The Jurassic Park franchise continues to be a fun and exciting thrill-ride that imagines an amusement park run amok when its prehistoric live attractions break free although the two direct sequels fall short of greatness. Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Steven Spielberg's now action-adventure classic, Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings all four films to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as an eight-disc limited edition combo set, featuring excellent 4K HDR10 video presentations, thrilling DTS:X soundtracks, and a bevy of supplements. The entire box set is Highly Recommended for fans of the franchise.
Along with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park marks the beginning of the groundbreaking years in computer-generated imagery. Not since the stained-glass knight of Young Sherlock Holmes, had audiences seen digital visual effects used so effectively in a live-action film. By today's standards, the visuals of this fantastically entertaining sci-fi adventure do, admittedly, seem a bit quaint, but nearly twenty years later, it's surprising to see they've actually held up rather splendidly, still delivering that same sense of wonder.
Spielberg is also at his best in building suspense and anticipation, making audiences wait until just the right moment to reveal the colossal, prehistoric creatures. Even as doctors Grant (Sam Neill), Sattler (Laura Dern) and Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) finally arrive at Hammond's (Richard Attenborough) island, the narrative takes its time, showing first the huge electrical fences that hint at something dangerous being caged. Later, we see the reactions of three characters, before we're finally allowed to see the once extinct animals for ourselves. The way in which the camera slowly pans to look up at the Brachiosaurus remains just as inspiring and jaw-dropping as ever. Then, we move to a long shot of dinosaurs by a lake which tops it all off.
The story itself is actually rather ordinary, even the inclusion of the two children (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) seems intended to attract younger viewers. But it must be said, the film intentionally places more emphasis on a sense of adventure and excitement than on the science or the possibilities. Spielberg and company utilized the best available CG technology of the time and smartly balanced that with the amazing, lifelike animatronics of Stan Winston and his team. The plot is just engaging enough to maintain our attention while being overwhelmed by the visionary and spectacular visuals. Jurassic Park continues to capture our imagination and serves as proof of what Hollywood magic can truly deliver. (Movie Rating: 5/5)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Unfortunately, the first sequel is proof that lightning rarely strikes twice, even for the likes of someone as highly-regarded as Steven Spielberg. The Lost World, which shares only a title with the novel by the late Michael Crichton, doesn't necessarily try to repeat the success of its predecessor, but it clearly wants to relive the same sense of wonder and exhilaration. It's doesn't quite succeed at capturing our imagination or sparking that same awe-inspiring level as the first movie, but that isn't to say it doesn't come close at times. Then again, there's really only one scene which comes to mind, involving a pair of T-Rexes, their newborn dino, a large, extended RV trailer and lots of loud crashing roars amid a rainstorm.
As for the rest of the film, viewers are forced to waddle and stumble through a clumsy display of what is essentially an explanation for why Dr. Malcolm (Goldblum) returns but not the other two. And as before, one precocious youngster — this time via Malcolm's daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester) — joins an expedition team to another of Hammond's (Attenborough) dinosaur resorts, a top secret location where the extinct animals live freely. Until now, of course. Malcolm's group, which brings Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, and Richard Schiff together, is there merely to explore and observe. Hammond's nephew (Arliss Howard), however, has his own plans, and hires a separate team of big game hunters lead by the wonderful Pete Postlethwaite.
What distracts from enjoying a second trip through prehistoric fantasy is a very apparent lack of characterization. The make-believe CGI creatures and animatronics often display more personality and charisma than their live-action costars. It's strange seeing characters so underdeveloped and two-dimensional in a movie that really requires the human aspect to sustain believability. Audiences are continuously reminded that corporate greed is bad and sometimes just as selfishly ravenous as the Velociraptor depicted on screen, but rarely are they allowed to connect emotionally with a particular character, which greatly diminishes the film's attempts at suspense. Nevertheless, the sequel has its moments of fun action with a silly, purely for the visual whimsy conclusion in San Diego. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
Jurassic Park III
Going into the third and supposedly final installment, we take a turn towards the slightly worse as human characterization is once again overshadowed by CG spectacle. This time around, a family of Velociraptors takes command of the screen as a small team of rescuers search for a missing boy and quickly find themselves running for their lives. In fact, the long-distance cousins of modern birds show better communication skills than the rest of the cast, which is a real shame. Of all the extinct creatures put on display throughout the series, the raptors are easily the best attraction of the trilogy, but it's ultimately all for naught when viewers care very little about the survival of the humans being chased.
Reprising his role as the fearfully cautious Dr. Grant, Sam Neill returns much in the same grumbling manner as the character he's meant to portray. Although he seems quite comfortable in the role that brought him mainstream attention, the New Zealand actor also appears to be running on cruise control, simply riding through the motions of always stating how being on the island is a bad idea yet wanting to observe the creatures as they hunt. He's brought back nonetheless because he's the best man to serve as guide for a divorced couple searching for their son (Trevor Morgan). It also serves as a clever plot device for a movie that doesn't quite pan out as excitingly as part two or nowhere near as well as the first.
While not directly taken from any specific piece of material by Crichton, the second sequel pieces together a few elements not used in the previous two books, namely the aviary filled with Pteranodons. It does make for some entertaining moments that fans of the books can delight in, though the story will still leave much to be desired. Grating throughout the whole show is the addition of Téa Leoni as the understandably worried mother trying to find her son in this lost world. Joining her quest is her ex-husband played by William H. Macy and Grant's protégé Billy (Alessandro Nivola). And like Neill, everyone is made to step out of the way and allow the visual effects to work their magic. Sadly, by the time we come to this third outing, much of the spellbinding charm and enchantment of the illusion starts to wear a bit thin, and all we're left with is a quaint amusement and a desire to revisit the first movie instead. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the Blu-ray HERE.
Jurassic World is the epitome of the summer popcorn blockbuster event. The sort sometimes referred to — and not necessarily in a demeaning or cheapening way — as the "check your brain at the door" entertainment, a conventional mainstream product manufactured for the sole purpose of attracting the widest possible audience wanting thrills and excitement. But not much else. Its massive, record-breaking box-office success clearly attests to that. The plot is straightforward and uncomplicated: Dinosaurs run amok in a theme park! Pointing out these obvious aspects and traits of the movie is not meant to find fault with the production or gearing up to lambast it. There are many great pieces of entertainment that have been produced much in similar fashion, such as the original Jurassic Park. And for the most part, the movie succeeds at delivering easy entertainment. It's a feast for the eyes, ears and all the senses, if we're so inclined to summarize it in a simple quote.
With several moments early on and throughout the rest of the movie, director Colin Trevorrow and his writers hint at being aware of this very fact — the film is nothing more than trivial consumerism at its finest — in a few of the character exchanges. As the new park's operations manager Claire Dearing, Bryce Dallas "I'm not Jessica Chastian" Howard convinces a small group of possible investors on the latest attraction because it complies with public demands of more thrills: "Consumers want them bigger, louder, more teeth." And that, the movie definitely does, upping the wow factor with a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur called Indominus Rex. As if almost aware of its own synthetic and artificial creation, made from the best parts of what is known to work in order to fill theater seats, Trevorrow later has Howard's austere, number-crunching Claire bickering with a control-room operator (Jake Johnson) on corporate involvement while essentially lauding Spielberg's sci-fi fantasy classic. The scenes are peeks into boardroom meetings with studio heads, Howard standing in for the director, all-business and professional, while Johnson exposes his true feelings and grumbles.
In such moments, and several more like them, we're made to wonder if Trevorrow, despite clearly enjoying his involvement in this production, isn't also commenting on the irony of it all. When cleverly sneaking in bits of dialogue that interestingly transcend the actual conversation at hand, there's a sense of snide cynicism that apparently went undetected. Like tiny breadcrumbs strewn about, the seemingly wily comments — they could just as likely be pure coincidence, of course —sometime reach the level of self-awareness, little postmodern observations for the more astute moviegoers but not so esoteric as to scare away the general public. It hints at a possible deliberateness and intelligence beneath the façade of the thunderous bombast, the dazzling spectacle and the heart-pounding enormity of dino action, promising a deeper, stimulating layer. But for every time we imagine such a prospect, folly intervenes to remind us we forgot our brains at the door. When determined to search for her two lost nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), a suddenly spunky Claire unbuttons her blouse, implying her toughness, yet she's seen running through a jungle in high heels. One can imagine Trevorrow waving his index finger disapprovingly and saying, "Don't overthink it." (Movie Rating: 3/5)
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-rays
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings the Jurassic Park franchise to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a handsome and sturdy eight-disc combo box set with a flyer for Digital Copies of all four movies. When redeeming said code via UPHE.com and Movies Anywhere, owners are given access to the SD and HD SDR versions while VUDU users can unlock the 4K HDR10 version with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. Dubbed the "25th Anniversary Limited Edition Collection," the package is shaped and opens much like a book with each page showing artwork and pictures for each adventure. Those same pages also serve as sleeves for each disc which slide out by placing some slight pressure to the top and bottom, widening the mouth only a little. The inside is smooth and glossy to prevent the discs from scratching.
All eight films are contained on separate dual-layered UHD66 discs and Region Free, BD50 discs, each found inside one of the pages respective of their order within the franchise. The book comes with a side-sliding slipcover made of a hard cardboard material with lightly-embossed artwork. At startup, each disc goes straight to an animated menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The now-classic adventure blockbuster stampedes onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a lovely HEVC H.265 encode, offering a notably upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart. It's not a significantly monstrous difference, but viewers will appreciate a notable uptick in definition and resolution. The same soft, blurry moments from before persist, likely the result of using the same master as the BD, but fine lines in the clothing, surrounding foliage and the practical effects are bit more detailed. Facial complexions benefit the most, revealing tiny pores and wrinkles in the cast while flesh tones appear more natural and accurate to the climate. Thankfully, the CG visuals hold up shockingly well, but every once in a while, they seem a bit blurrier than before while there is also some minor ringing around the edges of random objects and buildings. The 1.85:1 image is awash with a very thin layer of grain, giving the 4K presentation a beautiful film-like appearance.
The finest and most substantial area of improvement over its HD SDR counterpart is the brighter contrast, delivering some intensely dazzling whites throughout and gorgeous daylight exteriors around the island. Specular highlights are the most noteworthy aspect, exposing sharper fine details within the brightest, hottest spots while also giving metallic objects a realistic shimmer. Likewise, improved brightness levels shower the 2160p video with inky, midnight blacks and rich, penetrating shadows, providing the transfer is a lovely cinematic appeal that almost feels like watching the movie for the first time again. Primaries are noticeably deeper and more vivid, especially the livelier, more energetic greens in the foliage and the more vibrant, more glowing reds of the vehicles. Secondary hues are not quite as dramatic, but there is just enough variation in the palette to make this an eye-catching improvement. (Video Rating: 4)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The sequel to the mega-blockbuster runs wild through the streets of Ultra HD with a strong and generally satisfying HEVC H.265 encode (1.85:1). Many of the same issues seen on the Blu-ray unfortunately persist on this version, transporting over the same soft, blurry segments, many of which are related to the CG effects and digital composites. Nevertheless, the rest of the 4K presentation displays slightly better definition and fine object detailing that viewers will appreciate. Blacks are also inkier and fuller, but it's better aspects are quickly countered by many instances of crush in the darkest sections with shadows occasionally swallowing some of the background info. Although primaries are notably richer and more vibrant with flesh tones also looking a tad rosier and more lifelike, the overall palette isn't particularly impressive or more varied, which could be excused as the result of the original cinematography. The biggest improvement is the contrast levels, giving the 2160p transfer a brighter appeal while exposing better details within the hottest, most intense highlights, such as the flashlights, making it overall a small upgrade. (Video Rating: 3.5)
Jurassic Park III
Just as in the Blu-ray box set from 2011, the worst of the series also happens to be a good looking one, crashing onto UHD with a beautiful HEVC H.265 encode. In spite of that, it's not a gigantic improvement, showing only slightly better detailing in clothing, the surrounding plant life and on the dinosaur animatronics. And just as with the previous two, the digital effects and composites bring a noticeable drop in resolution quality. Colors, on the other hand, really pop and are richly saturated without also seeming artificially boosted with the facial complexions revealing a healthier, lifelike texture and tone. There's also a bit more variety in the secondary hues, which is apparent in the fiery orange explosions and the exotic coloring within the velociraptor pack. Brightness levels wash the 1.85:1 image with raven, midnight blacks and excellent gradational detailing in the darkest corners of the frame. As expected, contrast delivers sharper, crisper whites, making the entire 4K presentation really pop, especially in the fluffy clouds, while specular highlights provide a welcomed shimmer along metallic edges and a brilliant glow in the slimy-like bodies of the dinosaurs or the sweat on the faces of the cast. (Video Rating: 3.5)
Not surprisingly, the latest genetically-engineered installment to the franchise runs amok with an excellent, highly-detailed HEVC H.265 encode that's well worth the price of admission. The movie was shot on a combination of Super 35mm, 70mm and the Red Epic Dragon capable of 6K resolution, and the source was later mastered in a 2K digital intermediate. Immediately apparent is the improvement in definition, boasting several stunning, razor-shaper scenes, including the fast-paced action moments, such as the now-infamous Owen riding with the Raptors at night sequence. It's not quite the night and day difference we'd expected with resolution levels waver slightly during some of the CG-heavy sequences and a mild, almost trivial instances of aliasing along the sharpest edges of a few buildings. But this 4K presentation is sharper with better clarity of individual hairs, the fabric and stitching of clothing, and in every blade of grass and pebble on the jungle floor. Facial complexions are highly revealing as well, showing every wrinkle and pore in the faces of the cast, particularly during close-ups.
Presented in its original 2.00:1 aspect ratio, the 2160p video displays noticeably brighter contrast overall, making many of the daylight exteriors in the park really pop with crisp, sparkling whites in the clouds of the sun reflecting off various surfaces, which occasionally is intense enough to make the eyes squint. Specular highlights are not the most impressive with some the hottest spots lacking the sort of clarity we've come to expect of the still relatively new format. The new HDR transfer also features inker, oilier blacks throughout, providing the image with deep, stygian shadows that show gradational differences between the various shades while objects in the background remain visible. Primaries appear a tad more saturated, especially the green of the surrounding jungle, while secondary hues seem slightly more animated with better variation, providing the faces of the cast a rosier appearance that's accurate to the tropical climate. (Video Rating: 4)
The escaped dinos roar their way to home theaters with a fantastic DTS:X soundtrack that doesn't completely blow away its predecessor but wonderfully adds another layer of aural immersiveness. Much of the design conveys a consistent wall of sound that's highly engaging, exhibiting a wonderfully extensive and sharply detailed mid-range, and movement across the soundstage and into the top heights feels fluid and effortless. As in its 7.1 DTS-HD MA counterpart, rear activity is at a near constant with a soundfield full of exotic wildlife, the roars of the T-Rex and John Williams's memorable score. Occasionally, the atmospherics travel into the overheads, such as when something goes flying through the air, but some moments feel smoother than others while at other times, the effects come off forced and distractingly loud. Conversations between characters are well-prioritized amongst the film's many action sequences. The low-end is authoritative and complex, delivering deep, omnidirectional frequencies that make walls rattle unexpectedly. Some of the best moments are, of course, when the T-Rex stomps its way onto the screen, but viewers can also feel the rumbling snarls of dinosaurs. (Audio Rating: 4.5)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Once again, this DTS:X soundtrack is sure to not only wake up the neighbors but also draw viewers right into the thick of the action. With the majority of the film taking place in a jungle setting, the entire system is almost-always alive and kicking with various sounds of birds, creatures and movement amongst the trees, creating an awesome hemispheric soundscape that surrounds the listener. Directionality and pans are flawless with movement between the sides and rears at all times while the overheads deliver several unexpected atmospheric effects, creating an enveloping dome-like soundfield. The front soundstage is spacious with excellently balanced channel separation, some of which nicely extends into the top heights. Vocals can feel a bit drowned out by the all the commotion, but it's rather clear for the most part. Dynamic range exhibits exceptional, room-penetrating clarity and strong differentiation of the upper frequencies. No surprise, low bass is deeply powerful, delivering an effective force to every gunshot, dino stomp and roar. The sequel provides lots of exhilarating fun fans are sure to enjoy. (Audio Rating: 4.5)
Jurassic Park III
In line with the other two, the second sequel in the original trilogy also crashes the party with another excellent DTS:X soundtrack that will keep things rocking with plenty of dino havoc. The front soundstage feels spacious, creating a wonderfully expansive image that's quite engaging. Movement across the screen is flawless with convincing off-screen effects that fluidly travel into the top heights while vocals are excellently prioritized in the center. The mid-range is terrifically extensive, allowing for plenty of rich clarity and loud, brash mayhem. The low-end adds a thunderous presence to the lossless mix, making the room come alive every time Spinosaurus chases after Grant and company. The rears are again at a near constant with a variety of discrete ambient effects and superb lifelike directionality in the sides and rears while the echo of the wildlife occupy the space above. The many action sequences fill the entire room with endless commotion and stirring energy, as debris flies in every direction and comes raining down from above. The final, climactic battle with Spinosaurus is an awesome with rain in the overheads and water splashing all around, generating a satisfyingly immersive hemispheric soundfield. (Audio Rating: 5)
The monsters take over the asylum with a fantastic, earth-stomping DTS:X soundtrack, offering distinct clarity and superb definition in the mid-range, generating a brilliantly spacious and highly engaging soundstage that terrifically extends into the top heights. While the dialogue remains intelligible throughout, the upper ranges during human versus dino battle or the climatic fight with Indominus versus the T-rex never falter but are cleanly precise without a hint of distortion, allowing for every scream, wail and thunderous roar to be heard above the chaos. Bass astounds with deep, unrestrained palpability, adding tremendous depth and weight to Indominus Rex's stomps, the explosive action and the final clash for the king of the dinosaurs. The low end awesomely jolts the senses by digging into the ultra-low depths, incredibly powerful and robust enough to rattle walls, rumble the couch and really test the capabilities of your subwoofer.
Similar to its 7.1 DTS-HD MA counterpart, rear activity is continuously kept busy, surrounding the listener with fluid movement and panning that creates a stunningly enveloping 360° soundfield. The design delivers a variety of subtle ambient effects in every scene, filling the room with the squawking sounds of the island's local wildlife, the hybrid dino stealthily moving among the trees and the bawling, clapping cheers of the crowd. The best moments are those with the Indominus, its grunts, growls, and roars overwhelming the ceiling channels, giving the creature an unexpected sense of enormity while also creating a splendidly immersive hemispheric soundscape. When mayhem expectedly ensues, the object-based track really comes alive with the dinosaurs wreaking havoc upon the park, such as the pterodactyls flying across the overheads, from front to back and vice versa, descending upon unsuspecting visitors. The final climactic battle is terrifically layered with roars and high-pitched screeches echoing all around and in every direction. (Audio Rating: 5)
The Jurassic Park franchise is a fun and exciting thrill-ride that imagines an amusement park run amok when its prehistoric live attractions break free, and the first blockbuster that launched the series remains a rousing, hair-raising classic. While the two sequels fall significantly short of their predecessor's greatness, the fourth reboot installment is a surprisingly amusing romp that takes audiences back to Spielberg's sense of awe-inspiring wonder mixed with the thrills of adventure.
Celebrating twenty-five years since the first movie crashed into theaters, Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings all four films to Ultra HD as an eight-disc limited edition combo set. The first and fourth movies are set free with excellent 4K HDR10 presentations, but the second and third are not quite as strong. Nevertheless, all four roar to home audio systems with satisfying DTS:X soundtracks that will have the house thundering and shaking from the prehistoric mayhem. The same set of supplements are ported and can be enjoyed on their accompanying Blu-ray counterparts, making the overall package Highly Recommended.