Jurassic Park appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. When I first watched this DVD in 2000, I thought it looked really good. 11 years later? Not so much.
Sharpness appeared inconsistent. Sometimes the movie managed pretty nice delineation – usually via close-ups – but many shots came across as soft and ill-defined. Prominent edge haloes affected clarity, and the film could take on a rough, blocky look. Jagged edges and shimmering occasionally appeared, and digital artifacts lent a somewhat gritty look to the image at times. Print flaws weren’t major, but I saw some instances of specks and marks.
The movie went with a natural palette to fit the tropical island setting, and colors became one of the picture’s stronger elements, though they still weren’t great. The presentation’s general messiness meant that hues came across as less vibrant than I’d expect; the tones could be fairly good, but they lacked much pop and vivacity. Blacks seemed reasonably dark, and shadows were perfectly acceptable; indeed, low-light shots tended to work the best because they hid the various flaws. While this wasn’t a terrible transfer, it suffered from too many snags to earn a grade above a “C-“.
At least the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack worked better. The soundstage favored the forward channels and used them in an engaging and effective manner. Imagery spread cleanly and accurately across the front spectrum and the audio blended together nicely.
The surrounds kicked in a substantial amount of information, of course, especially during the larger action sequences. Actually, I thought the track seemed a little too subdued during the quieter segments; these could have benefited from a little extra activity. However, the loud scenes make up for this flaw as they provided involving audio that added to the experience.
Sound quality seemed positive as well. Dialogue suffered slightly from the often-dubbed nature of much of it and some edginess at times, speech usually sounded natural and distinct, with no problems related to intelligibility. John Williams' score came across as bold and bright and displayed positive dynamic range.
Effects were the highlight of the show, however, as they dominated the film's prominent audio moments. These parts of the mix sounded clear and crisp and didn't display prominent distortion. The track featured some nice low-end as well, especially during those T-rex moments; the bass seemed pretty well-defined. The audio lacked the “stun factor” to get to “A”-level, but it still worked well for the movie.
Jurassic Park first appeared on video in October 1994, and this was my fourth disc-based version of the film. I bought the initial CLV laserdisc then got the Dolby Digital LD when I picked up a DD receiver in early 1998. Last year I found a copy of the much-acclaimed DTS laserdisc as well. The DVD made version number four, and it's the first one that actually bothered to offer supplements; every prior edition presented only the movie.
Actually, the first supplement I'll address did appear on LD, but not combined with the movie itself. The Making of Jurassic Park was available as a separate LD but never came out as any sort of special edition of the film, so this was the first time the two were included together.
Hosted by James Earl Jones, this 50-minute and five-second program mainly relates details about the technical aspects of creating Park and it does so in a compelling and entertaining manner. We find a nice blend of mid-1990s interviews with Spielberg and key effects personnel like Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, Gary Rydstrom and others plus lots of great footage from the set and demonstration material. As such, when they discuss the evolution of the computer characters, we see just exactly how this occurred. The program also provides cool shots such as the puppet T-rex with the "shakes" when it got waterlogged, computer animators miming the actions of dinosaurs so they could create more realistic movement, and Spielberg's method to make a velociraptor scene more convincing for his actors.
If I had to pick any flaws with this show - other than its too-brief length - it'd be the lack of involvement from non-technical participants; there are a few bits from author Michael Crichton, and we get a nice overview of dinosaurs in the movies, but nothing else from creative personnel. I would have enjoyed hearing some discussion of the process from actors’ point of view. Despite that omission, "The Making of Park" remains a fun and intriguing program.
(By the way, I have a sneaking suspicion the transfer for "Making of” came straight from the one created for the LD. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they'd simply duplicated the LD itself – it kind of looked like someone plopped the LD in a player and copied it straight over for the DVD.)
Early Pre-production Meetings presents some technically crude but absolutely fascinating information. Videotaped by a locked-off camera that never pans or moves, the focus is on Spielberg but we also see Stan Winston, Phil Tippett and others as they discuss ideas for the development of the dinosaurs as characters. This piece lasts six minutes, 20 seconds but I would have enjoyed hours more. I absolutely love programs of this sort, as they genuinely let us see how the process works. These snippets are brief but fascinating.
Also very interesting is Location Scouting, in which we see Spielberg as he inspects potential sights for the exterior production. Actually, we barely see Steve, since he's the cameraman for this one-minute and 57-second piece; I noted a glimpse of him in a mirror as he videotaped the excursion. Anyway, it's a pretty fun little show that allows us further insight into Spielberg's creative mindset.
During Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen, we see the "go-motion" rendering of this action scene. The three-minute program combines fairly well-rendered velociraptors with crude dolls for the other elements and provides the basis from which the computer animators operated. It's a cool look at this part of the process, especially since it's fun to see how closely the final product emulated this "dry run".
Storyboards provides blueprints for five different scenes. Three of these made the final cut of the film ("T-rex Attack", "Raptors in the Kitchen", and "Jeep Chase"), but two did not. Although all of the boards are interesting, the two altered/omitted segments ("Baby Trike" and "The Original Ending") are clearly the most compelling of the bunch because they didn't appear. "Baby Trike" is a trifle that doesn't offer much, but the "Original Ending" is intriguing; I'm not sure it wouldn't have worked better than the included finale. One point of note: the boards seemed to follow parts of the book more closely than the movie, as we see that Tim was originally planned to be older than Lex, just like in Crichton's novel.
Foley Artists offers a brief overview of the work the sound effects personnel complete. We watch Dennie Thorpe as she brings audio to the raptor egg-hatching scene in this one-minute and 23-second piece. Nothing here will be news to anyone who has gone through similar explanations, but it's still a fun look at one of the more interesting and happily low-tech sides of filmmaking.
Inside Production Archives: Photographs, Design Sketches and Conceptual Paintings we find exactly what the title states. There are about 70 stillframes here that show snapshots from the set plus creature drawings and lush artwork created to influence the production design. The section is a little small - there has to be a lot more material than just 70 shots – but it's worth a look.
In the Trailers area, we find the theatrical ads for both Jurassic Park and The Lost World. There's also a promo for Jurassic Park III, but don't expect much from it, as it’s just a fairly generic teaser.
The Dinosaur Encyclopedia provides a nice general history of a few different breeds. We learn about the dilophosaur, the velociraptor, the triceratops, the gallimimus, the T-rex, and the brachiosaur in entertaining little snippets.
Additional text appears in two other sections. The Production Notes offer a short but solid history of the making of the film; they pack in a lot of good information. Cast and Filmmakers is less extensive. Although these listings cover 11 actors, we only learn about Spielberg and producers Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen on the production side, and the entries lack much detail.
Jurassic Park remains very exciting and fun. I've watched it multiple times but it continues to entertain and excite me. The DVD provides erratic visuals but delivers good audio and some satisfying supplements. The problems with the picture quality mean the DVD doesn’t soar, but it’s a passable release for a classic action film.
To rate this film visit the [Blu-Ray] Edition review of JURASSIC PARK