Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions
Jurassic Park III is directed by Joe Johnston and stars Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, and Michael Jeter. '
Jurassic Park III is a better sequel than The Lost World, but that is in and of itself no kind of meaningful achievement. The Lost World is a no-good follow up to the vastly superior Jurassic Park; the quality gap between those two films is so wide, it's impossible to fathom that both movies were directed by the same guy. Spielberg figured he would not direct another film in the franchise after The Lost World, and Joe Johnston had originally expressed interest in directing The Lost World, being told by Spielberg that he could direct a third film if one were to happen. And since The Lost World, by some other worldly miracle, grossed over $600 million worldwide, Universal decided a third film was in order, now with Spielberg serving as a producer and Joe Johnston sitting in the director's chair.
Here's the thing: Jurassic Park III doesn't feel at all like a Jurassic Park movie, one that is backed by rampant advertising and is deserving of a worldwide release. Quite the opposite actually: Jurassic Park III feels more like a Syfy Channel dinosaur B-movie of the week, one that you're likely to catch on a random Tuesday night and also just happens to feature Sam Neill's Alan Grant from Jurassic Park. What does put Jurassic Park III above The Lost World, however, is that Jurassic Park III accepts what it is and rolls with it; it knows it's not going to be anywhere close to what Jurassic Park was, so instead of trying to be some almighty spectacle that would have the foolish audacity to try and stand up to Jurassic Park, it settles for being nothing more than a fun, straight-forward dinosaur adventure, one where little thought is given towards writing and special effects.
The story of Jurassic Park III follows Dr. Alan Grant, now famous because of the Jurassic Park incident, as he struggles to explain why paleontology is still relevant, despite there now being actual dinosaurs. Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Tea Leoni) Kirby, a seemingly wealthy couple, approach Dr. Grant and tell him they will help fund his research if he does one thing: join them on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. Dr. Grant reluctantly agrees, his assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola) agreeing to join him on the trip. While on the plane. Dr. Grant learns that the Kirbys plan to actually land on the island, resulting in Dr. Grant getting knocked out by one of the accompanying mercenaries, Cooper (John Diehl), and waking up to find out that they did indeed land. Suddenly, a Spinosaurus approaches the group. The group attempts to escape on the plane, but they end up hitting the dinosaur and crashing in the forest.
The Kirbys reveal the truth to Dr. Grant: they are actually a middle-class divorced couple that tricked Dr. Grant into coming to the island in order to help them find their missing son Eric and Amanda's boyfriend Ben, who have been missing on the island for eight weeks. The group finds Ben's corpse, but no sign of Eric, giving them hope that he is still alive. As the group searches for Eric, they must avoid the Spinosaurus, as well as a pack of hungry, intelligent raptors.
Right from the start, it's clear to us that we are in for a bumpy ride: the opening scene shows Eric and Ben parasailing around the waters of Isla Sorna (despite Isla Sorna being a restricted area), until their boat crew is eaten by dinosaurs, forcing Ben to send he and Eric drifting towards the island. The green screen for the parasailing, especially as we watch Ben and Eric drift towards the island, is so painfully obvious that it hurts a little bit to look at. And while I don't think the effects get that bad for the rest of the movie, the careless attitude put on display for the special effects, the one thing you'd think these Jurassic Park movies would want to do right, ought to have been the kiss of death for the franchise and not its insertion into cold storage for the next 14 years.
- Jurassic Park III manages to dish out some entertaining sequences and an all-around sense of fun, with a new mash-up of dinosaurs that we didn't see in the previous two films, primarily the Spinosaurus (even though it is so obviously substituting for the T-Rex who gets axed off pretty early on) and a flock of Pteranadons. These two dinosaurs lead to some fairly entertaining sequences, and honestly, it's more entertaining than the few thrills found in The Lost World.
- The raptors are back in action; this time, the movie takes more time to emphasize that the raptors are incredibly smart and know how to work together in packs, such as setting a trap with a dead body in order to try and lure one of the Kirbys out in the open. It's unfortunate that the raptors in Jurassic Park III end up being quite the disappointment, no raptor scene coming even close to the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park. Well, one raptor scene is memorable, memorable for being the worst moment in the entire franchise: Dr. Grant falls asleep and has a brief nightmare in which he sees Billy with a raptor head that exclaims, "Alan!" The raptors are the closest thing that the movie ever comes to having an antagonist (not the Spinosaurus because much more of the plot is dependent on the raptors), though the climactic encounter with the raptors at the end of the film is perhaps the most anti-climactic thing in the entire franchise.
- Oh gosh, the writing. The characters aren't complete idiots like they are in The Lost World, but there are a series of horrid plot contrivances, such as the use of a flashlight battery in order to power up a camera, as well as an ending that is about as forced as any ending could be. We're also bombarded with repetitive dialogue (the Kirbys non-stop say to each other, "We'll find Eric! We'll find him!") that wears old incredibly fast. The screenplay for the film is presented as if screenwriters Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor all procrastinated until the night before their final draft was due: the result feels rushed, sloppy, and above all else, lazy. I guess that's what happens when you don't try to live up to Jurassic Park's name.
There are plenty of not very nice things you can say about Jurassic Park III: it has some awful special effects, it lacks any kind of meaningful depth, and it continues to prove that writing has evolved into the franchise's most glaring weakness. One thought kept coming back to me the whole time though: "At least it's not The Lost World." And Jurassic Park III is nowhere near as bad as The Lost World; it's fairly entertaining from start to finish, and at a brisk 92 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. The movie is "bip bap, dinosaur action, and done." Maybe it was better suited for the Syfy Channel. Then again, maybe not. There have been some real, real, real stinkers on the Syfy Channel.
Recommend? Yes, if you love and adore the Jurassic Park franchise or if you're in the mood for a quick, 90 minute burst of fun.
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