A lifelike, man-eating Tyrannosaurus Rex wasn't the only thing shaking the ground when Steven Spielberg's JURASSIC PARK stomped into theaters in 1993. His thriller's CGI special effects which made extinct dinosaurs realistically growl, hunt, bite and fight again before human eyes literally broke new ground in the art of cinema, forever changing the future of modern filmmaking to allow imagination to become image.
Two sequels solidified JURASSIC PARK's lasting impact on adventure movies and its hold on audience's fascination with the science fiction fantasy that voracious raptors, placid brachiosaurs and winged pteranodons occupy an isolated, hidden corner of our work-a-day world. Ironically, the CG advantage the first film enjoyed over all others got quickly erased as the technology spread to more effects companies and was embraced by enthusiastic filmmakers, so the two sequel stories looked less amazing among their peers by default. Once unleashed, the CG Era rapidly redrew the boundaries of digital cinema for all and the JURASSIC PARK franchise no longer ruled the Earth alone.
Universal's new JURASSIC PARK Ultimate Trilogy Blu-ray collection finally shows off the trio's historic legacy in home theaters by paying homage to its digital wonders as boldly as its dramatic appeal that's lasted two decades and counting.
In the early '90s, Steven Spielberg took the big gamble in directing a film based on Michael Crichton's best-selling novel JURASSIC PARK while the CGI technology later used to create its dinosaur movie stars had barely been born. Defining the very phrase cutting-edge filmmaking, Spielberg along with his talented production design team and the effects wizards at Industrial Light and Magic literally wrote the manual on creating lifelike digital animals as JURASSIC PARK was being filmed. The computational power to breathe life into a T-Rex or velociraptor, as inventive as it was finite, limited the use of CGI to complete the illusion of extinct dinosaurs reborn in action where Stan Winston's life-sized dino animatronic characters on-set couldn't stalk or jump freely. The technical success of JURASSIC PARK arose from Spielberg's ingenious blending of these creature effects to each of their boundaries, and how his storytelling prowess then turned such illusions into a high tech cautionary tale that became a watershed moment in the artform. While the 1993 film was not the first to use CGI visual effects, JURASSIC PARK was the perfect storm of high-concept story, visionary filmmaking and epic spectacle which captivated audiences and sunk its teeth into moviegoers' psyches forever more. A generation of adults and kids who played with toy dinosaur figures and imagined they were alive had their fondest monster-loving and paleontological dreams come true. The solid and engaging ensemble cast including Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough and Samuel L. Jackson (on the verge of breaking out as a leading star) was enhanced by young standout actors Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello to create characters we didn't want to end up as a big pile of dinosaur poop. Nearly one billion dollars later at global box offices, JURASSIC PARK etched its indelible marks on Hollywood industry and pop culture then and it remains a highly popular adventure fans gladly revisit two decades later.
JURASSIC PARK finally gets is audio-visual respects in its Blu-ray debut, roaring across your home theater screen in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p high-definition. While it seems sacrilege to call Spielberg's 1993 adventure 'old' by now, its HD presentation captures the film's stunning visual details and multivariate color palettes as accurately as it reveals the limitations of its groundbreaking CG creatures for its time. Compared to the evolved brachiosaurs seen in JURASSIC PARK III created eight years later, the towering giants seen in this first film look a bit flat in their skin wrinkles and texture shadings. This observation assigns no blame to ILM's amazing digital effects at all, it only emphasizes how sharp and well-defined JURASSIC PARK now appears on Blu-ray as indeed you've never seen it before. Viewed back to back, the two sequels advanced the look and reality of digital dinosaurs by leaps and bounds compared to Spielberg's original, which HD demonstrates before your eyes. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack amazes your ears and gives your home audio system a run for its money as the T-Rex's thunderous roar will settle viewers back in their seats. The surround mix is excellent, leading with a clear, rich dialog center channel skillfully complimented by a quite dynamic surround field with pinpoint panning across channels to immerse viewers in this thrilling cinemascape.
Disc One's new bonus features created for this Blu-ray release opens with the first three installments of a six-part documentary Return to Jurassic Park, spanning the production and legacy of all three films across their respective discs. Numerous Archival Featurettes from the film's DVD releases compliment the new materials, offering vast amounts of behind-the-scenes footage shot during production and presented in their original standard definition formats.
- Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era (25:25) leads the new bonus materials in HD quality, gathering interviews with director Spielberg, cast and production team members with effects artisans reflecting on their cinematic journey to bring dinosaurs off the pages of Crichton's book and onto the big screen. Mixing new interviews with a wealth of making-of footage shot during production, this thorough and entertaining overview captures the creative challenge of combining animatronic creatures with digital dinos into a thrilling movie adventure that literally changed the course of filmmaking.
- Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory (20:16) delves deeper into the technical skills, ranging from stop-motion animatic plans by Phil Tippett to Stan Winston's full-size animatronic creatures, used in the Universal sound stages to film the T-Rex attack sequence. Cast members Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Ariana Richards add their experiences on acting with a 40-foot hydraulic-powered carnivore, followed by Laura Dern, Joseph Mozzello and Ariana Richard's scene battling the intimidating velociraptors in the kitchen and exciting finale.
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution (15:03) explores the burgeoning era of CGI and how digital animation techniques were often developed on the fly by Dennis Muren and his ILM team to create lifelike dinosaurs in action for JURASSIC PARK. Meeting the goals of visual realism to create believable CG animals interacting with actors and sets was a daily challenge, expanding ILM's animation capabilities with each new shot they completed. In this post-production phase of the film, Spielberg was directing SCHINDLER'S LIST while approving effects shots and digital soundtrack mixing in an exhausting test of endurance and parallel creative attention that Spielberg vows he will never attempt again. Finally both cast and crew reflect on their personal and professional experiences working together to create this watershed moment in film history that branded both their lives and careers forever.
Archival Featurettes in standard definition include four making-of featurettes previously released on DVD:
- The Making of Jurassic Park (49:39) is a very polished and well-produced documentary hosted by James Earl Jones that was the ultimate in behind-the-scenes
viewing of Spielberg's original blockbuster, and it's worth another look today.
- Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (4:50) contains some nifty rare interview footage with the cast and crew on location, encapsulated with film clips to create this more typical but enjoyable featurette promotion.
- Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park (9:07) focuses on Spielberg's creative command of the film, including several rare glimpses of his direction on location and in soundstages, intercutting raw documentary footage shot off-camera with their final finished scenes in the movie. This fly-on-the-wall approach is devoid of narration and rich in candid moments of collaboration between director and actors.
- Hurricane in Kauai Featurette (2:09) dips into the production's somewhat harrowing experience with the category 5 storm which halted production, trapped cast and crew in their hotel for shelter and provided a memorable metaphor about man's inability to control nature.
Behind the Scenes collects eight more SD mini-featurettes from pre-production creature design meetings to post-production effects work:
- Early Pre-Production Meetings (6:20) • Location Scouting (1:59) • Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen (3:04) • Animatics: T-Rex Attack (7:21) • ILM and Jurassic Park: Before and After Visual Effects (6:32) • Foley Artists (1:25) • Storyboards • Production Archives
The original JURASSIC PARK Theatrical Trailer ensues, followed by a 4:43 look behind the scenes in HD with videogame producer Telltale for Jurassic Park: Making the Game. Jump this link to visit the official game website at Telltale, watch an action montage on YouTube or read X Box Magazine's official hands-on preview before it arrives on all major gaming platforms November 15th.
Steven Spielberg's plan to bring his dinosaurs back to the big screen rested in a Barbasol shaving cream can last seen in JURASSIC PARK, but author Michael Crichton threw the director a curve by letting his story of InGen's dino-research evolve into a much larger world at the Site B research island. Unencumbered by electrified paddock fences and security gates, dinosaur life on Isla Sorna thrives and evolves until vacationers stumble across this secret world. While the first film told the cautionary tale about John Hammond's tragic hubris in believing he could reintroduce dinosaurs into our modern world and control them, THE LOST WORLD delves much more into the corporate greed by InGen to exploit the genetically engineered dinos as embodied by the film's wimpy, cold-blooded villain Ludlow (Arliss Howard). Along with cameos by Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards and Joseph Mozzello, Jeff Goldblum takes the lead as chaos theorist Ian Malcolm who must return to face his Jurassic nightmares on a rescue mission to retrieve his paleontologist girlfriend (Julianne Moore). Malcom's rescue team — including co-stars Richard Schiff and Vince Vaughn — gains an extra member when his daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester) stows away on the trip, preserving the franchise's smart requirement to keep children in the center of the danger and adventure. Meanwhile a hired game tracker Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite) fulfills his duty on the island and takes his payment by hunting down the baddest predator on the planet, the mighty T-Rex. When Ludlow attempts to ship the captured T-Rex back to America to open a new theme park built to cut InGen's losses, all hell literally breaks loose in San Diego as the Rex runs amok to retrieve and protect is baby offspring. If it all sounds a bit improbable and contrived, you're right as the 'bigger is better' dictum of sequelitis undermined the natural nobility woven through JURASSIC PARK four years earlier. Even Spielberg admits THE LOST WORLD is not as good as its franchise inspiration, but the rollicking adventure at least expands the world of dinosaurs into our daily realm of human existence for some fun if unlikely action.
THE LOST WORLD fares just as well on Blu-ray as did its predecessor, though it's obvious the CG visual effects evolved in detail and complexity a great deal in the four-year span between films. Janusz Kaminski's darker, more somber and painterly cinematography dims the look of the film quite a bit compared to the tropical color pop and textures of Dean Cundey's work in the first film, though this high-definition transfer seems visually balanced and optically sharp enough to penetrate LOST WORLD's dark blues, greens and misty shadows. The larger cast of dinosaur species means that CG sequences of dinosaurs abound in the second chapter, and Blu-ray truly shows off the subtle or startling color patterns the dinos now wear on their hides as they have evolved to island life on their own. Once again the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack yields superb results, spanning the roars and rumbles of stegosaurus herd to the screeching heights of hunting raptors in the jungle night with crisp digital specificity and richness. John Williams score for the sequel isn't as memorable but sounds just as robust and foreboding, if not quite as heroic as before.
Disc Two continues the Ultimate Trilogy-exclusive Return to Jurassic Park multi-part documentary with two more installments specific to THE LOST WORLD:
- Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World (27:40) opens with Steven Spielberg expressing his enthusiasm to direct a sequel to JURASSIC PARK — a process he considers separate unlike his Indiana Jones films which he regards as continuing adventures — including his squelched plan to continue the stolen DNA plot from the first film. This overview with cast and crew interviews illustrates the many ways the increased complexity of the sequel made topping his worldwide blockbuster a doubly hard challenge for Spielberg and the production team.
- Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived (16:30) illustrates the significant shift in balance between on-set animatronic creatures and CG dinos in filming THE LOST WORLD, which boasted hundreds more shots of digital animals than its predecessor. With the burden of inventing new techniques and technology to create CG dinosaurs off their backs, Spielberg and ILM's new challenge was to show how much more they could do to add digital suspense, terror and spectacle to the second film. This featurette boasts considerable making-of footage from Spielberg's third act improvisation of a T-Rex running rampant in the city streets of San Diego to satisfy the director's 'monster movie' itch.
Two Deleted Scenes (7:09) expand the immorally greedy streak in Ludlow's character and the jaded adventurer backstory of Tembo before he signs onto Ludlow's expedition to Isla Sorna. Expect diminished image and sound quality from these scenes which were never polished after being cut before the final edit of the film. They're worth a look to appreciate Arliss Howard and Pete Postlethwaite's respective performances, but shed little light on alternate versions of the film plot itself and their deletions seem logical for storytelling needs.
Archival Featurettes in standard definition include four more making-of featurettes previously released on DVD:
- The Making of The Lost World (53:14) outsizes its JURASSIC PARK counterpart documentary, but lacks the polish and celebratory mood for the sequel. Divided into subsections mirroring the phases of the film's production, this featurette includes copious quantities of cast and crew interviews with behind-the-scenes footage of everything but the kitchensinkosaurus. Visual effects aficionados should watch for a brief segment including Toaster-style animated storyboards which eventually evolved into today's CG animatic pre-visualization of digital era cinema.
- Original Featurette on the Making of The Lost World (13:17) covers much of the same ground as the documentary above but reduced to true featurette size in running time as a promotional tool anticipating the film's 1997 release.
- The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton (15:27) gives the prolific, scientifically imaginative author his due credit for spawning the blockbuster film franchise from his best-selling novels. Viewers may be surprised to learn that the story originated as a failed screenplay by Crichton which eventually transformed into the novel's tale of a theme park built to display genetically revived dinosaurs, which tapped into a generation's fascination with the prehistoric creatures and the fantasy yearning to witness them first hand. Crichton also displays a philosophical wisdom about the process of having his novels adapted into feature films and his acceptance of the popular results.
- The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg from ILM (1:38) is a fun piece of fluff designed as a cartoon-styled tap dance sequence featuring the chicken-sized CG dinos from the film, hoofing it on stage in response to an interview joke by screenwriter David Koepp that THE LOST WORLD's mission was to make dance in order to top the original film. The bit never evolves into a true cartoon comedic piece as viewers might hope, but at least it shows the ILM gang maintained their sense of humor after their challenging tasks of the sequel.
Behind the Scenes collects three SD bonus extras which seem very slight compared to JURASSIC PARK's eight, with only one featurette-length reel of ILM's CG wizardry completing the action and animal ferocity to live-action sequences in the film:
- ILM and The Lost World: Before and After Visual Effects (20:44) • Storyboards • Production Archives
THE LOST WORLD's Theatrical Trailer (1:58) rounds out Disc Two's supplementary bonus features, and franchise fans who remember the booming surround sound mix of this trailer in theaters may lament that it was not upgraded from standard definition for this Blu-ray release.
Steven Spielberg fulfilled his earlier promise to hand over directorial reigns to his longtime design collaborator Joe Johnston, who originally requested to direct THE LOST WORLD before Spielberg opted to follow up his own hit. The third time wasn't quite the charm Johnston hoped for in 2001's JURASSIC PARK III, which production lore and the bonus features confirm was plagued by story development problems and ended up as the dramatically weakest entry in the franchise. The impetus of the plot is nearly identical to THE LOST WORLD, only now Alan Grant (Sam Neill) is unwittingly forced to return to Isla Sorna on a rescue mission to save the son of Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) who got stranded after an ill-conceived parasailing tour of the forbidden island. Supporting characters are added to the mix largely for dino fodder as the story devolves into a prolonged obstacle course of lethal new creatures, including the rather ungainly Spinosaurus. Director Johnston along with a talented and enthusiastic cast gave the sequel its fair shake, but throwing out the sequel's original script five weeks before production started and rewriting a vastly different plot kept the film from realizing any true evolution in the franchise.
Visually JURASSIC PARK III remains as striking and imaginative as its predecessors, as the bonus materials show both the animatronic and CGI artists collaborating in top form to create new and evolved dinosaurs across the island. Shelly Johnson's richly lit and composed cinematography and a truly amazing jungle locale built in a Universal soundstage enjoy the HD benefits of Blu-ray, ranging from the sun-dappled forests to the eerie fog banks concealing the deadly pteranodons. The new color variations and feathery plumes of the next-gen velociraptors really pop in detail and shadings thanks to the crisp, low-noise 1080p image. Chris Boyes' dynamic and skillfully directional sound design is represented well in the DTS-HD 7.1 lossless audio track, adding extra tension and suspense to scenes like the treeline plane crash and subsequent Spinosaurus attack. While the script isn't up to snuff per the franchise standards, it's hard to deny that JURASSIC PARK III makes for a highly impressive Blu-ray appearance among the three titles.
Disc Three concludes the Ultimate Trilogy-exclusive Return to Jurassic Park multi-part documentary with its final installment on Johnston's film:
Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure (25:20) not only bears a rather unimaginative title, it actually opens by folding the Universal Studios attraction Jurassic Park: The Ride into the film franchise as JURASSIC PARK III's soundstage neighbor on the lot. It's a handy bit of cross promotion on Universal's part, not to mention a way to include more Steven Spielberg material in the JP III documentaries since he only served as executive producer on the sequel. Soon enough the documentary gets into the meat of discussing JP III's production with Johnston, Spielberg, exec producer Kathleen Kennedy and stars Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Laura Dern, Trevor Morgan and crew members. Plenty of on-set footage details the massive production challenges of staging the Spinosaur/T-Rex fight, the plane crash, the Pteranodon attack and the Spinosaur lake battle. The documentary installment rightfully concludes with tributes to two of the trilogy's creative partners: author Michael Crichton and creature effects designer Stan Winston, both of whom died in 2008.
Archival Featurettes in standard definition include seven more making-of featurettes previously released on DVD and following the same pattern of the previous two discs:
- The Making of Jurassic Park III (22:43) is a 'vintage' version of the newer documentary shot entirely in the 2001-era as exec producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Johnston and star Sam Neill lead the production team's look back at the entire trilogy, told from the perspective of many involved since the beginning of JURASSIC PARK nearly ten years before. Interesting to note how Kennedy's comments frame the creative challenge for revisiting the franchise a third time, and the need to keep the visual and dramatic experience fresh for audiences.
- The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III (7:52) has paleontologist Jack Horner and a bounty of film clips differentiate and define the various species of dinosaurs populating the film, featuring the new bad boy on the island, the gigantic (and factual) Spinosaurus.
- The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III (10:31) once more explores the highly successful and creative collaboration between Stan Winston's animatronic on-set puppets and ILM's CGI digital dinosaurs to enhance the believability of this prehistoric animals come to life again. The artistic use of many other types of movie magic, from set construction creating an indoor jungle to stunt action by the cast itself, round out the story.
- Industrial Light & Magic Press Reel (10:14) shows off the effects team's digital and on-set wizardry used to create realistic looking dinosaurs from computer code and pixels. Clips from test animation cycles and scene action stripe the dinos down to their clay-life skins and spiky animation control points to illustrate basic motion rules for each creature. Then further tests apply anatomically accurate muscle bulk beneath the skins to turn animated figures into living, breathing, biting dinosaurs before your eyes. ILM even has fun testing viewers to spot which dinos are on-set characters and which are purely CG creations in finalized scenes from JURASSIC PARK III.
- The Sounds of Jurassic Park III (13:35) allows sound designer Chris Boyes to demonstrate his task to top Gary Rydstrom's work in the first two films by creating fresh, new roars, screams, growls and calls for all new dinosaur vocalizations. Using vulture screeches, sea bird calls, lions, tigers, alligators, baby bears and walruses, Boyes blends, edits and mixes these real life animal sounds to imagine all new dino voices. The talented Foley artists who fill out the 7.1 surrounds sound audio with myriad of environmental noises add more realism to the film, while composer Don Davis' original score enhances the dramatic side of the story with his new character and dinosaur musical motifs.
- The Art of Jurassic Park III (7:55) goes back into time to 2000 when production designer Ed Verreaux and his team began storyboard and early design plans based on the film's script, helping plan out the visual action before cameras ever rolled. New dinosaur creatures required new looks, color patterns and environments to appear in the third film which audiences had not seen before.
- Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs (4:21) reunites with paleontologist Jack Horner again as science teams discover and dig up new dinosaur fossils including remains of duck-billed dinos, triceratops and the largest T-Rex specimen ever found including its full torso.
Behind the Scenes compiles eight more SD bonus extras, including a neat tour of Stan Winston's creature-creating headquarters which illustrates the various stages of dinosaur design and manufacturing from small-scale statuettes to casting and building the full-size animatronic characters:
- Tour of Stan Winston Studio (3:14) • Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane (1:48) • Raptors Attack Udesky (00:59) • The Lake (1:38) • Dinosaur Turntables (6:23) • Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison • Production Photographs
The Theatrical Trailer (1:16) precedes a welcome bonus feature that sadly only appears in support of the third film in this trilogy set: a Feature Commentary with the Special Effects Team. It's a (pre)historic shame that all-new bonus feature materials were created for this Ultimate Trilogy release yet no new commentary tracks were recorded or included for JURASSIC PARK and THE LOST WORLD, especially since Blu-ray technology offers some cool options to include such feature-length audio add-ons. Nevertheless, at least fans can enjoy the off-screen vocalizations of live-action creature makers Stan Winston and John Rosengrant, ILM animation director Dan Taylor and mechanical effects director Michael Lantieri as they reveal many of their processes and tasks in blending reality and fantasy for JURASSIC PARK III.
Viewers of the JURASSIC PARK Ultimate Trilogy can take advantage of these additional Blu-ray features with compatible player models and network connections:
- BD-LIVE™ - Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to watch exclusive content, the latest trailers, and more
- MY SCENES - Bookmark your favorite scenes from the film.
- pocket BLU™ - The groundbreaking pocket BLU™ app uses iPad®, iPhone®, iPod® touch, Android™, PC and Mac® to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray™ player. Plus iPad® owners can enjoy a new, enhanced edition of pocket BLU™ made especially to take advantage of the tablet's larger screen and high resolution display. Consumers will be able to browse through a library of Blu-ray™ content and watch entertaining extras on-the-go in a way that's bigger and better than ever before. pocket BLU™ offers advanced features such as:
- ADVANCED REMOTE CONTROL: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.
- VIDEO TIMELINE: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film.
- MOBILE-TO-GO: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere.
- BROWSE TITLES: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
- KEYBOARD: Entering data is fast and easy with your device's intuitive keyboard.
Aside from a few wish list omissions, there's no denying that Universal Home Entertainment have delivered the ultimate repackaging and enhancement of the JURASSIC PARK film franchise thus far, and show off each film in their best light for the HD generation on Blu-ray discs. The high-definition format lets these stunning images and sounds roar into your home theater as never before, and comes closest to replicating their original theatrical releases depending on the size and power of your HD theater gear. From Steven Spielberg's historic landmark film in 1993 and across two blockbuster sequels, JURASSIC PARK has become a self-defined cinematic genre on its own and Universal presents each film with hours of bonus features to celebrate the franchise's rightful place in film history and worthy of a place in your home video library. FilmEdge gives the JURASSIC PARK Ultimate Trilogy Blu-ray set 4 stars for disc-to-disc superb quality that makes this high-definition version a valuable and worth investment.