Watching Jurassic Park in 3D
Home theatre companies must have used the rumbling water glasses and the shaking rhombus of green jelly perched on a spoon to sell their products for at least five years after Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park opened in theatres. They rumbled and shook so with the impending approach of dinosaurs into human territory.
That was the best a computer could do for a movie at that time; the best marriage possible between sound and image. At Calcutta’s New Excelsior, my gang occupied a row in the balcony. The cocky gang was at the unfolding spectacle’s mercy. Teenager smirks soon disappeared. Mesmerized and shattered, I must have jumped off my chair at least twice.
Jurassic Park did big things when it released in the summer of 1993. Like many Spielberg films, it set precedents in technology and reach. It was the first Hollywood film that was remarkably profitable overseas. Gigantic velociraptors sped and hopped about, chasing puny humans. Gun or machismo or beefy muscles weren’t required for destruction. It was the moment, perhaps, the Demolition Man and Rambo became laughable.
Jurassic Park releases in 3D at least a decade after digital engineering became de rigueur in nature-versus-man, good-versus-evil apocalypse dramas. Today, our heroes are geared with impossibly nano, but extremely efficient switches and gears. Digital imagery and special effects have made the visual image sophisticated, complex and sometimes more profound than what mere actors, a good story and a pair of gifted eyes behind the lenses can make it.
So the prospect of watching the new 3D Jurassic Park was a test not just for the movie itself, but for me as a viewer—I would know how seasoned the eyes have become, in the nifty, hyper-digital visual feast.
The T-Rex spectacle was overall disappointing. The baby dinosaur who flings its ears open into multi-coloured wings with a screech and upchucks vile green venom on the face of the Park’s crook (played by Wayne Knight) even looks cute. The 3D adds very little to the impact the dinosaurs had on the audience. Their teeth and claws, and their scary primitiveness, do not seem more menacing than when we saw them for the first time.
The exposition is boring and long. A palaeontologist couple, whose only point of rift is that the man (Dr Alan Grant, played by Sam Neill) does not want children and the tenaciously adventurous woman (Dr Ellie Sattler, played by Laura Dern) hopes he will, is the guest of a nutcase showman, the owner of Jurassic Park, in an expanse of gorgeous forests in Costa Rica (John Hammond, played by Richard Attenborough). John’s grandchildren are there too, and so is a chaos theory scientist, the only frivolous member of this gung-ho group played by Jeff Goldblum. The dino-genetical facts unleash with archaic graphics—a crash course on how genetic cloning develops a variety of female dinosaurs in this futuristic entertainment park. The female dinosaurs are let loose in the forests guarded by electrically barbed fences. While on a tour, the group is stuck in a storm and a battle ensues between humans and a creature that “lost its chance with nature”, or whom nature chose to eliminate millions of years ago. It’s a one-dimensional, primitive battle of old and new, the jumbo and the diminutive, nature and science. Philosophizing about the inevitability of a living being’s ability and urge to create new life, the dangers of using science to alter the course of nature—these were still in the realm of pop-philosophy in 1993, and not exotic fable and tragedy, as they are in today’s movies.
What is still irrefutable and gulp-inducing about Jurassic Park after all these years is Spielberg’s mastery over creating and visualizing suspense. His editing is razor sharp, pointed pauses and highs punctuate sequences until the climactic escapes—and all of it is enhanced by the drama of children in the throes of horror and fright, a theme Spielberg has used over and over again. One scene towards the end of the film is a breathless sequence in which all of this ingenuity converges. Two dinosaurs are chasing two children in the maze of a huge kitchen. At one point, one of the raptors mistakes the reflection of a child hiding on a steel surface for real prey. Each movement of this chase is scripted and calculated, contributing to the escalating suspense.
So the novelty in this Jurassic Park is not the 3D. A lot of the naive moralizing and wonderment at money, commerce and science seems unusually long and unnecessary now. Its triumph is still its clever storytelling. And don’t underestimate the test: Are you tired of ever-changing digital ingenuity or are you so much in thrall of it that you do not appreciate its very competent beginnings?
Jurassic Park 3D releases in theatres on Friday