If ever a series of films deserved the full special edition treatment, it would have to be the Jurassic Park flicks. Considering their enormous financial success and their groundbreaking effects, those films merit detailed analysis of the sort found on the best SEs.
While we’re still waiting for a truly in-depth package, we’ve come a little closer via the “Jurassic Park Trilogy”. This boxed set packs the Collector’s Edition releases of all three movies along with a fourth disc that includes additional materials about each of the flicks.
For full information on the individual movies, please consult my separate reviews of 1993’s Jurassic Park, 1997’s The Lost World, and 2001’s Jurassic Park III. Please note that the picture and sound grades found at the top of this article represent an average for the three movies. However, the extras grade factors in the fourth DVD as well as the supplements found on the individual movie discs.
Though this article covers the boxed set as a whole, I want to concentrate on the package’s fourth DVD. Called “Beyond Jurassic Park”, this disc includes a variety of information about the films. Each movie gets its own section, so I’ll progress through the supplements within those domains.
Although the first movie is easily the most successful of the three, it gets slighted on “Beyond”. Oddly, this bonus disc includes only a few minor pieces that cover Jurassic Park, while the sequels receive much more attention.
First we start with the “Original Featurette on the Making of the Film”. This four-minute and 45-second program mixes movie clips, a few shots from the set, and interview snippets with director Steven Spielberg, writer Michael Crichton, and actors Sir Richard Attenborough, Ariana Richards, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Joseph Mazzello, and Sam Neil. The film snippets dominate this superficial piece that’s really nothing more than a mildly interesting glorified trailer.
“Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park” intermixes movie scenes with shots from the filming of those segments. In other words, we’ll see part of the flick and also check out a little behind the scenes material that directly relate to those areas. At its best, this offers some interesting looks at the shooting of the film. However, the nine minute and five second piece includes too many movie clips and not enough candid material. It’s still cool enough to merit a look, but it could have been better.
In the “Animatics: T-rex Attack” we see filmed storyboards of that sequence. Provided without any sound, the boards mix with some stop-motion elements for a fun seven minute and 20 second look at this sequence.
Next we find the “Hurricane In Kauai Featurette”. This two-minute and five-second piece includes interview clips with Spielberg, producer Gerald R. Molen, and production designer Rick Carter as well as shots of the hurricane that disrupted the filming of Jurassic Park. It’s too short to offer much substance, and it really doesn’t tell us much about what impact the hurricane had on the production.
“ILM and Jurassic Park: Before and After the Visual Effects” finishes the section on the first movie. This fun feature shows five different scenes from the film, and we see the different elements as they become composited to form the finished frames. It’s cool to check out the segments on their own, and we also get a little bit of good candid material in this enjoyable six and a half minute program.
THE LOST WORLD:
While we didn’t find too many extras for Jurassic Park, its first sequel gets greater coverage. First up is another “Original Featurette on the Making of the Film”. This 13-minute and 15-second program offers the usual combination of movie clips, behind the scenes material, and quick interview tidbits. We hear from director Steven Spielberg, actors Jeff Goldblum, Sir Richard Attenborough, Julianne Moore, Vanessa Lee Chester, Vince Vaughn, and Pete Postlethwaite, screenwriter David Koepp, production designer Rick Carter, paleontologist Jack Horner, director of photography Janusz Kaminski, special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, full motion dinosaurs creator Dennis Muren, visual effects art designer George Hull, visual effects producer Ned Gorman, and dinosaur motion supervisor Randal M. Dutra.
Whew! That’s a lot of folks for a short program, so don’t expect much depth. In reality, this featurette follows the usual glorified trailer format, and the sound bites don’t tell us a whole lot, though they add some small bits of information. However, a few of the shots from the set are pretty cool, especially the one in which we see Spielberg lead the actors through part of the “hanging from the RV” scene. Overall, this is a perfunctory but enjoyable program.
The header called “Interviews With Michael Crichton” provides a program entitled “The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion With Michael Crichton”. Not surprisingly, this 15-minute and 20-second piece primarily offers information from the author. We also see some movie clips and a few behind the scenes images, but the emphasis remains on his input, and this makes it a very interesting program. Though it appears in the Lost World area of the DVD, most of the discussion covers his writing of Jurassic Park and other aspects of his career; only a little part of it goes over World itself. Nonetheless, it’s a nicely informative and interesting chat that offers some good background and notes.
“ILM and The Lost World: Before and After the Visual Effects” echoes the similar piece offered for Jurassic Park. However, this one is much more extensive. It lasts 20 minutes and 40 seconds and goes with a split-screen presentation; the “before” shots appear on top and the finished product runs on the bottom. This makes the piece even cooler than the earlier one, as we’re more easily able to compare the stages. It’s always a hoot to see the actors responding to nothing, and this is a very fun and valuable addition to the set.
Finally, the Lost World domain ends with “The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg From ILM”. Vaguely analogous to the “Thriller” clip on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, this 100-second clip shows the little stars of Lost World as they tap-dance. It’s odd and cute and worth a look.
JURASSIC PARK III:
As we move on to the most recent film in the series, we begin with “The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III”. During this 10 and a half minute program, we discover a few movie clips, lots of good shots from the set, and sound bites from actors Sam Neill, Téa Leoni, and William H. Macy, producer Kathleen Kennedy, live creature creator Stan Winston, effects supervisor John Rosengrant, mechanical effects coordinator Michael Lantieri, director Joe Johnston, and animation supervisor Dan Taylor. Overall, the show is interesting and compelling, but I must admit it seems a little redundant after all of the similar offerings on the JP III DVD itself. A fair amount of the footage looks familiar, so while some of it’s new to this piece, don’t expect to see only fresh material. Still, it’s a breezy and efficient program that neatly synopsizes some of the effects issues.
More effects material appears in “The Industrial Light and Magic Press Reel”. Accompanied by the film’s score, we see a progression of visual effects from JP III in various stages of completion during this 10 minute and 10 second feature. Basically this show acts as a highlight piece for the studio, and it does so nicely. It displays a nice synopsis of their work and even tosses in some of the “before and after” splitscreens seen in earlier features. It’s an interesting little program that demonstrates a number of effects elements.
“The Sounds of Jurassic Park III” provides a solid 13-minute and 35-second look at that area of the process. While we see some movie snippets and rough footage from the shoot, mainly we hear from sound designer Christopher Boyes as he discusses his work. In addition, we also get some good tidbits form foley artists Jena Vance and Denny Thorpe, foley mixer Tony Eckert, and composer Don Davis. In addition to their sound bites, we see some of their work. Overall, the program offers a nice little view of this side of filmmaking, and it’s interesting to hear how the pieces came together, particularly in regard to Boyes’ creative combinations.
“The Art of Jurassic Park III” takes a look at the production design of the film. During the seven minute and 55 second show, a particular emphasis falls upon the storyboards, but we also learn about the sets and the general visual look. The program offers the standard shots from the set and clips from the film as well as interviews with production designer Ed Verreaux, illustrator Jack Johnson, key storyboard artist David Lowery, storyboard artist Rodolfo Damaggio, and producer Kathleen Kennedy. In addition, we get some glimpses of storyboards, concept art, and a few other elements. This isn’t a deep feature, but it adds some decent information.
Finally, in“Jurassic Park: The Ride”, we sit inside the boat for this two minute and 35 second theme park attraction. That’s literally what this featurette offers: a first-person view of the water ride. As such, it’s kind of a neat trailer for the attraction, especially since it doesn’t just tease you with parts of the ride; you sit through the whole thing. Although the ad touts the Universal Studios Hollywood experience, the Islands of Adventure park in Orlando offers a virtually identical version. I’ve been on it, and thought it was okay but nothing special.
For the record, I have no idea why the last feature appears in the JP III area, since it has absolutely nothing to do with that movie. The theme park ride is based totally on parts of Jurassic Park and doesn’t connect with the sequels, so this ad should have shown up in the earlier section of the DVD.
All told, the material found on “Beyond Jurassic Park” was generally enjoyable and interesting. A few minor clunkers appeared, and only a couple of the pieces seemed genuinely strong, but the extra information provided by this package helped round out my knowledge of the films, and I found it to be a reasonably compelling presentation. It won’t rock any worlds - lost or otherwise - but fans of the Jurassic Park series should enjoy it.
Recommendation time, and this is where things get tricky. To get “Beyond Jurassic Park”, one can either buy the “Trilogy” boxed set or purchase the three movies separately and send in $6.95 to get the extra DVD. The easiest suggestion aims for those who want to get all of the Jurassic Park movies but currently own none of them. For them, it’s simple: buy the “Jurassic Park Trilogy” boxed set. With a list price of $75.98, it costs less per movie than buying them separately, and you get the interesting fourth disc as a bonus.
Okay, there is one possible complication: what should DTS fans do? Although the Collector’s Edition of Jurassic Park III includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, the first two films provide separate discs for those audio options. The “Trilogy” only offers the Dolby versions, so DTS fans will have to purchase the discs separately to get what they want. Fans of supplements will probably want to bite the bullet and go with the Dolby discs; they included some features not found on the DTS versions, and they make the purchase of the “Trilogy” a possibility.
However, for those who just gotta have all three Jurassic Park flicks in all their DTS glory, I’d still recommend that they send in the $6.95 to get “Beyond”. No, it’s not a tremendous piece of work, but it’s definitely worth the low price; there’s more than $7 worth of good material here.
What about those folks who might want to own one or two of the Jurassic Park series but don’t like all three of them? They should just grab the ones they like and not worry about the “Trilogy” or “Beyond”. The latter’s reasonably interesting, but it’s not strong enough to warrant any semi-extravagant purchases. No one should buy movies they don’t like just to get “Beyond”.
Personally, I rather like all three of the Jurassic Park movies, and I think the “Trilogy” is a nice package for fans of the films. Each flick looks and sounds very good, and all combined, we find a pretty solid collection of supplements. As noted earlier, we still don’t have a definitive look at the series; heck, I’m still dying to own the special DTS-only trailer for The Lost World that offered the single best use of surround speakers I’ve ever heard. Nonetheless, the “Jurassic Park Trilogy” is a fine set that’s well worth a look.
Note: the “Jurassic Park Trilogy” offers only the widescreen versions of the films. However, fullscreen editions of all three movies also exist. I would assume that anyone who purchases the three flicks individually would also be able to send in their $6.95 for “Beyond Jurassic Park”, but I don’t know this for a fact.