Friday, 28 October 2011

No Expense Spared

Along with the Star Wars saga, the Jurassic Park trilogy has been at the summit of my hi-def wishlist since (before) the format was invented. That wish became reality this Monday with the release of the “Ultimate Trilogy” Blu-ray boxset. I’m still making my way through the dense special features, but couldn’t resist a quick whizz-through review of the films I will adore forever.

PG – 129mins – 1993

Audience’s first visit to the world’s most perilous amusement park is one of *the* shaping moments of my childhood. I can, even now, remember leaving the cinema waaaaay back in 1993 (I was 9 years old) with a new obsession – and I still rank the film as one of my favourites of all time today, some 18 years later.

To say the Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster-with-brains is a landmark in motion picture history is putting it mildly; having recently rewatched the dino blockbuster on blu-ray, I can unequivocally testify that the flawless revolutionary CGI, model and effects work still trump half of today’s turgid overblown fare. The resurrected fossils looked authentic then and they still leave me breathless now in stunning HD.

You could argue that the Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) sabotage subplot stutters to a halt halfway through as the park descends into chaos, leaving the stunned n’ stranded human visitors miles from safety with the park’s unfenced beasties nipping at their heels, but you’ll be so entertained it’s hard to grumble. Iconic scene follows iconic scene with a witty script enlivening even the moments of respite inbetween the thrilling attacks.

CR@B Verdict: aaaaa

PG – 128mins – 1997

Spielberg was so adamant about continuing the Jurassic Park franchise (ker-ching!) that he pleaded with the novel’s author, Michael Crichton, to pen a follow-up novel for him to film. It’s curious, then, that the big screen adaptation dispensed with the majority of its source material, save the broad concept, a handful of characters and the stand-out set piece.

It would have been impossible to topple the first film, and The Lost World is so tonally dissimilar from its predecessor that – dino’s aside – it’s hard to compare. It’s not the almighty disappointment many would have you believe, but it is a grittier, more sombre and more adult adventure at the expense of Jurassic Park’s humour and universal enchantment.

Bigger in many respects but not necessarily better, the tag team T-Rex trailer attack is a literal cliffhanger which succeeds in ramping up the tension, while the King Kong-riffing dino loose in the suburbs climax never sits entirely comfortably. It’s great to see Jeff The Switch Goldblum back as dry wit machine Ian Malcolm, but he did have greater impact as a sly, deadpanning side character rather than male lead.

CR@B Verdict: aaaaa

PG – 93mins – 2001

Often considered the black sheep of the trilogy, I have to confess to having a soft spot for “little” Jurassic Park III – the only film of the three not to be derived from a Crichton novel. I know it’s nowhere near the best of the bunch, and I know it’s more frivolous and lightweight than its predecessors, but damn it, it’s such a great popcorn flick.

Dispelling with the InGen company politics and existential philosophy on genetics in favour of a straight forward rescue mission, JPIII sees everybody’s favourite fedora-festooned paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Daybreakers Neill), hoodwinked into returning to dino province on Isla Sorna’s Site B. His task is to hunt down the missing son of Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda Kirby (Tea Leoni) – and stay alive.

Spielberg may have handed directing duties to Joe The Wolfman Johnston, but the special effects are once again superb (which you would hope some eight years after the original) and the Spinosaurus vs. T-Rex and Pterodactyl aviary set pieces (nabbed from the first book) are worth the watch alone – just be prepared for a rather sudden ending which leaves you wondering where a more extravagant crescendo of a climax has gone.

CR@B Verdict: aaaaa

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