The "Jurassic Park" Trilogy on DVD
Good/Monstrously Bad/Monstrously "Must Own"!
Jurassic Park became one of the most popular movies in history (at
least until "Titanic" came along!), and it isn't
hard to see why.
It also explains how one terrific movie can morph into one
terrific, one awful, and one pretty good, series of movies.
...and why Universal would release all three features in a deluxe,
four disc boxed set that includes an entire disc of extra material.
Steven Spielberg directs the first two movies, the first of which
is based on Michael Crichton's page-turning novel about a theme park based on
cloned dinosaurs - and the second of which is based on its extremely weak
sequel. The first book was fabulous, even though Crichton had actually covered
the "technology run amok in a theme park" storyline many year before, in
It's appropriate that Spielberg made the film; it's "Jaws" all over again, but with even more fantastic
monsters - and it was an excuse to advance the state-of-the-art in special
effects as only Spielberg and his friend George Lucas (whose Industrial Light
and Magic effects facility created the digital dinos) could do.
And, while there's maybe a total of 25% of the book in the first
movie, they've definitely done it right. They've done it so right that you
forgive small lapses in logic (like why does the T-Rex paddock at one moment
appear relatively flat and then suddenly have a huge dropoff in it? Why, to let
them have an exciting scene in which they drop a Ford Explorer over it, of
By now everyone knows the story, so we won't belabor it here.
Suffice it to say this is Spielberg at his best, opening your eyes wide with
awe one moment, then twisting your guts around inside you the next. Spielberg
can play his audience like a violin, and "Jurassic Park" is the maestro at his
All of which makes us doubly disappointed in "The Lost World," a
sequel so bad it could only have been made for the money - as if
Spielberg/Crichton/Universal needed it.
The Lost World is everything Jurassic Park isn't. It's ponderous,
pompous, overbearing, and - a mortal sin - it's BORING! Sure we want to see
more dinosaurs, but geeeez, there's more to a story than just nifty
Part of the problem may be that it's also based on the novel -
and, unfortunately, Mr. Crichton's "Lost World" is just as pale a shadow of the
original work as is the movie. Too bad; his books are generally terrific (just
as Mr. Spielberg's movies are generally must see events), but this time they
both seem to be merely going through the motions. Perhaps "The Lost World" is
the exception that proves the general rule that these creative individuals turn
out first rate product on a regular basis.
Anyway, "The Lost World" is set mostly on an island near the site
of "Jurassic Park." We learn it's actually the place where the technology and
the dinosaurs were created - only later were they shipped over to Jurassic
Park's island to be put on display.
Never mind the questions about how you get a Tyrannosaurus Rex to
step into a shipping crate for the trip, or why they were birthing Raptors at
the site of the original flick...
We've seen it all before and "The Lost World" doesn't really offer
us anything new except for a "King Kong/Mighty Joe Young/Valley of
Gwangi-inspired" section at the end in which a T Rex gets loose in San Diego -
a section that actually ends up being the best part of the film precisely
because it doesn't just rehash the first film but rather is a good
monster movie/monster movie homage on its own.
Then there's Jurassic Park III which, as it turns out, is an
exciting monster movie that feels like an old fashioned monster movie but with
state of the art production values and effects.
After the debacle that was "The Lost World," our expectations were
so low that we expected little from the third installment.
We were pleasantly, though mildly, surprised.
The writers did one thing right, right off the bat: they brought
back Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant. He was always the best character from the
first film, but the producers and author Michael Crichton chose to use the
pompous Ian Malcolm in the second movie.
In the opening scene of JPIII, some people are boating near the
now-infamous Isla Sorna. Two of them decide to do some parasailing but while
things are pretty much up in the air with them, their boat is destroyed and the
crew killed. By what? Well, we don't really get to see, but it isn't hard to
guess, since this is, after all a Jurassic Park movie. Needless to say, the duo
ends up stranded on the island.
JPIII then becomes a search-and-rescue movie, which isn't a bad
Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) trick Dr.
Grant and his associate Billy (Alessandro Nivola) into coming along with them
to fly to the island and find their son. Fair enough.
Then, in the Bigger is Better Hollywood tradition, we discover
that the T Rex and Raptor aren't the most deadly dinos on the island. Nope;
there's a dino even bigger and meaner than the T-Rex; meanwhile it's discovered
that the Raptors are smarter than dolphins and primates - and possibly many
The first great action sequence comes when the New Dino on the
Block, the Spinosaurus, gets into a fight with the T-Rex. If you're a fan of
the original King Kong, you'll see right away where they got this scene - and
the do a pretty good job of it (Kong's battle was longer, and still better,
though, except for its comparatively primitive technology).
The other really interesting sequence involves a bunch of
Pteranadons, and it's cool enough to make up for some other parts that aren't
up to its excitement level.
But then the producers stuck on an ending that is just really,
really, really lame. Too bad, but it sure was lucky those aircraft carriers
just happened to be in the area!
The performances are fine, as is Joe Johnston's directing. The
movie is lit a little darkly, though, which makes it hard to see some of the
action (and isn't the action what it's all about?).
Jurassic Park III isn't nearly as good as the first film, though
it's far better than The Lost World..
All three of these films have been given the "Collector's Edition"
DVD treatment, and that's great! All are in presented in anamorphic widescreen,
and the the picture quality is very good, though not as sharp as some
"reference-quality" discs such as The Fifth Element.
The audio for all three movies is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it's
rumblingly great. We were surprised to see this set isn't THX-certified (if any
series cries out for such treatment it's this one), though the audio and video
quality are definitely up to snuff over all - and your subwoofer will get such
a nice workout it'll think it's been to a gym.
Each film also includes a generous amount of interesting extras,
"Making of" featurettes, deleted scenes, storyboard presentations,
preproduction meetings, animatics (early animation test storyboards) and an
abundance of other goodies and notes.
Despite the fact that each of these DVD's is very complete,
Universal has found enough stuff to warrant a fourth DVD "Beyond Jurassic
Park," which it bills as a definitive behind the scenes look into Jurassic
Park. And it is pretty good, though it's more a case of gilding the lily than
actually giving us powerhouse features. Still, it beats not getting
The disc contains a pretty good "original featurette" on the
making of the first film. There's also a look at Spielberg directing, though
it's more promotional than enlightening, more animatics and an interesting but
self-indulgent look at when the production was hit by a hurricane while filming
on the Hawaiian island of Kawai.
Lost World extras on the fourth disc include the original
featurette on the first sequel's gestation, an interesting interview with
Michael Crichton himself (though he doesn't apologize!), a look at the special
effects and a special "Thank you" to Mr. Spielberg from those pesky ragamuffins
at ILM (it features a cute but lame dino dance number). Jurassic Park III is
represented by a special effects feature, ILM's press reel, a feature on the
film's sound design, "The Art of Jurassic Park III" and a promo for the
Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios.
The fourth disc probably wouldn't be missed if it weren't there,
but if nothing else it turns this boxed set into an even more desirable
Jurassic Park, from Universal Home Video
127 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen
Written by Michael Crichton and David Koepp, Directed by Steven
The Lost World, from Universal Home Video
129 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlewaite, Arliss Howard
Produced by Gerald R. Molen and Colin Wilson
Written by David Koepp, Directed by Steven Spielberg
Jurassic Park III, from Universal Home Video
93 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Michael Jeter
Produced by Larry J. Franco, Kathleen Kennedy
Written by Peter Buchman and Alexander
Payne & Jim Taylor, directed by Joe Johnston.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think