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Dino-mite? Not quite

The 3D predators in revamped blockbuster are impressive, but the film's flaws also jump out

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‘LIFE... uh... finds a way."

So says Jeff Goldblum's "rock star" mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. The cool, black-clad theoretician is talking about the titular theme park, featuring live cloned dinosaurs. Specifically, Malcolm isn't buying the scientific arrogance that smugly presumes the park's beasts will be incapable of reproducing.

This new re-release of the film epitomizes arrogance of a different stripe. As Dr. Malcolm might put it: When it comes to making more money out of a presumably tapped-out blockbuster, Hollywood... uh... finds a way.

In this case, it's a 3D retrofit to a 1993 movie that came close to grossing a billion dollars upon its initial release.

But the film itself may be the main argument against the 3D-ification of every hit movie of the past 25 years.

When it was released 20 years ago, Jurassic Park became a hit because it delivered on the promise of giving audiences something they had not seen before: photo-realistic dinosaurs -- lots of 'em -- interacting with the human cast in a story that was otherwise a theme park-gone-wrong tale reminiscent of Westworld (which, like Jurassic Park, was also a story by prolific novelist Michael Crichton).

In 2013, the dinosaurs are still pretty impressive. But we may be less razzle-dazzled by the animated creatures, even in 3D, and that leaves us to deal with Jurassic Park as a movie, and not as a game-changing film phenomenon.

In the unlikely event you haven't seen it, it's about a Walt Disney-like entrepreneur named John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) who compels the aforementioned Dr. Ian Malcolm, child-hating paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to an island off Costa Rica that he has secretly transformed into a theme park featuring live dinosaurs, cloned from ancient DNA preserved in amber. Hammond has also invited his two young grandchildren (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards), as they'll be the ideal target demographic.

But of course, things go terribly wrong when a scheming techie (Wayne Knight) shuts down all the park's security systems and the dinos run amok.

There is much to admire in the film. Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp strive to deliver a legit work of science fiction, where the actual science of cloning is clearly delineated and the ethical concerns are sensibly debated. Dr. Malcolm essentially is a character who functions as Crichton's mouthpiece, but Goldblum doggedly creates a character out of him anyway, applying a light glaze of Goldblum-ian neurosis to a character who might otherwise have been a mere cipher. (Goldblum has an assured way with a geeky bon mot, such as: "God help us, we're in the hands of engineers.")

Also, Spielberg brings his ingenious technique to bear in a couple of key scenes: the T-Rex attack and the climactic game of hide-and-seek with a trio of deadly velociraptors.

But now that the integration of computer-generated characters and live actors is a more common occurrence, one is more inclined to be put off by the movie's faults.

Spielberg has always made a trick of inspiring a sense of awe with giant close-ups of awestruck faces. This gets old quickly, as does John Williams' music score, which likewise obtrusively cues the audience to how to react instead of simply reflecting the action on the screen.

Dern tries to bring a sense of naturalism to her role with the result that she seems to be acting in a different movie than everyone else. And Attenborough's grandfatherly presence just annoys.

If you were blown away the first time you saw it, prepare for some disappointment. Like the fictional attraction of the title, Jurassic Park the movie just doesn't hang together like it should.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Jurassic Park 3D

Starring Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern

Grant Park, Kildonan Place, McGillivray, Polo Park, Polo Park Imax, St. Vital, Towne

PG

126 minutes

3 stars out of five

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 3:52 PM CDT: adds missing text

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