Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy

It's the Blu-ray boxset that was 65 million years in the making!

While Terminator 2 might have introduced audiences around the world to the possibilities of computer-generated effects, it was Steven Spielberg’s 1993 smash Jurassic Park that truly revolutionised cinema. Seamlessly mixing CG visuals and life-size models, this bigscreen adaptation of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi bestseller convinced audiences around the world that dinosaurs walked still walked the Earth, and in the process transformed the visual effects industry almost overnight. And while the film itself suffers by comparison to Crichton’s darker novel (and some of the dinosaur info is extremely suspect – not least the oversized Velociraptors), taken on its own right, it’s an entertaining thrill ride full of wonder and terrific dinosaur effects.

As you can probably guess, the sequels don’t hold up quite as well. The Lost World: Jurassic Park features some fantastic dino-action and proves more entertaining than Crichton’s preachy lecture-cum-novel. However, it’s almost completely derailed by the final act, which drops a T-Rex in San Diego for no rhyme or reason (seriously, even the film doesn’t bother to explain what could possibly have transpired on the boat) simply because Spielberg presumably thought it was what everyone would want to see.

Spielberg’s absence behind the camera on Jurassic Park III is telling in its lack of wonder and genuine thrills. And while the new dinosaurs are pretty impressive, the film makes the fatal mistake of killing off all of its expendable characters in the first act, meaning there’s simply no real dramatic tension in the rest of the film as you know everyone will be okay.

Picture: Jurassic Park comes to Blu-ray with a VC-1 1.85:1 1080p encode that runs rife with a particularly thick grain pattern. While this might not appeal to those who expect all of their Blu-ray films to look  like a Pixar animation, it should please those cinephiles that like their films to look like actual films (something Universal has failed to do with its catalogue releases more often than I can count). But even some of these grain-lovers might be surprised by just how pervasive it becomes in some low-light scenes – especially those inside the control room when the lights have powered down, where it is so heavy it often obscures fine detailing altogether.

Nobody will be able to complain about the disc’s colour reproduction. It truly is excellent, making the most of the vibrant greens of the island’s foliage and the bold red and yellow of the Jurassic Park branding. Detail levels impress, even if they often do serve to highlight some rather murky skin textures on the CG dinosaur models (but for me, this feels far more realistic than the pin-sharp textures evidenced by the CG dinosaurs of the third film).

There are some telltale signs of edge-enhancement on show in brighter scenes, such as the halo in the medium-shots of Sam Neill as he terrifies a kid with his Velociraptor story (Ch 2), but even this is only a minor issue and could well be endemic of the source material rather than the encode itself.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park features a much more muted colour palette and a more refined grain structure, both of which help the VC-1 1.85:1 1080p Blu-ray encode serve up a slightly improved picture experience over its predecessor. Delineation is clearer throughout the film, and detailing never really feels obscured by the grain structure, no matter how dark some scenes get (which is a bloody good job considering how much of the sequel takes place at night).

Unsurprisingly, as the newest film of the three, Jurassic Park III features the strongest of the VC-1 1.85:1 1080p encodes. Whether it’s something as simple as a close-up of Sam Neill’s face (Ch 3) or a CG-rendered Brachiosaur head (Ch 15), the disc’s fine grain combined with the generally brighter, clearer and sharper visuals (real and CG) register increased detailing and vibrancy throughout the film’s running time.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: The history of Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park is tied to that of DTS, having debuted the multichannel audio technology at cinemas, and then again on LaserDisc. Couple that with the fact that many people’s memories of the film are intrinsically linked to its audio (primarily the booming bass of the T-Rex footsteps and the vibrating cup of water) and  it’s hardly surprising that there’s a huge amount of expectation surrounding the new DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix gracing the film’s Blu-ray debut.

Thankfully, this new Blu-ray incarnation serves the film incredibly well, surrounding you with the sound of insects and jungle noise from the very start. Surprisingly, the build-up to the T-Rex attack (Ch 11) isn’t quite as LFE-heavy as you might expect, at least not until the point were the dinosaur appear on screen, where every roar, growl and footstep bristles with incredibly potent throbbing bass.

The film’s other dino-centric audio showcase is the Gallimimus stampede (Ch 14). The sequence starts with the slow build of rumbling footsteps in the rears, and before long it sounds like you’re right in the heart of the stampede with creatures knocking into one another as they flee past you on all sides. It’s an impressive piece of sound design that lends genuine weight and mass to the CG dinosaurs seen onscreen, and the precision of the steering around the full speaker setup shows just what the extra audio channels in the remix bring to the film.

The subsequent films are just as impressive when it comes to their DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtracks. Superbly rendered atmospheric effects really bring the island settings to life in both (and, in the case of The Lost World, the bustling streets of San Diego), and there’s no shortage of scenes to use to demo your audio setup. Personal favourites include The Lost World’s T-Rex attack (Ch 9-10) where, in addition to the creatures themselves, there’s the sound of the utensils falling across the soundfield as the trailer hangs over the cliff, and the precision in the splintering glass leading up to the window breaking. And over in Jurassic Park III there’s the reverberating footsteps on the metal walkways and Pteranodons flying past during the exploration and escape from the aviary (Ch 14-15) to savour in 7.1.

Throw in the perfectly balanced and precisely positioned dialogue reproduction across all three films, plus the rousing rendition of John Williams’ memorable music, and there’s not a single aspect of the trio of remixed soundtracks that puts a foot wrong as far as this reviewer is concerned.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Each film comes bundled with a bumper crop of goodies, the vast majority of which will be familiar to fans who picked up the earlier DVD releases. Amongst this extensive collection of repurposed material are 15 archival featurettes, numerous behind-the-scenes vignettes (ranging from Location Scouting to a Tour of the Stan Winston Studio), art and photo galleries, storyboards, trailers, animatics and VFX showreels, plus a couple of deleted scenes for The Lost World: Jurassic Park (frustratingly, the other well documented deleted scenes from the trilogy are still absent in this set), plus a dozen Dinosaur Turntables and a commentary from the special effects team for Jurassic Park III.

As far as new material goes, it basically boils down to the all-new Return to Jurassic Park six-part retrospective documentary looking back at the entire trilogy. This might not sound too impressive, but with a total running time in excess of two hours and considering the amount of production detail they go into, the wealth of enlightening (and sometimes surprisingly honest) interviews on offer and the sheer weight of rare behind-the-scenes footage included, they add up to a shocking comprehensive look at the making of the trilogy (and the theme park ride, which is featured at the start of the documentary about Jurassic Park III). Fittingly, the last doc ends with a short tribute to author Michael Crichton and SFX legend Stan Winston, both of whom sadly passed away in 2008.

Beyond the documentaries, the only other new features are the obligatory My Scenes and BD-Live links. The set also includes Digital Copies of all three films.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: This blockbuster dino-fest proves to be a monster hit in high-definition

Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £50 approx, On sale now