Recall, if you’re old enough, summer 1993, when “Jurassic Park” arrived on an impossible wave of hype and actually lived up to expectations. In recent years, several movies have invited audiences to evaluate special effects rather than respond to their stories —”Avatar”‘s nearly-all-CGI live-action 3-D, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”‘s 48 frames-per-second — but neither was as game-changing as “Jurassic Park.” There’d been dinosaurs on-screen before, of course, but they were clunky/charming stop-motion creations. In 1993, people learned what the acronym “CGI” meant and never forgot it. “I hate computers,” Alan Grant (Sam Neill) mutters early on, predicting the reaction of the modern disgruntled theatergoer after being burned by the likes of “Clash of the Titans.” But for a brief, promising moment “Jurassic Park” gave us reason to love them.
As a movie seen by nearly everyone on the planet, “Jurassic Park” remains shockingly well-crafted. Michael Crichton’s novel may have been softened to allow for a typical Spielberg surrogate-father-and-kids plot, but the film remains exceedingly suspenseful even if every scene’s been long burned into your memory. There’s a few odd, dated ’90s moments —whiz girl hacker Lex (Ariana Richards) getting excited because she knows how to operate a Unix system —but it’s a seamless ride whose f/x have aged shockingly well. The herbivorous dinos are hazy around the edges, but the velociraptors and T. Rex are still a tactile, in-your-face threat. In terms of current blockbuster rhythms, it moves slowly, taking half of its running time to establish the players and stakes before unleashing havoc.
There was a time, not so long ago, when movies would get reissued on their anniversaries just to give everyone a chance to see them in a theater again, but that era’s long gone. In part, “Jurassic Park 3-D” is a thought experiment, literally giving a 20-year-old movie a new perspective. The 3-D is well done enough, giving every frame realistic depth without the darkening sadly common to too many 3-D films, but without any new thrills. The technology isn’t there yet for making images pop out from old footage, but if there was ever a film which could benefit from having the dinosaurs right in your face, it’d be the one famous for having a T. Rex chase an SUV, its face reflected in a rear-view mirror reading “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” Not here they’re not.