(Note: You can read reviews for each 4K disc in this set using our Jurassic Park 4K tag)
Missing from Jurassic Park the movie is author Michael Crichton’s sense of dread. As written, Jurassic Park told a science-run-amok tragedy, with a deranged billionaire pulling the strings of genetic engineering. Frankenstein, brought into the modern era of science, and with dinosaurs.
Steven Spielberg’s interpretation is kinder and gentler. The fear is there. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) berates the park’s owners, interjecting opinions about the certainty of failure. The science is there. Discussions of cloning and DNA drop in the first act’s exposition.
Yet John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the mega-rich creator of Jurassic Park, bears little blame for his creation. He’s a jolly Santa Claus who brings living dinos to his grandkids. When the dinosaurs inevitably break free – and of course they will because why else make this movie? – Hammond stuffs his face with melting ice cream. He hasn’t gone mad. His delusions of power pass. He agrees the park isn’t meant to be.
So yes, the movie adaptation of Crichton’s brilliant sci-fi novel misses the crux of his futurist worries. Fears of capitalism run through the humor (“We’ll have a coupon day,” says the blood-sucking lawyer) and the only lesson learned is not to run a theme park that holds carnivorous dinosaurs, mostly because of possible lawsuits.
Jurassic Park holds onto its power because that wonderment never ages
Jurassic Park holds onto its power because that wonderment never ages
There’s an interesting Jurassic Park movie waiting to sprout from the source material. Although Spielberg’s take isn’t that, it does have benefit of awe. Seeing those dinosaurs, draped onto the screen, in such imperceptible animatronic glory, holds the same visual power today as it did in 1993. Jurassic Park is a dinosaur spectacle, less built on character than it is, for the first time, seeing authentic-looking extinct creatures walk, maul, and breathe.
That’s the lasting appeal. Jurassic Park holds onto its power because that wonderment never ages. There’s an admiration for the instinct of these animals, not only their killing power. They kill – and do so with memorable results – but the build-up to their reveals, the shocked human faces (blitzed by excitement or fear), and carefully composed fear melds into a powerful thriller.
Dinosaurs existed on film for seventy years prior to Jurassic Park. They were models, lizards with glued on fins, men in suits; some breathed fire and others reached gargantuan scale. None of those movies held the reverence for dinosaurs Jurassic Park does. It’s what every dinosaur-obsessed kid imagines in their head when they think of these animals.
Jurassic Park is led by those kids, a wide-eyed Joseph Mazzello and the fearful Ariana Richards. They sit alongside a disgruntled paleontologist (Sam Neill) who sees his own purpose fading with the advancement of technology. What a fine and then unknown metaphor for Jurassic Park, a film treading a path to put countless practical visual effects technicians out of work. Neill is all of those make-up techs and animatronic workers. Progress is inevitable, but there’s still life in those bones. Jurassic Park’s everlasting appeal is proof.
Universal’s box art makes no claim of remastering Jurassic Park at 4K. This is the same master as used for the 3D Blu-ray a few years back, and it’s insufficient for this format. While the resolution hit its mark at 1080p, on UHD, this delivers a muddy, imprecise image without the expected fidelity.
To be upfront, Jurassic Park’s digital effects do show their age. When the Brachiosaur first marches along the screen, there’s aliasing evident in the textures. On long shots, the image erodes to a fuzzy level, lacking in detail. Welcome to the early ‘90s and the beginning of computer generated progress.
Ignoring that because of the realities involved, Jurassic Park endures low pass filtering throughout. Textures never feel natural, but instead murky and smeared. It’s immediately evident as Genarro steps off the raft and onto the dig site. Rocks in the background look more like watercolor than natural formations.
This is negligible in close. Facial detail performs well, enough to convince some this is a natural, unprocessed transfer. Some grain does remain, inconsistently. This assumes said grain survived the reduction and even a touch of sharpening. Ringing is visible on high-contrast edges. That’s less of an issue than grain removal. A bit of damage persists on the print, mostly small dirt specks. Jurassic Park doesn’t need a cleaning, but it’s an easy way to tell this is the same as the master prepared for 3D; that dirt matches them two.
UHD isn’t entirely about resolution. HDR effects matter – and in many cases, more than resolution. The box art says HDR. The TV registers HDR. Yet, the effect is utterly lacking. Aside from certain shadows (when Malcolm is in the car, asking if Sattler is single) hardly any obvious HDR effects make an appearance. Even the brightest flashlights fail to brighten up over the Blu-ray counterpart. Flat contrast keeps Jurassic Park in need of additional weight.
Deep color functions similarly. Although certain scenes do heighten their range (neon color jeeps do impress) the range is dull. Flesh tones wither, and island greenery struggles to make it beyond flatness. Warmer color grading adds slight zest (and it does appear more natural than the Blu), making things slightly punchier. Outside of side-by-sides, the differences are imperceptible.
Formatted into DTS:X, there’s minimal change from the masterful DTS-HD mix released on the 3D Blu-ray. A few effects stand out with a touch more clarity. Sound cues sound slightly more prominent than before.
Otherwise, this is the same. It’s still a stunner. Listen as the rain falls onto the jeeps during the T-Rex attack, forever the pinnacle of demo sequences. Natural drops on the roof fall into each speaker. That’s not lost as the Rex attacks, booming footsteps and roars not overpowering yet still thundering.
Positional work pitches raptor calls away from the center. The kitchen becomes a claustrophobic set, keeping the kids locked in place as metal utensils clatter in the rears and front soundstage. Nedry meets his fate from a hop-happy Dilophosaur, chittering as it bounces between speakers. Jungle ambiance fills in when the action enters a lull, sharply mixed to extend beyond the visuals. Thunder as the hurricane approaches bellows in the low-end.
No fidelity is lost to time. Dialog and music both pour forth with stellar quality. Bass comes with room-shaking tightness and natural extensions.
The Blu-ray holds all of the extras from the original 1080p release, even down to the ancient VC-1 video encode. Note the 3D remaster exists only on the 3D release – Universal has yet to release that master on its own.
Return to Jurassic Park signals the beginning this set. Each movie in this 4K boxset contains their own sections to this feature, the first movie having three to itself. In terms of length, these three pieces of bonus content pass the hour marker, reminiscing on how Jurassic Park changed filmmaking, all spliced together with footage taken from the set. There’s a lot of passion behind this one (or three technically), not the usual babble about how great everyone was to work with. Spielberg even admits to some of his own mistakes, like working on Schindler’s List concurrent with JP.
A section on archival featurettes pulls in the DVD features of old, including the 49-minute making-of hosted by James Earl Jones. For those who remember, this was released on a separate VHS tape years ago. Following that is a selection entitled “behind the scenes,” split into seven parts that cover foley effects, location scouting, pre-production, animatics, storyboards, and other archives. Again, nothing here is new.
While Jurassic Park dispenses with the weightier material of Michael Crichton’s book, it’s a movie consistently delivering on pure awe.
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