Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary Collection (4k UHD Review)
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.
JURASSIC PARK III (2001)
Jurassic Park III was directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, October Sky, and Captain America: The First Avenger) from an original script. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as compelling a story as it may have been had there been a further Michael Crichton novel to adapt. This time around, yet another rich couple (played by William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) has allowed their teenaged son to go wind surfing with a family friend near the same island seen in The Lost World. Naturally, something goes wrong and the pair ends up stuck on the island. So the rich couple seeks out Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill, reprising his role from the original film) and pays him to come to the island with them under false pretenses. They tell him they want him to give them a guided aerial tour of the island, but they actually mean to land and rescue their son. Once again, things go wrong and soon they’re all fighting for survival.
As with the first two films, Jurassic Park III was shot on 35 mm film, this time with Panavision and Arriflex cameras and Panavision 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 resulting image is good, but oddly not as good looking as the previous film and it’s hard to say why. Again, there’s a slight lack in the finest detail in the image, with some shots that look as if they’ve been grain-reduced a bit. The visual effects here are improved over those of the previous two films in both detail and resolution, but they still aren’t up to modern standards. That, of course, is to be expected. More troubling though is the fact that the high dynamic range grade feels very restrained; it’s almost like it was done by another company. The blacks aren’t as nearly deep as the previous film in 4K, nor are the highlights as brightly natural. The wider color gamut is okay, with some enrichment of the film’s color palette, but not nearly as much as you’d expect. This is really a rather dull and lifeless image, not at all what you expect from the Ultra HD format. In every respect, it’s only minimally improved over the previous Blu-ray edition.
At least the new object-based English DTS:X mix is great, though it’s not quite as impressive as the two previous films. But again it offers a big and wide soundstage, with terrific atmospherics and smooth, natural panning. The height channels are active not just in the usual ground-based dinosaur attacks, but also in the plane crash sequence, and especially in the Pteranodon aviary. Dialogue is clean and clear, and the score by Don David is treated well. Additional audio options include French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS, with optional subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.
This time around, the 4K disc actually includes a bonus feature (carried over from the previous Blu-ray edition):
- Audio commentary with the Special Effects Team
You also get the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray (the same disc as before). It includes the same commentary and adds the following extras (most in the original SD):
- Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure (HD – 25:20)
- The Making of Jurassic Park III (SD – 22:43)
- The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III (SD – 7:52)
- The Special Effects of Jurassic Park III (SD – 10:21)
- The Industrial Light & Magic Press Reel (SD – 10:14)
- The Sounds of Jurassic Park III (SD – 13:35)
- The Art of Jurassic Park III (SD – 7:55)
- Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs (SD – 4:21)
- Tour of Stan Winston Studio (SD – 3:14)
- Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane (SD – 1:48)
- Raptors Attack Udesky (SD – :59)
- The Lake (SD – 1:38)
- A Visit to ILM: Concepts (SD – 4 segments – 5:35 in all)
- A Visit to ILM: The Process (SD – 12 segments – 4:23 in all)
- A Visit to ILM: Muscle Simulation (SD – 2 segments – 2:32 in all)
- A Visit to ILM: Compositing (SD – 2 segments – 1:59 in all)
- Dinosaur Turntables (SD – 12 segments – 6:23 in all)
- Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison (SD – 3 segments – 6:08 in all)
- Production Photographs (SD – 2:50)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 1:16)
It’s a lot of material to be sure, but it’s also a lot drier than the extras for the previous films. Again, there’s D-Box motion code on the Blu-ray and you get a Movies Anywhere digital code.
Though mildly entertaining, Jurassic Park III is a pale shadow of the original film, essentially re-treading much of its plot elements and adding only the thrill of new locations and dinosaurs. Sadly, this 4K Ultra HD release is a complete disappointment from a visual standpoint, though its DTS:X mix is quite nice.
JURASSIC WORLD (2015)
Intended as both a sequel and a franchise re-launch, Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World takes place some twenty-two years after the original film. Isla Nubar, the original location of Jurassic Park, has been completely overhauled with an entirely new, grander, and more fully-realized theme park known as Jurassic World, funded by the billionaire Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan). Bryce Dallas Howard plays the administrator of Jurassic World, whose young nephews have come to visit for the weekend. Chris Pratt is on board too, as a US Navy veteran who’s attempting to train Velociraptors in a side project on the island. But while the overall commercial venture has been wildly successful, it seems that garden variety dinosaurs aren’t enough to thrill the kids anymore. So new, larger, and more terrible creatures must be engineered genetically to keep the profits rolling in… and unfortunately they’re a lot smarter than anyone expected. Naturally, chaos ensues.
Jurassic World was shot on photochemical film in a combination of Super 35 (most of the film) and 65 mm (for large-scale exteriors) using Arriflex and Panavision cameras with Panavision lenses, though a very few shots were apparently captured digitally in Redcode RAW (at 6K) using the Red Epic Dragon camera. The film was finished as a Digital Intermediate in 2.4K, upsampled to 4K and given a high dynamic range grade in HDR10. The result is presented here on Ultra HD in the original 2.00:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The result is a genuinely beautiful image from start to finish. Obviously, it’s still not full native 4K and the Super 35 footage tends to impart a stronger grain structure, but overall image detail is very nice and the addition of 65 mm footage really boosts the fine detail in a number of sequences – the first full vista of Jurassic World seem a hotel balcony is a perfect example. The high dynamic range enhances the contrast significantly with very deep and detailed blacks, truly bright highlights, and a more naturally-luminous image throughout. Colors are bold and vibrant, ever accurate, and richly-nuanced. The image isn’t quite reference quality, but it’s easily the highlight of this 4K box set, and the slightly more refined detail, HDR, and wider color gamut are a notable improvement upon the already good Blu-ray edition.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is offered in a fine English DTS:X object-based mix that delivers sonic muscularity but also lots of subtlety in the quieter moments. There’s a constant immersion early in the film, with soft crowd sounds, control room chatter, and jungle atmospherics. Staging is precise, with smooth and natural dialogue, crisp sound cues and panning, and a more restrained use of the height channels to complete the soundfield overhead. Michael Giacchino delivers a sparkling score that honors the original John Williams themes nicely while creating its own musical space. Additional audio options include French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese 5.1 DTS, along with optional subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.
Once again, there are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but you also get the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. That disc offers the following bonus features, all of them in full HD:
- Deleted Scenes (HD – 6:08)
- Chris & Colin Take on the World (HD – 8:57)
- Welcome to Jurassic World (HD – 29:52)
- Dinosaurs Roam Once Again (HD – 16:29)
- Jurassic World: All-Access Pass (HD – 10:11)
- Innovation Center Tour with Chris Pratt (HD – 2:01)
- Jurassic’s Closest Shaves – Presented by Barbasol (HD – 3:00)
Unfortunately, this content is all of a more glossy and EPK variety. There are a couple of decent items but nothing especially interesting. There’s also preview trailers for a number of other films and home video releases that play when you start the disc, though this film’s trailer is not included. Don’t forget that you also get a Movie’s Anywhere digital code.
Jurassic World isn’t exactly ground-breaking storytelling, but it does manage to be a fun and even somewhat refreshing take on familiar material. What’s more, the 4K Ultra HD release is the high water mark of this box set, quality-wise.
There you have it then... Universal’s new Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary Collection box set in a nutshell. Is this a must-have 4K Ultra HD release? No. But if you’re a diehard fan of this franchise and you can get it for the right price, it does offer a modest (and occasionally significant) image upgrade over the previous Blu-ray experience, with outstanding DTS:X audio presentations across the board, and you don’t lose any extras in the swap. So… call that a qualified recommendation.