Twenty years ago, director Steven Spielberg dazzled audiences with the herds of running and lumbering dinosaurs that filled his Jurassic Park. Computer-generated images have become such a norm today that this kind of technology barely registers, but two decades ago it was spectacular. Check that: In the case of Jurassic Park, it's still spectacular.
There's no reason to rush out to theaters to see the movie just because it's being re-released in 3-D. Rather, think of this as a chance to see the movie on a big screen. Even if you've seen it countless times on TV, there's little to match the sight of the creatures as they tower above the audience.
In case you have been out of the loop for 20 years and don't know the plot, the film looks at what happens when scientists figure out a way to clone dinosaurs using DNA pulled from the blood stored in ancient mosquitoes. They bring back 15 species, including a very angry Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The dinosaurs populate what is supposed to become the world's greatest theme park. But concerns over safety call for one last inspection by a group of outside scientists. Things go bad.
The film pulls together all of the themes and big ideas that Spielberg used in previous films.
The dinosaurs are fearsome creatures, just like the menace that made Jaws such a hit. But this time the director didn't have to worry about the inconsistency of using a mechanical shark. The computer work that brings the dinosaurs to life remains visually stunning.
There's also the deep curiosity that drives people to extremes, as he showed in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." In this case, that thirst for answers can be seen in the faces of Sam Neill and Laura Dern, who play two of the scientists brought in to evaluate the park. It's their wonderment that sells each moment of these close encounters of the prehistoric kind.
Spielberg's been inclined to use children in his stories, such as with "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," to provide both a youthful enthusiasm and a childlike perspective. He gets both from Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards (who are now 30 and 33 years old, respectfully). The youngsters in a Spielberg movie also represent the wide-eyed way the director looks at the world.
It's all capped off with the same kind of dry humor — mostly provided by Jeff Goldblum — that helped make his "Indiana Jones" movie so popular. Spielberg has found the right rhythm to use humor to accent the tension of dramatic moments.
Because Spielberg has included all of these elements with such skill, "Jurassic Park" remains one of his greatest cinematic accomplishments. It's an exciting ride, even on TV. Getting to see the movie on a massive screen reinforces just how masterful it is.
If releasing the film in 3-D is the only way to get it back in theaters, then the gimmick is an acceptable addition. The 3-D is good. But when a movie is this near-flawless, nothing is needed to make it better.
Jurassic Park 3-D
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay by Michael Crichton and David Koepp, based on Crichton.s novel. Playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and levis Commons. Rated PG-13 for language and dinosaur violence. Running time: 126 minutes.
Critic's rating: ****
Dr. Alan Grant...............Sam Neill
Dr. Ellie Sattler..............Laura Dern
Dr. Ian Malcolm..............Jeff Goldblum
John Hammond..............Richard Attenborough