Updated: May 24, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / 4K FRAME SHOTS
"JURASSIC PARK: 25th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION"
4K Ultra HD, BIu-ray, digital copy; 1993, 1997, 2001, 2015; PG-13 for intense science fiction terror and violence; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), Youtube
Best extra: "Return to 'Jurassic Park': Dawn of a New Era"
IT’S HARD to imagine it’s been 25 years since Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” hit theaters. Now, the complete “Jurassic” franchise has been upgraded to 4K: "Jurassic Park" (1993), "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997), "Jurassic Park III" (2001) and “Jurassic World” (2015).
Spielberg, with seven films so far, including “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T,” “The Post,” "Saving Private Ryan" and “Ready Player One” for July 24, and Christopher Nolan at seven, including “Dunkirk,” the “Batman Trilogy,” and “Interstellar,” are the top filmmakers pushing their work to the 4K Ultra HD format.
Spielberg’s fascination with dinosaurs started early when his father took him to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, home to one of America's largest collection of dinosaur bones. "Like most kids, one of my first long words was ‘Triceratops,’" Spielberg says during the "Return to 'Jurassic Park': Dawn of a New Era" documentary.
We watched Spielberg behind a massive 35mm camera, actually operating it in the summer of 1992, while directing his actors at the same time. "Start crawling toward me," he instructs one actor in the opening sequence of what has become one of Hollywood's biggest franchises. "Grab it. Grab it," he continues. "All the way…that's great. That's a cut. Fabulous!"
His goal for "Jurassic Park" was simple: to make a movie for dinosaur lovers, not a monster movie. Based on the novel by bestselling author Michael Crichton, Spielberg hired him to adapt his book into a script. "The second I read [it], I knew we were not dealing with monsters, but a credible look at how dinosaurs may someday be brought back alongside modern man," Spielberg says. Aside from pure entertainment, Crichton tackles the big question: DNA cloning may be viable, but is it ethical?
Universal’s 4K Ultra HD “25th Anniversary ‘Limited Edition’” set includes three-hours of interviews detailing the complete franchise. All of the extras are found on the enclosed Blu-rays, clones from previous editions, with the same picture and sound for the movies.
Spielberg envisioned using full-size animatronics as much as possible for the dinosaurs. Stan Winston (“Terminator 2,” “Aliens”) and his FX gang were the only effects wizards in Hollywood who could pull it off. "He had an amazing shop, great artistries, and great technology," says Spielberg, who then recruited paleontologist Jack Horner as a consultant. Horner, like Sam Neill’s character, believed dinosaurs evolved into birds. "Horner became our creditability."
Winston and crew started with 1/16 scale models, then moved up to 1/5 scale dinosaurs. Once those got the green light, life-size animatronics were ordered. That's when everything came to life. Movements were seamless as up to a dozen puppeteers worked in concert to operate the massive creatures.
But the REAL game changers were George Lucas' computer pros at Industrial Light & Magic, who revolutionized computer generated images (CGI). Initially, Spielberg had committed to old-school stop-action photography with models – much like the technology used for "King Kong" in the 1930s. However, the gang at ILM proved realistic CGI was achievable, producing over 60 digital effects, mostly for distant shots and the famous stampede of long neck Gallimimus, running between actors Sam Neill (Dr. Alan Grant), Ariana Richards (Lex Murphy) and Joseph Mazzello (Tim Murphy). Four years later, hundreds of CGI effects were created for the sequel, "The Lost World: Jurassic Park."
There are dozens of insider stories from the cast including Jeff Goldblum (Ian Malcolm), who recall when Spielberg became an on-set sound effects master using a bullhorn to screech like a Raptor to get reactions from his cast to the non-visible dinosaurs.
"Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure" details how Spielberg passed the director’s baton to longtime friend Joe Johnston ("Captain America: The First Avenger"). Just five weeks before production, Johnson killed the original script and demanded a new plot for the first act. This is the weakest of the series, where Sam Neill returns as Dr. Grant, and is tricked into helping a wealthy couple (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) find their tween son who disappeared near the theme park ruins.
The "Welcome to Jurassic World" documentary provides a fascinating back-story to the rags-to-riches tale of its writer/director, 38-year-old Colin Trevorrow, who Spielberg handpicked for the $150 million “Jurassic World” reboot.
Trevorrow came to the meeting with a basic storyline on paper. He and Spielberg marveled at how fans loved the franchise and committed to recapture its spirit for a new generation.
The original "Jurassic Park" had been a life changer in Trevorrow's teenage years. When it premiered in 1993, he had just been grounded. "I remember openly defying my parents," Trevorrow admits. He snuck out of the house and went to a midnight showing for multiplex employees; his friend worked there and invited him to the screening. "I don't encourage other young people to do it, but it was a very indelible memory. And, it was one of the most thrilling films ever made," he says.
All the 4K “Jurassic” films received a major upgrade with the expansive DTS: X soundtrack pushing those Oscar-winning sounds and sound effects to height speakers. Still, the majority of sound comes from the traditional front, center, and rear speakers. The subwoofer gets a major, earth-shattering workout. Don’t be surprised if walls and picture frames vibrate. The bass response kicks in at the first 30-seconds when the title “Jurassic Park” hits the screen.
"Jurassic Park" also changed the movie industry when Spielberg insisted the soundtrack use the then-new state-of-the-art digital audio technology (DTS audio format) for the T-Rex roars. Over 800 theaters installed the digital playback system in 1993; Spielberg was a co-founder of DTS technology.
This review only focuses on the 4K quality of “Jurassic Park.” There is an obvious bump in resolution compared to the Blu-ray since the original 35mm camera negative was scanned and mastered in 4K (1.85:1 aspect ratio).
Wide shots provide the greatest benefit as distant objects and landscapes are now crystal clear and detailed. Facial close-ups, a trademark of “Jurassic’s” photography from Dean Cundey (“Hook,” “Apollo 13”) and Spielberg, are more defined with moles, hair, and wrinkles, plus the HDR color toning is completely different with rich saturated colors. The Blu-ray is still afflicted with an overt orange cast, leaving the impression the cast had gone to a tanning salon.
The 4K remedies the unbalanced color, presenting natural skin toning, and the overall brightness darkened for ultra-high-resolution setups. Still, composite scenes with CGI are slightly softer, suffering from early ‘90s computer technology. Title shots are also soft compared to the rest of the presentation.
Overall, “Jurassic Park” looks really good, but compared to Universal’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” something’s missing. “E.T.” has impeccable HDR and sharpness, while its film grain is ever-present as it should.
We’re not sure if Spielberg or the studio ordered a new 4K master, or used the master from 2010. The scanning process of the negative would’ve have been the same, but the technicians’ work with the film grain and color toning could have been handled differently. We clearly see the results of the HDR toning and expansive color palette, but the sharpness and film grain is slightly reduced.
Maybe a touch of digital noise reduction was applied, especially if they used the 2010 master. Universal was notorious at that time for heavy-handed DNR. I think a better 4K presentation was possible.
“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” are both exceptional with 4K/HDR toning and natural film grain. Both have the WOW factor.
Spielberg's mega-hit is still a lot of fun and a landmark piece of filmmaking in the world of CGI. Don't hesitate to run to this upgrade!
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer