At the Movies: Jurassic Park 3D; G.I. Joe: Retaliation

This week I had to choose between “Jurassic Park,” a 20-year-old movie that I’ve seen a dozen times before, or a remake of the horror classic “Evil Dead.” Since the latter was missing two key ingredients — Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell — I went with the dinosaurs.

And since I had some free time and an AMC gift card, I also got caught up with the new “G.I. Joe” movie which opened last week.

Jurassic Park 3D

Can we cut straight to the chase here? I’m sure we’ve all seen “Jurassic Park.” It came out in 1993. It was a big hit. It spawned two sequels. If you weren’t old enough to see it on the big screen then you probably saw it at home on TV. My copy is on VHS, which should give you some idea how old it is.

So I shouldn’t need to go over the plot or the quality of the acting and special effects. There’s really only one thing you want to know with regards to leaving the house to go see “Jurassic Park” again and paying for it: Is the 3D worth the effort?

In my opinion, — no, not really.

jurassic-park-3d-posterOh, it’s still a good movie. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen it’s probably worth your time. But if you’re going because you want to experience the T-Rex charging at the jeep like it’s charging right at you — you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re going to see the velociraptors chase those poor kids in the kitchen thinking it’s going to feel like they’re chasing you — it’s not that good a 3D conversion. 

If you want really good, “Avatar”-style 3D, then you need to shoot the film in 3D using special the 3D cameras James Cameron and his crew invented for “Avatar.” Taking a 20-year-old movie that was originally shot in 2D and converting it rarely gives you the kind of eye-popping visuals that modern audiences have come to expect. There are moments when you notice the depth of field, but it usually occurs when two humans are standing, one behind another. Not really what you paid the premium for, is it?

And frankly, “Jurassic Park” isn’t really a good candidate for this kind of treatment anyway. Unlike modern action movies that deliver thrills from the moment the “please turn off your cellphone” commercial ends, “Jurassic Park” is a slow burn. Director Steven Spielberg takes f o r e v e r to get to the first serious action bit.

At least half of the film is taken up by talking — talking about chaos theory and dinosaur-t0-bird evolution and cloning and flea circuses. It’s interesting talk (except for the bit about flea circuses) but do you really need to experience that in three dimensions?

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Now if you’re looking for a 3D movie where the 3D actually enhances the action, then Go Joe. Quality-wise, it’s nowhere near as good as “Jurassic Park,” but it gets by as a big, dumb, live-action cartoon based on toys. It also features one of the most thrilling action sequences I’ve seen in some time.

GI_Joe-_Retaliation_27This sequel is considerably better than its predecessor — “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” — but then that’s a pretty low bar to cross. Dwayne Johnson has joined the elite force as Roadblock and he brings the necessary mixture of testosterone and charisma to the party. Bruce Willis also puts in an appearance as the original G.I. Joe. He doesn’t have much to do but almost any movie can be improved by having Bruce Willis show up.

Picking up from where we left off in 2009, the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) has been replaced by a Cobra agent. (Cobra being an evil organization bent on world domination).  The faux-president sends the Joes into an ambush, frees Cobra Commander from prison and puts the nations of the world into a nuclear collision course. It’s up to the few remaining Joes to make things right.

Directed by Jon M. Chu, “Retaliation” is full of explosions and craziness. There are plot holes you could drive two tanks through. Twelve-year-old boys and men with 12-year-old sensibilities should enjoy it.

The movie does have its moments. The opening action bit features Flint (D.J. Cotrona, or more likely his stunt double) doing some nifty parkour while shooting bad guys. But the highlight features Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Jinx (Elodie Yung) fighting off a squad of evil ninjas while zip-lining in the mountains of China.

Now that’s good use of 3D.

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