How are the movies?
Jurassic Park is an absolutely marvelous piece of filmmaking, one of the best of its kind ever created. There's nothing I - or anyone else - is going to say that's going to change what you first thought of the film upon seeing it some 18 years ago. You either love it or don't, and if you don't, you are a very rare breed. Not loving either The Lost World or Jurassic Park III is a little more understandable, but, again, opinions on those films were cemented long ago. There's just something about all three of these films that's timeless; each are as awe-inspiring (JP), as mixed-bag (JP2) or as playful (JP3) in 2011 as they were when you first saw them. The Jurassic Park Trilogy doesn't get better or worse with age, each film simply transcends aging.
And even though this is a franchise where the numbers don't seem to tell the full picture of just what this franchise means to fans like me, out of curiosity, what say the numbers?
What are the vital stats on the discs?
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date: October 25th, 2011
Edition: Ultimate Trilogy
Number of Discs: 3 x 50GB Dual-Layer BDs
Digital Copy: Yes, individual codes for all three films are included
Runtime: 348 minutes, total
Video: 1080p, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1, French DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
How do they look and sound?
The first thing that will blow you away about this Blu-ray set isn't the video quality, it's the audio. It starts with John Williams' instantly transportive score and it continues with every waveform, be it as large as the T-Rex's stomps, as piercing as a velociraptor's squal, or as subtle as the sound of Dr. Sattler sifting through dino dung. Of course, there shouldn't be much surprise there because, as Spielberg points out in one of the (many) making-of featurettes, Jurassic Park was the first film to have a digital soundtrack. It's presented in 7.1 here and every channel sounds just cracking. The only less-than-glowing thing that can be said about the sound mix on any of the films is that Jurassic Park 3 comes across very heavy on the low frequencies, particularly when the T-Rex fights the Spinosaurus, though it's clear this is by design and not a mixing fluke-- and it probably only stands out if you marathon the films back-to-back.
As for the look of the films, the quality isn't quite as uniform across all three discs as the audio is. The original film looks absolutely stunning; the kind of HD preservation fans pray for. It never looks over processed or too digitally refined; it looks simply pristine, with lush color ranges utilizing plenty of bold greens and reds mixed with deep blacks. Things do look a little dated during some of the earlier, broad-daylight effects sequences, but that's not a fault of a disc, it's simply that HD shows the limitations of 1993 CGI. Frankly, it's a testament to how damned impressive the effects still are that they don't actually look worse given the newly available HD scrutiny (there's some noticeable masking jaggies on Sam Neil's sunglasses as he waves at the brachiasaurus, but that was really the only great HD offender I noticed). And once effects-friendly elements like rain and nightfall come into play, the quality goes up geometrically. To this day, the T-Rex jeep attack is one of the finest special effects sequences ever created.
Things aren't quite so satisfying on The Lost World. Despite being made four years after JP, there are two things that hurt the look of the first sequel: A) the need to drastically increase the dinosaur and body count, and B) Janusz Kaminski's cinematography. Because Kaminski's high-contrast style is so drastically different than Dean Cundy's shooting style on the first film, TLW often has dark areas that look crushed out and light sources that are overblown, resulting in far more soft edges than most expect from a Blu-ray these days (particularly in the film's earlier interior scenes). Combine that aesthetic with some CGI compositing that looks a bit rushed, and it's actually the least-impressive looking film of the trilogy.
And yes, that does mean that Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III is a better looking sequel than Spielberg's own. It's not just the benefit of another four years of progress on the CGI front, but because his film isn't trying to up the game. It heads straight for the middle line, and while that may hurt it in the story department, it means that the film's impressive animatronic sequences look just as good as its digital sequences (the pteranadon sequence is still better than most of what's in TLW).
Anything exclusive to the Blu-rays?
Technically speaking, the only exclusive features to the Blu-rays are the stock set of BD-Live malarkey (bookmarking scenes, a news ticker, pocket control), but that's only because Universal have also made this Ultimate Trilogy available on DVD. There are, however, over 2-hours of new special features produced exclusive for this "Ultimate" release. If you happened to check out Universal's brilliant BD set of the Back to the Future trilogy, then you'll know exactly what to expect from Return to Jurassic Park, a multi-part retrospective that is spread across all three of the set's discs (three parts on JP, two parts on TLW, one part on JP3).
These new interviews with the most important cast and crew from all three films make this set a must-own all by itself. Sure, there's some overlap of information that JP junkies might already know, but the presentation here is concise and entertaining, making tremendously efficient use of both vintage behind-the-scenes footage and brand new, shot-in-HD interviews. Even if Return to Jurassic Park didn't collectively represent the bible of JP insights, it would be worth watching just to see everyone as they are today totally geeking out about having been a part of such a remarkable film franchise.
What about non-exclusive features?
One of the (many) smart things Universal did when authoring this Ultimate Trilogy BD set was separating all of the new content from the old, giving each disc its own folders of "Archival Featurettes." There's a ton contained for all three films and while it would be laborious to break down each available segment, the totals should give you a gist of just how exhaustive the making-of materials are on these discs:
Jurassic Park - 93 minutes
The Lost World - 105 minutes
Jurassic Park 3 - 107 minutes
And that doesn't even include trailers, deleted scenes or the feature-length commentary track on Jurassic Park 3. Combine all the old and new together and it would take you well over 7 hours to watch everything across these three discs. Basically, it's such a robust offering, the only feature that I'd have loved to see that isn't available would be a dedicated score track.
Here's a simple question: Do you like the first Jurassic Park? If yes, then you absolutely must own the Ultimate Trilogy on Blu-ray. The price tag is worth it for the quality of the presentation and the special features on the first film alone. You could treat the other two films as bonus discs and you'd still be getting your money's worth.
And if you do happen to like all three films, owning this set is a foregone conclusion. There's no sane reason for you not to.