Monday, April 8, 2013

In Which I Actually Say Some Nice Stuff About 3-D

Sunday night, I finally made it to the theaters to catch the newly remastered 3-D edition of Jurassic Park.  You might think it's a bit melodramatic to say "finally" after seeing a film on Sunday that was released the previous Friday, BUT after I tried unsuccessfully to see the movie on Friday night and twice on Saturday night, it felt like it was a long time coming. 

Like, sixty-five million years coming!

Or, you know, twenty years. 

Man, what a phenomenal film.  It really is a modern classic.  And as much as I hate to say this (and believe me, I hate to say this), the 3-D really makes it look sharper, crisper, and better than ever.  See, I generally hate 3-D, but that's because it's usually used as a gimmick, with shrapnel flying at the audience's face, monsters making scary faces up close and personal, or evil giant kings' eyeballs popping out for a cheap gross-out factor.  Given the choice, I will almost never pay the extra money to see a film in 3-D if there's a 2-D option. 

Of course, there wasn't in this case, and in the end I'm glad I saw it in 3-D because they really utilized the technology well.  I actually really love it when filmmakers use 3-D to give the film more depth and definition, to create a more realistic and engaging atmosphere without trying so hard to "jump out" at the audience.  I actually expected a lot of that from JP.  Lord knows there are plenty of opportunities.  However, they never really went for it.  They just used the 3-D to make the film look sharp, and it was beautiful. 

(Side note: another effective use of 3-D I've seen in theaters: Nightmare Before Christmas.  Just gorgeous.) 

I ended up going to the movie by myself mostly because, when you've got two kids and four jobs, you just can't go to movies when normal people go to movies very often.  Now, I wasn't out super-late...I mean, it was a 10:10 showing.  On a Sunday night. But I've been out later :-)  Nevertheless, the theater I was in was completely empty.  At one point in the movie, and older Japanese couple walked in, headed to the back, talked very loudly to each other for a few minutes, realized they were in the wrong theater (I guess), and then left.  I was the only person watching Jurassic Park in 3-D at 10:10 on Sunday night at this little movie theater.  And I will admit, my first thought was something along the lines of "Wow, it kinda sucks being here alone.  I really hoped the resurrection of one of my all-time favorite flicks would be more of an event."  Soon, however, I got past the pity-party and said, "You know, if you'd told eleven-year-old me that one day I would get a private screening of Jurassic Park in 3-D, I'd have thought that was pretty stinkin' awesome."  So I just went with that for the rest of the night :-)

As for the film itself, I don't know what to say about it.  It's great.  I picked up on a few plot points that are maybe just a bit sketchy, of course.  But I also found a lot of subtle nuances that I missed as a pre-teen that made the whole thing a lot more solid.  The critic in me also found some spots where shots were cut together or scenes edited a bit abruptly, but I can't tell if that was somewhat shoddy editing or if we just cut our films a little different in the early '90s. 

Man, it is so hard to think of this as an early-90's film.  It doesn't look it, it doesn't feel it, and while the effects have, in some areas, taken a backseat to the WETA's of today, I think in most places they actually hold up quite well. 

Hey, what was Malcolm even doing on the island?
LAWYERS: We are facing a $20 million lawsuit because of that worker who was eaten by Raptors.  We demand to be satisfied!
HAMMOND: It's all good. This mathematician has officially endorsed the park.
MALCOLM: Chaotician, John.
HAMMOND: Whatever.
LAWYERS: We are now satisfied!

Anyway, watching this movie again, I got a little bit sad that there'll never really be another movie like it.  It was so groundbreaking, so earth-shattering, that everybody wanted a piece of the action.  It had incredible creatures unlike anything we'd seen before as moviegoers.  And they were dinosaurs!  This movie brought dinosaurs to life!  I will say this movie probably changed the way that boys my age (all of us twenty-and-thirty-somethings now) thought about movies.  This movie blew us away.  It was like a literal representation of our dreams and the wildest corners of our imaginations projected on a larger-than-life screen.  We were enthralled, captivated, utterly and helplessly swept away in the adventure.  You can look back at the standards from your childhood--favorite movies, favorites TV shows, favorite songs, whatever--and there's always a nostalgia for them.  But JP is a movie that grown men still get stoked about, twenty years after seeing it in the theater. 

I guess this was sort of like my generation's Star Wars.  Minus the wildly-successful sequels, of course. 

And just like Star Wars, this is a movie that'll probably only be truly appreciated by those of us who lived in the era that produced it.  In another five years or so, Robbie will watch this movie with me, and yeah, he'll like it.  But he'll have seen so many special-effects-laden adventure flicks by that point that watching a robotic T-Rex head rip tires off an overturned jeep isn't going to be the same for him that it was for me.  Hopefully, as he grows older, he'll start to appreciate the clever writing, the storytelling, the ethical debates, the score, maybe even the movie's place in film history, but it'll probably never blow him away.  My generation still loves Star Wars, and some even obsess over it, but quite honestly a lot of the obsession in that instance has come from the post-film expansion of the universe.  Kids today still love it, but they love it more for the Clone Wars TV series than, say, the Ewoks or the Death Star. 

Now, it sounds awfully curmudgeonly to say something like "They just don't make 'em like that anymore," but...they really don't. We rely so heavily on the CGI effects now.  When we have monsters eat people, we have to see a lot more blood these days.  And the language in JP is remarkably tame compared to many PG-13 film you'd see today.  JP didn't just look good, but it was smart.  And while there are still films that are smart, clever, and exciting, and there always will be, for thousands of men (and women too, I'm sure, but I can't speak for that side of the table), there'll never be another Jurassic Park.