Double Feature Showdown – 3D IMAX Top Gun vs. 3D IMAX Jurassic Park
I’m not a huge fan of 3D, and I am especially not fond of the current trend to retrofit older movies with it. But when I heard that they were releasing both Top Gun and Jurassic Park in 3D IMAX, I completely bought in to the hype. Large-scale fighter jets and sweaty 3D pilots? Check. “Multidimensional” T-Rex? Double check. My wildest dreams weren’t coming true or anything, but I was pretty darn excited about it. Both films rock my world, so I was predisposed to be happy, but which movie utilized the technology better? Read on to see which film reigned supreme!
Top Gun (1986): This movie came out when I was a senior in high school, and even though I was too punk to care about popular culture, I had a hell of a good time watching it. And why not? It transcends all cultural divides. Rebel Navy fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) and easy-going Goose (Anthony Edwards) are sent to an elite flying school called Top Gun. Maverick has a huge chip on his shoulder because his pilot father died in disgrace, and he has trouble fitting in with the other pilots, who don’t like him because he is a danger to himself and others. As he struggles to prove himself to the Top Gun brass, he falls for one of his instructors, Charlie (Kelly McGillis). As the competition heats up to see who is the best pilot, he suffers a devastating loss and is forced to examine his motivations, as well as decide who he wants to be in the future.
I have always loved this movie, and not just for the glaringly obvious homosexual subtext. Although I love that, too. (When my husband and I watch this together, we always say “In your pants” after one guy talks to another. It really makes it clear what’s going on in the movie.) I like it so much because it’s a cheesy, silly, wonderful film that is well paced and delivers something for everyone. Even though I know it is schmaltzy, it works because it does it so well. And there is tons of action. And male bonding. And interesting female characters. And unbelievable love scenes. And shirtless volleyball playing. What’s not to love here? I really enjoyed it in 3D IMAX, because everything in this movie is well served by being as huge as possible. All the emotions in this film are cranked up to 11, and it is only fitting that the images be as well. I had a really good time, and felt my resistance to 3D retrofitting slightly erode.
Jurassic Park (1993): Science doctors Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are brought to a mysterious South American island to placate insurers of a new dinosaur theme park, Jurassic Park. Creator John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is trying to get them to sign off on the safety of everything, and treats them to a preview of the wonders that are to come. He’s not only created an amazing prehistoric experience, he’s created actual dinosaurs by extracting DNA from mosquitoes encased in amber. Along for the ride are his grandchildren and a lawyer. The tour starts out rather fun, but things turn sour after sabotage and bad weather cause the power systems to fail, letting dangerous dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor escape. Things go from bad to worse, and they must figure out how to get the power back on before they all get killed. Also, Jeff Goldblum does beefcake poses.
Here is my favorite Jurassic Park story. One day while watching it with my daughter’s-brother-who-is-not-my-child, about halfway through, he looked up at me with what seemed to be equal parts dread and hope. “Is this based on a real story?” It broke my heart to tell him no, because I want to go there, too. I love this movie. It is nearly perfect, and great for watching on a weekend night when you want to watch something thrilling but familiar. All the performances are good; I am particularly fond of Samuel L. Jackson as a chain-smoking computer programmer. There isn’t really that much to say. It’s an amazing movie and if you have not seen it yet, you are doing yourself a great disservice. And it’s got dinosaurs! The special effects in this are in no way dated, and I think the 3D IMAX enhances them quite nicely. I’ll tell you one thing, the scenes with the Tyrannosaurus Rex were so scary that I jumped in my seat, and I’ve seen the movie quite a few times.
The Winner: I’m not gonna lie. I love both of these movies equally and for different reasons. Top Gun is an awesome cheesefest of testosterone and planes. Jurassic Park is a rousing adventure with dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum’s chest. In the real world, they live peaceably, coexisting side-by-side in my heart. However, in 3D IMAX world, there is a clear winner, and the choice is based purely on the 3D, not the IMAX. The 3D in Top Gun is kind of cool, but ultimately forgettable. It’s not particularly noticeable, and most of the increased awesomeness comes from the IMAX. It’s a whole other story for Jurassic Park though. The 3D is cool, most especially—as I’ve mentioned before—in the Tyrannosaurus scenes. It was pretty intense, and a fine example of what 3D should be used for. Really, you should watch both movies as often as you can, but if you could only watch one in 3D IMAX, then it should be Jurassic Park.