature will find a way,” but this movie doesn’t feel preachy at all.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The video looks great and you feel like you are on island and surrounded by the dinosaurs at every side, which brings us to…
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio track is absolutely breathtaking. From the deep, resonating booms of the lumbering dinosaurs to the screeching raptors to the screams, everything is presented beautifully.
Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era (25:25) A HD featurette with standard definition video from behind the scenes. Spielberg talks about why he wanted to make the movie, we get to see some of the great moments from the film and get insights into the movie from the cast and crew today. I had completely forgotten that, up to this point, the standard was either puppets or stop-motion creatures, not the CGI that is seamlessly integrated in the movie.
Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory (20:16) Another retrospective/making-of feature, this one focuses on the processes of production and set design and special effects. Spielberg and the sfx crew talk about how they put things together. If you’re interested in seeing how they combined CGI footage of the dinosaurs with Stan Winston’s puppets, this one is for you.
Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step In Evolution (15:03) In this, part three of the meticulous documentary accompanying the films, cast and crew discuss the importance of realism within the effects. Sound mixing and effects get their due here, giving us a unique view of the creative process, including John Williams giving some insight into his scoring process. An interesting tidbit, Spielberg was reviewing and approving special effects as he was shooting Schindler’s List.
Archival Featurettes: Included on the disc are featurettes that were previously released or aired on television.
The Making of Jurassic Park (49:39) Hosted by James Earl Jones, this documentary covers not only the making of the film but also gives a look back at the evolution of dinosaurs in cinema. This is the most complete and lovingly-crafted “making of” feature I’ve seen in a long time, and reminds me of weekends growing up, when I would watch these on television over and over hoping to gain some insight into the movie and the film-making process. Highly recommended.
Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (04:50) A highly condensed featurette/preview of the movie. Standard definition, this one looks pretty rough on Blu.
Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park (09:07) HD and standard definition footage intercut to show scenes from the movie with Spielberg directing the actors.
Hurricane in Kauai Featurette (02:09) While they were shooting in Kauai, the Hawaiian island was hit by a hurricane which shut down production and caused massive destruction.
“Behind The Scenes”
Early Pre-Production Meetings (06:20) Spielberg meetings showing his micromanaging style (ego? Well deserved?) but also his incredible vision for the film.
Location Scouting (01:59) Some early footage surveying for locations to use in the film.
Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen (03:04) Stop motion sequence created that was then used as a template for the CGI teams at Industrial Light & Magic.
Animatics: T-Rex Attack (07:21) Same as the raptor scene above, this was the stop-motion template used by ILM to create the CGI effects used in the film.
ILM and Jurassic Park: Before and After Visual Effects (06:32) By breaking down some scenes we get to see a raw footage comparison with CGI layers… very interesting but not for everyone.
Foley Artists (01:25) Foley artists are under-appreciated outside of the film circle, they create amazingly relatable sounds using every day items. This is a cool look at how they do what they do.
Storyboards – 5 scenes presented as storyboards alone, in high definition. They are beautiful but without sound can be a bit boring. Includes T-Rex Attack, Jeep Chase, Raptors in the Kitchen, Omitted Baby Trike Scene, and The Original Ending.
Production Archives: Photographs (03:36); Design Sketches (00:48); Conceptual Paintings (00:56) all are presented as slide shows without sound. These are short enough that they stay interesting, despite being presented without sound.
Finally, the theatrical trailer (01:18) rounds out the special features on this disc.