I have been contemplating an essay for some time about what I call “second chance movies.” You probably have some of these in your cinematic past. A second chance movie is one that, upon first viewing, fell somewhere between seriously disappointing and absolutely hated. And that experience could have been due to a variety of factors: your age at the first viewing, where you saw it, something in it hit too close to home… you get the idea. Then later in life, when you decide to see that particular film again, imagine your surprise when it turns out to be not only good but also ends up as one of your favorites.
I’m still going to tackle this subject on a future program, but in the meantime, I recently had the opportunity to revisit Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. My first viewing many years ago was on home video well after the theatrical run. I remember being really bored by it, to the point of nodding off, and, other than the dinosaurs, not being particularly impressed by it. Now that Universal and Spielberg have rebooted the original with the addition of 3-D and IMAX, it seemed the logical time to give Jurassic Park a second chance.
In this instance, the film didn’t get any better. It’s still basically a 1950s style B-movie made on a huge budget. If Universal had made Jurassic Park in 1956, it would have likely been about 80 minutes long, instead of two hours and change. The cast would have comprised actors from their then-current list of contract players, such as John Agar, Mara Corday, and Jeff Morrow. And it would also have had plenty of cheesy dialogue and slow spots. However, it would have lacked the spectacular special effects for which this film is famous.
Jurassic Park still has the best dinosaurs ever put on film. It offers an acceptable second-tier cast that doesn’t have much to do other than react, run a lot, and avoid being some lizard’s lunch. Of the principal players, including Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, and Jeff Goldblum, it was most welcome to see Samuel L. Jackson, who I didn’t even remember was in it. It was an opportunity to connect an early work with all the better performances that have followed, making Jackson a powerful force in movies.
Sure, the dialogue is still cheesy, there are plenty of slow spots, and the obnoxious kids scream way too much, but seeing Jurassic Park with the addition of 3-D and IMAX opens it up, even though it wasn’t originally shot in the depth and large-screen formats. The computer added trickery didn’t make the movie any better, but it did make for a more imaginative visual experience. As a big fan of both 3-D and IMAX, I was hoping that this reboot would have made me glad to have finally seen it for real. And it did just that.
But to clarify, there are still the negative connections with the current 3-D process. The picture is dark and murky in places, as if the digital projectors need more power. You have to wear the glasses, and the IMAX glasses seem to be the least comfortable. And let’s not forget the ticket price: an adult ticket for a morning matinee was $11.50. I hate to think what it costs in the evening. But as long as every so often we get a perfect 3-D film like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, it’s still worth it.
The PG-13 rated Jurassic Park is now showing pretty much everywhere in digital 3-D. If you want to catch it in IMAX, those showings are only at AMC Newport on the Levee and Showcase Cinemas Springdale.