Jurassic Park celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Timed for the upcoming theatrical release of Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, home video critic Terry Broadnax reviews the recent Universal Home Video UHD BD release of this classic with 2180p UHD imaging, Dolby Vision HDR and DTS X sound.
A brief history, 65.25 million years in the making . . . .
I am stunned. It has been 25 years since Jurassic Park stomped onto the big screen, and yet it seems as fresh and entertaining as the day it was released. For those of us that lived before the dawn of the CGI age, Jurassic Park was groundbreaking on that front – taking CGI where no man has gone before. I distinctly remember a discussion where Phil Tippet announced to the model builders and set crafters the production was going all-digital, the words “we may be extinct” (much like the Dinosaurs they were working on) left his mouth.
Jurassic Park not only raised the bar with visual effects, but sound as well. This movie was the début of Digital Theatre Systems Digital audio format, which was the first sound format NOT included on the 35mm film reel itself. Their initial rollout of the format via Jurassic Park was huge, with many theaters having to upgrade their sound system to accommodate it. Jurassic Park went on to win an Oscars for sound and visual effects, and at least 36 more awards in the same area from different film based organizations.
In one interview, Stephen Spielberg mentioned Jurassic Park was not about dinosaurs. It was about human emotional interplay and interaction, with dinosaurs being the backdrop and supporting elements. He also made similar comments about Jurassic World and Jurassic Park III. As a viewer, I was surprised by this comment as it seems to be the other way around for me. I am not sure I need to go into great detail and prose about the storyline of Jurassic Park (everyone should know all about that by now), it has been released previously on multiple formats (5 to be exact), and has been reviewed to death on that level. So let’s dive in on the audio and video quality of recently released Ultra High Definition Blu-ray disc.
How does the new UHD BD look?
Admittedly, I have owned Jurassic Park on laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and now the UHD BD disc. For comparison purposes (since there is no updated Blu-ray included with this release), I used the last release (complete with updated 7.1 audio, but using a ported over video encode from the previous release) as a baseline. I will admit I was never completely satisfied with the look of the previous Jurassic Park release on Blu-ray disc. There was plenty of detail, and overall the image looked great. However, there were these fleeting moments where things visually went off track – and it was very noticeable. The 2160p HVEC 4K image on the UHD BD represents a subtle but noticeable boost over the Bluray disc. With the inclusion of HDR and a wider color gamut, this release is much more satisfying to the eyes. The visuals are more firm, the colors are more saturated; images are sharper and better resolved, with blacker blacks and whiter whites. I noticed things that I had not noticed before, and that is a testament to the uptick in resolution, high dynamic range and wider color gamut.
All is not perfect though, as there is some edge haloes, pop’s and specks, image variances (though not as bad as the Blu-ray release), and signs of digital noise reduction. These issues are fleeting, noticeable, and cannot be ignored. Overall, this is a good (not great) release, and certainly an improvement from past releases on various video formats. For those of you film grain haters, you may or may not find the film grain objectionable; I didn’t.
How does DTS:X mix sound?
Sound wise, Jurassic Park just plain kicks behind and always has. Whether it was the original 5.1 release on Laserdisc, DVD (which did have some initial sound issues reported, but I didn’t notice it), or the previous box set which contained an up mixed 7.1 soundtrack, this is where Jurassic Park absolutely shines. Granted a DTS: X immersive remix, it takes Jurassic Park to a whole new sonic level. The sound effects (dinosaur roars and footsteps) are intense; with a powerful low-end that literally shakes the paint off the walls. The John William’s score has plenty of space and air to breathe, and I could actually sense where each instrument was placed within the frontal sound field. Dialog is always clean and clear, even during passages full of sonic mayhem. The entire hemispheric sound field is put to good use with objects specifically directed, swirling, and spinning all around. When played at reference level, the soundtrack is extremely intense at times, and will most certainly challenge even the best audio systems.
Is Jurassic Park worth the upgrade to UHD disc? In my opinion yes! While the visuals could use some cleaning and remastering, the sound is top drawer. It certainly looks better than it has on previous formats, but not as good as other recently released top tier movies. This new Jurassic Park release comes with the full series of 4 movies, all which benefit from an upgrade from Blu-ray to UHD disc. There is ample extra content as well, which makes the set a great value. If you love the series, pull out that plastic card, point the mouse, and click it toot sweet!
On Digital HD and UHD BD now, Jurassic Park is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.