Movie: One of the biggest controversies in marketing DVDs is the way so many titles are re-released over and over again; often with little new material (if any) and nothing significant to add to the previous editions. DVD fans refer to this as the "double dip" dilemma. Nowadays, you can just about bet a moderately popular DVD release will have a second, third, and sometimes even a fourth release with a host of nomenclature like "Special Edition", "Collector's Edition", or any of a number of other little titles to enhance the perceived quality of the new release. Today's review of a well known trilogy of films all put together in a value package, Jurassic Park Adventure Pack: The Franchise Collection, is another example of marketing savvy playing to a whole new audience. Here's my take on the set, keeping in mind that I saw each of them in the theatres, bought the original DVD releases, and still have a fond place in my collection for the creative little trilogy.
The first title in the package is, of course, Jurassic Park, the film based on the Michael Crichton novel. The movie was released 12 years ago to an appreciative audience and still stands the test of time in many ways as a thriller. The novel spent a lot of time concentrating on chaos theory (still in its infancy to most of the public) whereby complex systems are known to breakdown, particularly those with many variables. The premise was simple; a rich entrepreneur, John Malcolm (Richard Attenborough) uses modern technology to bring dinosaurs back to life by extracting their DNA from insects captured in amber deposits. He has the idea that a modern theme park set on an island off the coast of Costa Rica would not only reap great profits but also propel him into the history books. At the bequest of the insurance companies backing the project, he hires a paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), his assistant, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and a curmudgeon of a scientist, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to evaluate the accuracy and safety of the project that is all but finished. The trio ends up victims of corporate sabotage that frees the dinosaurs and puts them on the menu of the hungry creature's appetites. Between a mean Tyrannosaurus Rex, a number of velociraptors, and other critters, they must use their wits to stay alive, save a couple of children, and restore the institutional controls to keep the creatures from spreading to the mainland.
Okay, this is one of the top grossing movies of all time and for good reason; the effects pushed the envelop beyond anything made previously and the ability of director Steven Spielberg to make the world believe dinosaurs could be brought to life sealed the deal. There's no denying that the book was better in more ways then I could count but this was a film that really added a new dynamic to the book it was based on. Each has a lot to offer and I only wish more thrillers were made with such care as Jurassic Park.
The second movie of the set was four years later and called The Lost World: Jurassic Park. This time, the story took place on a second island in the area and moneyman John Hammond had a slightly different agenda; he wanted to preserve the second island as a form of animal sanctuary. With numerous new dinosaurs and settings, the cast was led by Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), his girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), videographer Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) and others as they seek to document the island that has come to some sort of stasis with the wildlife existing almost as a completely perfect ecosphere. Ian goes to "rescue" his girlfriend and the crew finds themselves at odds with the hunting party organized by InGen's new corporate leadership; a band of ruthless hunters determined to capture many of the dinosaurs for presentation in a whole new arena; a San Diego facility in the heart of civilization. The dangers inherent in this idea quickly become evident and a little adventure on the mainland with some of the creatures provide a lot of laughs (some even intentional) after the initial thrills of the revisited idea were explored. Of particular interest is the antagonist hunter, Roland Tempo (Pete Postlethwaite), who leads the expedition to exploit the creatures for InGen solely for the chance to hunt the most dangerous game available.
This was another high grossing movie but it was almost like a selection of ideas that were left out of the first movie and cast together in order to profit on the popularity of the franchise. Still, for all the complaints about it being a retread movie and largely lacking in new ideas, the only thing about it that really didn't sit well was the heavy handed message about corporate greed driven far beyond the initial movie's manner (which was also pretty heavy handed at that) and the numerous times when the characters would act out of character in various situations. The "Gee Whiz" factor was substantially lessened too but this was at least partially offset by improved special effects and a larger budget to work with.
The third movie, Jurassic Park III, was notable in that Michael Crichton had nothing to do with it, nor did Steven Spielberg direct it. This time, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) is hired to provide a yuppie couple (played by Tea Leoni and William Macy) a tour of the dinosaur island (from The Lost World) but soon finds that he's been lied to as the expedition is a rescue mission for their young son. There was a side plot about how the velociraptors communicated but most of the time; this substantially shorter movie (clocking in at over a half hour shorter than the previous two shows) was more of a roller coaster ride than anything else. The special effects looked lower budget this time in many sequences but my overall impression is that the script was made more to turn a profit than anything else. The suspense, thrills, and edge of the seat ride the first two films proved to be were sacrificed in order to churn out another volume. It wasn't as bad as many of the professional critics proclaimed it to be but it wasn't anything beyond a fluff piece action ride either. Perhaps if the script had been finished before production started on the film, this wouldn't have been as big an issue but it had a few moments of ingenuity worth checking out a few times.
This boxed set of the three movies was not the first time they were marketed together (and I suspect they won't be the last as a fourth volume is said to be in pre-production) and it had nothing new in terms of extras, remastered picture and/or sound. Initial copies had a movie ticket to the current release of King Kong but that's it. There was no additional disc of extras as had been released previously either. So if you have the previous volumes of the trilogy, there'd be no reason to even look at this one but if you've never seen the movies in question, this value pack (found on sale recently for well under $20, including the movie ticket) could be considered as highly regarded. I hate splitting ratings on such sets since this is yet another all or nothing marketing attempt but I'm going to rate it as Recommended for the amount of bang for the buck you get this time. I'm going to hold onto my previous DTS releases until a HD remastering comes along but this was a solid package of entertainment, even if it added nothing new to the equation.
Picture: Jurassic Park Adventure Pack: The Franchise Collection was presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen color as originally shot by directors Steven Spielberg and Joe Johnston. There were a number of minor goofs where wires or other background items interfered with the shots but overall, a lot of care was used to blend the computer generated images (CGI) with the mechanical dinosaurs and backgrounds of the three movies. There were definite improvements made from the first to second film and even the inferior looking third film looked better than many contemporary films in the action genre. There was some grain in the first movie that looked largely cleaned up in the later volumes of the franchise but there were other matters improved on like the effects to think about as well. Further, the fleshtones were accurate; the composition of the shots enhanced the believability of the movies and the amount of edge enhancement and video noise minimal at best.
Sound: Jurassic Park, and The Lost World were presented in a very detailed and rich 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English as the primary audio track. They also had a 2.0 French track as well but it lacked the separation, the fine bass, and the tremendous detail that made the main track so solid in terms of enhancing the movie(s). Jurassic Park III had a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track in English and French but also included a superior DTS track in English that was substantially better in overall quality. I only wish the original two flicks had the DTS track as well but the melding of sight and sound was exceptional compared to other movies made at the same time. There were Spanish subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired too.
Extras: The extras were the same for this package as the original single disc releases of the three movies with the exception that the early volumes of the DVD set come with a movie ticket for King Kong. Considering the price of the set and the cost of a movie ticket (running about $8 locally); this made for a tremendous value. Jurassic Park had a lengthy Making of featurette (as did all of the movies), a dinosaur encyclopedia (again, each of them did), production notes, a special about animatics by Phil Tippett, a section of biographies of the cast and crew, storyboards, sketches, photographs, trailers, and some DVD ROM material. The Lost World added in some more of these features, a few deleted scenes, and some commentary of the material. Jurassic Park III, added in an audio commentary by the special effects team, a tour of the Stan Winston studio, more footage, a tour of ILM, a tour of a dinosaur dig in Montana, some dinosaur models in 3D, and more drawings. The boxed set opened up as though it were doors to the park itself (from the first movie) and had a foldout case for the three discs.
Final Thoughts: Jurassic Park Adventure Pack: The Franchise Collection was a solid entertainment package for the handful of people that don't already own the original releases and don't care about having a DTS audio track for the first two movies. While it didn't add anything to the previous releases that I could see in a scene by scene comparison, it was still a pretty good set to give out during the holiday season to those just getting into the DVD format. In many ways, Jurassic Park holds up to the test of time even 13 years later as a tribute to the kind of vision Spielberg and Crichton had when they presented it to an adoring public but the second had some merit and the third was a decent little exercise in mindless fun for those willing to turn off their higher brain functions.