DirectorSteven Spielberg, Joe Johnston, Colin Trevorrow
Release Date(s)1993-2015 (May 22, 2018)
Studio(s)Amblin Entertainment/Legendary Pictures (Universal Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B
- Overall Grade: B
As popular as the Jurassic Park franchise has become over the years, and this being the 25th anniversary of the original Steven Spielberg classic, it’s no surprise that these films would be an obvious target for release on the 4K Ultra HD format by Universal. But doing so poses a unique set of challenges, as evident in the studio’s new Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary Collection, which presents the first four films in this series in both 4K and standard Blu-ray in a single package.
I should note up front that this has been one of the more complicated 4K Ultra HD reviews I’ve done yet at The Digital Bits. A certain sense of perspective has to be maintained here and expectations have to be managed a bit. The first three titles in this set, Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Jurassic Park III were all produced at a time when digital visual effects and post production technology was relatively primitive and limited in resolution (sub-2K, and just 1K in the case of the original film).
In general, the way the pre-Digital Intermediate post production process worked was this: Once final editing decisions were made on a film by the director and editor, the original camera negative would be edited to conform to those choices in a cut negative. Fades, transitions, titles were done in an optical printer – the original camera negative for those shots would be copied to an interpositive, from which an internegative (sometimes called a dupe negative) would be created. Those internegative elements would be run through the optical printer and re-photographed onto another internegative with those transitions now built in – that piece of film would then be edited into the cut negative with the original camera neg. Visual effects, produced digitally in a computer, would be scanned out to original negative, then copied to interpositive and then to internegative – again, that piece of film would be edited into the cut negative with the original camera neg. Once you had a cut negative that included all the finished visuals, a new and properly color-timed interpositive would be created of the final film (this is essentially your finished master element). From that, several more internegatives (or dupe negatives) would be created and it’s from those that release prints would be made.
To release a film produced this way in 4K Ultra HD, the studio typically goes back and scans the original cut negative (which again, includes both original camera negative and internegative with finished visual effects and optical transitions) to create a 4K file – that’s going to get you the best possible image. This is then digitally restored to remove dust, artifacts, and age related damage, and to ensure the proper color timing. An additional grade is done for high dynamic range and wide color gamut. The result is a final Digital Intermediate or master element. Now, the explanation I’ve just offered is simplified a bit and there are always exceptions. I’m sure more expert readers will pick a nit or two, but I’m trying to boil things down for those readers who may love 4K Ultra HD but aren’t cine-nerds like some of the rest of us. The point is, what I’ve described is the general process to keep in mind.
Now again, for the first three films (finished in 1993, 1997, and 2001, respectively) the visual effects resolution was sub 2K and often 1K. As such, short of extraordinary efforts (specifically, completely re-doing all of the visual effects in native 4K resolution – which has not happened here), those shots are just not going to look as good as the rest of the film. Some of you may be wondering: Why not re-do all of the visual effects in native 4K resolution? There are a few reasons. Cost, for one (but that’s not as often the driver as you’d think). There’s also the fact that doing so would alter the original experience of the film… and keep in mind that the original Jurassic Park’s visual effects – primitive though they are by today’s standards – were revolutionary at the time. But often the biggest obstacle is simply this: It’s possible that many of the original digital animation files no longer exist. Either no one ever thought they’d be needed again so they weren’t saved, or they may have become corrupted (as can happen to magnetic media over time), or the surviving files may be incompatible with today’s rendering software.
As an example, I wrote a lot of term papers in back in college (in the early 90s) on an Apple IIe and saved them to floppy discs. Even if I still had those discs, which I don’t, I certainly don’t have a floppy disc drive to read them. A few printed copies are all that’s left. In the case of the Jurassic Park films, the equivalent are those pieces of internegative with digital VFX printed on them… low resolution warts and all.
So what’s the point of all this? When evaluating these films on 4K Ultra HD, you have to keep all of the above in mind. Some of this stuff is just not going to compare to modern films released on the Ultra HD format. Ultimately, the question becomes this: Does the picture and sound experience here on UHD improve upon the previous Blu-ray editions in a substantial way? And the answer here is yes… mostly… especially if you’re a diehard Jurassic Park fan. But you can’t expect miracles and the degree of improvement depends on the specific film you’re talking about.
All right, with all of that context established, let’s look at the films in this box set one by one…
Jurassic Park (1993)
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park tells the story of a group of scientists (played by Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum) who are invited to preview a new theme park on an island near Costa Rica by the billionaire philanthropist John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, brother of the famed naturalist David Attenborough). But this isn’t just any old theme park; using genetic technology and DNA found in insects trapped in amber for millions of years, Hammond and his team have filled this “Jurassic Park” with living, breathing dinosaurs. Joining the scientists on their tour are Hammond’s young grandchildren, who are eager to see Tyrannosaurs, Brontosaurs, and all the rest. And see them they will, because life will find a way… and it appears that Hammond and his team have forgotten Murphy’s Law.
Jurassic Park was shot on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras and Primo spherical lenses. Whatever film element was scanned in 4K for Jurassic Park, it’s been given a high dynamic range grade in HDR10, and is presented on Ultra HD at the proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. One would certainly hope that Universal went back to the original camera negative for 4K scanning (and the original dupe neg for visual effects shots), though all of the first three films in this set have a softness to their grain structure that suggests the interpositives could have been scanned instead (it’s hard to say for sure and that’s just a guess). In the case of this film, it looks like some of the live action footage may have been de-grained a tiny bit via digital noise reduction to better match the low resolution of the optically-printed transitions and visual effects shots. The strange thing is, some of the live action looks terrific, just as you’d expect, while other portions have a slightly-digital, slightly-processed look. There’s decent image detail overall, but there’s sometimes an absence of the finest detail you’d normally see in faces and skin tones. Select shots also occasionally have slight contrast haloing. Of course, the visual effects shots have obvious edge enhancement baked into them – but that’s not new, it’s always been there and is to be expected. So from a detail standpoint alone, the improvement over standard Blu-ray with this film is relatively minimal. On the other hand, the HDR does enhance the experience a good deal, with somewhat deeper blacks and genuinely brighter highlights. But the biggest improvement by far is gained in the 4K’s wider color gamut, which results in much more stable, accurate, and vibrant color, with noticeably greater nuance and variety of subtle gradations. This film has certainly never looked better that it does here, but the Ultra HD presentation has a frustratingly hit-or-miss quality that suggests the process was a bit rushed, or that a few too many compromises were made.
The great news is that the 4K disc sounds fantastic. Primary audio is included in a new object-based English DTS:X mix that delivers all the “Wow” factor you’re hoping for. The soundstage is huge and highly atmospheric, with lively surround activity, smooth panning and thunderous low end. Dialogue is clean and natural, environmental cues and ambient sounds are ever-present, and John Williams’ beloved score is presented in fine clarity and fidelity. The height channels engage often, not just in the obvious scenes (helicopter flights, dinosaur attacks, etc) but also to add more subtle immersion. Of course, when the famed T-Rex roars, you’ll feel it in your chest. Additional audio options include French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS, with optional subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.
There are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but the film is included in 1080p HD on Blu-ray as well. It’s not mastered from the new presentation, but is rather the exact same disc released previously. It includes the following extras (most produced for the original DVD release and so in SD):
- Return to Jurassic Park: Dawn of a New Era (HD – 25:25)
- Return to Jurassic Park: Making Prehistory (HD – 20:16)
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Next Step in Evolution (HD – 15:03)
- The Making of Jurassic Park (SD – 49:39)
- Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (SD – 4:50)
- Steven Spielberg Directs Jurassic Park (SD – 9:07)
- Hurricane in Kauai (SD – 2:09)
- Early Pre-Production Meetings (SD – 6:20)
- Location Scouting (SD – 1:59)
- Phil Tippett Animatics: Raptors in the Kitchen (SD – 3:04)
- Animatics: T-Rex Attack (SD – 7:21)
- ILM and Jurassic Park: Before and After the Visual Effects (SD – 6:32)
- Foley Artists (SD – 1:25)
- Storyboards (5 galleries)
- Production Archives (3 galleries)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:18)
- Jurassic Park: Making the Game (HD – 4:43)
The Blu-ray also offers D-Box motion code, for those who have such systems. And there’s a paper insert in the packaging that includes Movies Anywhere digital codes for all four films in this set. The packaging itself is essentially a cardboard book, with pages that house each disc, and a slipcover to protect it all.
Jurassic Park looks better than ever, and its color and contrast are strongly improved over the previous Blu-ray release, though it’s certainly not up to the level of most other films in 4K in terms of image detail. It does, however, deliver a damn great DTS:X audio experience, so there’s that.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Also based on a novel by Michael Crichton, and again directed by Steven Spielberg, The Lost World: Jurassic Park begins with a rich family that’s vacationing on a different island near Costa Rica. While there, their young daughter is injured by a swarm of tiny dinosaurs, so her parents file a lawsuit against Hammond’s company InGen. It turns out that this second island was where the dinosaurs were originally created, but it was abandoned after a hurricane. Now, after the failure of Jurassic Park, InGen’s new CEO (who is also Hammond’s nephew) wants to exploit that original island to save the company. But in a turnabout, Hammond wants it left alone as a kind of prehistoric nature reserve. So he contacts Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) for help. But Malcolm soon learns that another scientist (Julianne Moore) is already on the island to document the ecosystem there… his own girlfriend. So he agrees to lead an expedition to the island, not to help Hammond but to rescue his girlfriend. Meanwhile, InGen’s CEO is sending an expedition of his own to the island. He plans to capture the dinosaurs there and bring them to a new Jurassic Park… in San Diego of all places.
Like the original, The Lost World: Jurassic Park was shot on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras and Primo spherical lenses. It was scanned in native 4K, given a high dynamic range grade in HDR10, and is presented on Ultra HD at the proper 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The good news is that this film looks spectacular. Save for its visual effects shots, which were again produced in the low resolution of the time, there’s much more fine detail visible in this image and it’s more consistent as well. Even the film’s optically-printed shots (titles and dissolves) look better here, with improved detail and grain density. But the visual effects shots look better too, still low resolution but better than the original film, which one can probably attribute to simple technology improvements between 1993 and 1997. The high dynamic range greatly improves the contrast here, with truly deep blacks and naturally bright highlights. And once again, the wider color gamut adds much greater vibrance, accuracy, and subtle gradations to the film’s color palette. The Blu-ray version of this film was good, but this is significantly better – a pleasing upgrade.
What’s more, the object-based English DTS:X mix here is even better that the original, genuinely reference quality. It delivers a big wide soundstage, with terrific clarity and dynamics. Bass is both tremendous and effortless, while the surrounds are lively with smooth effects panning and atmospheric cues. There are many scenes that reveal the precision of object-based audio, including the Velociraptor attack in the tall grass and the swarm of tiny Compsognathus that surround the little girl in the film’s opening. The height channels engage often for both subtle and bombastic sounds during various dinosaur encounters – especially the twin T-Rex attack on the research trailers – not to mention the Stegosaurus battle, and during the second expedition’s effort to herd and capture various dinosaurs. Again, John Williams’ score sounds terrific. Additional audio options include French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS, with optional subtitles available in English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.
As with the first film, there are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but the package includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray (the same edition released previously). That disc includes the following extras (most produced for the original DVD release and so in SD):
- Deleted Scenes (SD – 7:09)
- Return to Jurassic Park: Finding The Lost World (HD – 27:40)
- Return to Jurassic Park: Something Survived (HD – 16:30)
- The Making of The Lost World (SD – 53:14)
- Original Featurette on the Making of the Film (SD – 13:17)
- The Jurassic Park Phenomenon: A Discussion with Author Michael Crichton (SD – 15:27)
- The Compie Dance Number: Thank You Steven Spielberg from ILM (SD – 1:38)
- ILM & The Lost World: Before & After the Visual Effects (SD – 20:44)
- Production Archives (6 galleries)
- Storyboards (12 galleries)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:58)
Again, there’s also D-Box motion code and the aforementioned Movies Anywhere digital code.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 4K is a significant upgrade over the previous Blu-ray edition and a worthy Ultra HD release in its own right.