The years have been kind to Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," which roars into theaters on Friday after being converted to IMAX and 3D projection.
Reviewers say the results are dazzling, with many critics arguing that twenty years after the film floored audiences with its innovative use of computer technology, "Jurassic Park" still has enough scares and spectacle to delight modern moviegoers who have become inured to digital wonders.
The film, cumbersomely rechristened "Jurassic Park: An IMAX 3D Experience," earned a 91 percent "fresh" rating from critics and is widely projected to dominate this weekend's box office.
Since "Avatar" kicked off a 3D revival, critics have been mixed on the format, with some griping that it is a gimmick too frequently deployed inartfully. For Richard Corliss in Time, "Jurassic Park" has actually benefited from the conversion process. He implied that the script still has its faults (namely sketchy central characters), but the extra dimensionality has enhanced the film's setpiece scenes such as the one where a pair of hungry velociraptors chase two children in a kitchen.
"The 3-D process adds not just dimension but depth — a technological extension of cinematographer Gregg Toland’s deep-focus innovations in 'The Grapes of Wrath' and 'Citizen Kane.' The change in perspective creates greater intensity," Corliss writes.
Yet there's a melancholy note to Corliss' appraisal as he writes that the expansive digital landscape that may make "Jurassic Park" seem retrograde to some viewers could also spell doom for the movie industry.
"Not yet extinct but surely endangered, and of imposing size but cumbersome means, it dominated the entertainment world for most of the modern age, until the more convenient and sedentary pleasure of modern movie watching erased the need for the old moviegoing," Corliss writes. "And the sense of community created by sharing a terrific film with a rapt audience in a large auditorium? Texting makes that available instantly and more intimately. If movies in theaters are the dinosaurs, texting and Twitter and Facebook may be the catastrophe that wiped them out. The meteor is social media."
Tom Russo of the Boston Globe also argued that the film and its dinosaurs benefit from getting the 3D treatment, though he admitted that younger viewers might be bored or frightened by the on-screen carnage.
"I’m a fan of this movie. It is thrilling, and the 3-D treatment is a nice enhancement," Russo writes. "(Moments like a raptor leaping at the ceiling can feel processed, but that tyrannosaurus-in-the-sideview-mirror gag is sharper than ever.) It’s a testament to Spielberg’s storytelling virtuosity that what we’re seeing still feels so intense."
Peter Howell of the Toronto Star was similarly impressed with all the dinosaur bloodletting popping out from the screen. He said "Jurassic Park," like "Titanic" before it, demonstrated that older films can benefit from a 3D sprucing up provided the job is done with care and attention.
"Adding the extra dimension to Steven Spielberg‘s 1993 monster thriller turns out to be more than just a 20th-anniversary cash-in," Howell writes. "This movie doesn’t just stand the test of time, it transcends it. The already impressive tyrannosaurus, velociraptors and other rampaging dinos become more lifelike in 3D. So much so that today’s parents have even more reason than those of a generation ago to make sure their younger children can handle the frights."
For Sean O’Connell, writing in the Washington Post, "Jurassic Park" is the rare film that does not show its wrinkles despite the passage of two decades.
"The enthralling man-vs.-nature parable based on the late Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel hasn’t aged one bit," O'Connell writes. "But the upgrade allows Spielberg’s larger-than-life dinosaurs to fit perfectly on today’s enlarged Imax screens — and occasionally terrify audiences when those beasts reach out and appear to be going for our popcorn."
Neil Minnow of the Chicago Sun-Times said that "Jurassic Park" represents a high-water mark for 3D conversion, but its theatrical revival is also an opportunity to appreciate Spielberg's talents as a cinematic impresario. It is, Minnow argues, a "masterpiece" of the event film genre.
"It shows [Spielberg's] unparalleled gifts for pacing and for the visual language of movies, and his ability to make us invest in the characters," Minnow writes. "That is what makes all the special effects pack an emotional wallop. He conveys more with ripples in a glass of water than most filmmakers can with 15 pages of dialogue."