WHEN: 3:50pm EST, April 5, 2013 (give or take some trailers)

WHERE: The Cinemagic Grand in South Portland, Maine

FORMAT:  3D digital projection. “No, I don’t know what the dimensions of the screen are.” – Middle-aged man collecting the 3D glasses

COMPANY: Three chatty elderly couples, and one young couple (who may have been making out).

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Downright excited.

JURASSIC PARK 3D:

When you volunteer to watch a film once a week for a year, having that film re-released in theaters is a dream come true. As such, it was with great excitement that I headed down to the cinema to experience the glory of Jurassic Park in one more dimension than usual.

JP3D

THE CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE:

Although it is a film with which I am intimately familiar, seeing Jurassic Park in a theater for the first time was a powerful experience. I became more immersed in the movie than ever before.  As the film opens on the waving branches of the jungle, I felt, for the first time, the intended sense of mystery. What monsters lie beyond those leaves?

Forklift

Oh, just a forklift? Never mind.

I know it seems basic, but having grown up with the movie on VHS, where the mystery of the jungle seems more like someone fumbling through a hedge with a camcorder, seeing the film expand before me was exciting and new. For the last twenty years, the general public’s enjoyment of this film has been limited to home video; even with the dawn of high definition sets and Blu-ray, there is no substitute for the theater.

Many of the effects still look glorious (the rex attack is a standout). Mere minutes in, there is no question as to why the film won two Academy Awards for sound. Only one element doesn’t quite pass muster…

THE 3D:

It is possible to bring a sense of artistry to the conversion of a classic film to 3D. The late Tony Scott did a wonderful job overseeing Top Gun‘s re-release. The added dimension didn’t detract from the story, and there were moments during the aerial battles where it truly enhanced the experience. I was hoping for something along those lines here. Unfortunately, the highest praise I can give is that the 3D can frequently be ignored.

Yes, there are moments when rays of light sifting through the tree creates an otherworldly effect, but the times it feels appropriate are few and far between. Looking out of the helicopter at a flock of pelicans is tit-fuckingly beautiful. But do you know what the extra dimension doesn’t make any better? The dinosaurs. These are creatures that were created for a 2D experience, and thrusting an extra dimension onto them doesn’t add anything. No dinosaurs pop out of the screen at your face, because the film wasn’t shot that way. This is probably why the trailer adds that awful looking 3D T-rex skeleton that jumps out at you. There were no clips they could use to show the 3D in a good light, so they made one up.

JP3D popout

“We promise the dinosaurs in the actual movie will do this too…”

Throughout the whole experience, the fact that this film was post-converted is painfully obvious. Characters standing in the background often look like they escaped from a pop-up book. The smoke blowing by as Gennaro rides the raft looks like it was inserted after the fact. It’s a bit distracting that the characters all sit down to watch a three minute 2D film in the middle.

And unfortunately it gets a little worse…

ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES:

As I said, no dinosaurs pop out of the screen at you. Sadly, some things do. Mundane things. Like the ride restraints.

Ride 3D

Parts of cars.

Car Frame 3d

And chairs.

Chair 3d

And as if this wasn’t enough, anytime the action moves too far to the side, the 3D becomes jarring as they are cut off by the edge of the screen, which is seemingly behind them. It can be quite irritating. After careful consideration, I have decided not to endorse this 3D conversion.

GO SEE IT ANYWAY:

At the end of the day, even if the 3D doesn’t add anything (and sometimes detracts), the ability to see this classic flick on a huge screen is not something you want to pass up. It could, I remind you, be worse. It doesn’t seem like anything was changed. Remember when Nedry is talking to the guy on the dock, and you can see the progress bar on the video he’s watching  moving?

progress bar arrow

That one.

People have been making fun of that for years, and it’s a bit of a relief to me that no one has Lucased it away for the re-release. The Brachiosaur is still a pile of CG wrinkles, but that’s okay. The shot composition, and the wonder the animal inspires in the Jurassic Park visitors is what packs the real punch.

The 3D is not a good reason to go see this film, but likewise, it isn’t a good reason to stay away. It is a mere annoyance, like a sticky floor, or some kid periodically kicking the back of your seat. The movie is good enough that such distractions can easily be ignored.