Jurassic Park at the Digital Film Festival

I love the Digital Film Festival put on by Cineplex here in Canada. It’s a chance to see beloved films from the 80s and 90s back where they belong, on the big screen… in a digital presentation.

I would go to all of them, if I had the time and the cash flow, even at $5 a pop it can add up pretty quick.

So we pick and choose our selections carefully. This year we’re only looking at 4 films, but they are all classics, and I love seeing them with audiences that love them as much as I do.

And always interspersed amongst them are people who are experiencing the film for the first time.

Tonight we traveled to Isla Nublar to visit Jurassic Park.

It’s everything you remember it as, and it’s fantastic.

Sue and I had a brief discussion after the film was over, wherein I said that this film, from 1993 is still the gold standard when it comes to combining practical and computer generated effects.

In today’s day and age it’s probably cheaper to do something CG as opposed to do it practically, but no matter how good it seems to be, it will never have the weight and reality of a practical effect. As good as CG has gotten it can never completely capture an on-set performance, where not only the actors can interact with it, but so does the lighting and the entire environment.

Spielberg knew when to use practical and when to use CG in this film, and that’s why it works better than many of the films that followed it from lesser filmmakers. To paraphrase Ian Malcolm, everyone was so excited by what they could do with CG, they never stopped and thought about if they should.

A wise filmmaker should know how to balance it. And in this film Spielberg does that.

The late Stan Winston was the undeniable master when it came to creature effects, animatronics, and practical special effects, His creations interacted with reality, and by extension allowed the viewer to believe in them.

The film, based on the novel by the late Michael Crichton, is almost a rehash of Crichton’s earlier novel, and film, Westworld, where technology is used to create a fantastical theme park, and as things do, they go sideways.

Spielberg is at the top of his popcorn blockbuster movie making game in this film, balancing the wonder of seeing these creatures living and breathing on the screen and the action/tension/horror of seeing what they can do in the modern world.

He also has a top-drawer cast at his disposal, Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldlblum, Wayne Knight, and the always-cool Samuel L. Jackson.

Once again, by giving the actors practical creatures to respond to and work with, adds to the believability of the film while you’re watching it, and watching the wonder, awe or terror on their faces in the nursery, with the sick triceratops, or the full-scale T-Rex in the attack scene serves as a gateway for the viewer.

You can believe that these creatures exist again.

And oh, what I wouldn’t do to see one in real life, which I’ve always thought was the symbolism of the last shot of the film of the birds flying. The dinosaurs are still with us, they just evolved.

Rounding out the magic of classic Spielberg movies, you have Dean Cundey serving as cinematographer, Michael Kahn editing, Kathleen Kennedy producing, and of course, a triumphant score by the always brilliant John Williams ( that man has been so influential in my life!).

Even 18 years on, 19 come this summer, the film still works, and looks fantastic.

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