May 14, 2015

Review: Jurassic Park III (2001)

A lot of things went wrong with The Lost World: Jurassic Park. At the same time though, it did have a few worthwhile moments from time to time. Admittedly, those moments were pretty rare compared to the blockbuster glory that was Jurassic Park which is an unsurprising result in the reality of diminishing returns when it comes to sequels. Was there ever any hope that Jurassic Park III was going to right the boat?

Steven Spielberg having left the director's chair was obviously a huge concern. He was still on as executive producer, but you'll find his fair share of not so great titles if you take a look at his filmography while acting as a producer. Joe Johnston took his place and there's no question that he had some pretty big shoes to fill. Strangely enough, Alexander Payne and frequent Jim Taylor were brought on as writers. Election was a great movie, but could the duo tackle the story of an almost $100 million blockbuster? That was the million dollar question.


At a Glance

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Larry J. Franco, Steven Spielberg, etc.
Written by: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Music by: Don Davis
Running time: 93 minutes
Production company: Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by: Universal Studios, United International Pictures, American Broadcasting Company, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $93,000,000
Box office: $368,780,809 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Bruce A. Young, Laura Dern, Taylor Nichols, Mark Harelik, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Blake Michael Bryan, Sarah Danielle Goldberg, Linda Park



Isla Sorna has become a forbidden tourist attraction which is why Ben Hildebrand (Mark Harelik) and his step-son Eric (Trevor Morgan) decide to parasail around the island to get a glimpse of some dinosaurs. They're attacked by something unseen and become stranded on the island. Meanwhile, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil) wants nothing more than to forget about the events of Jurassic Park. When Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda Kirby (Téa Leoni) promise him a blank check if he acts as their Isla Sorna guide though, he can't bring himself to say no.


What Jurassic Park III tries to do is be a sort of non-stop chase through Isla Sorna. Grant, the Kirbys and the mercenaries embark on the second rescue mission of the Jurassic Park series and they have to contend with bigger threats than ever before. You know the Tyrannosaurus that we saw in the past two movies? They ain't got nothing on the Spinosaurus of JPIII who's bigger, stronger and pretty much acts as the film's main antagonist. There are also more Velociraptor than we've ever seen before.

To show just how superior the Spinosaurus is, there's a scene where it fights against a Tyrannosaurus. Done completely in CGI, it looks awful today. I don't care that it's a homage to King Kong. It's astounding really how a movie from 2001 isn't able to outdo a movie from 1993, but that's the truth of it. Some scene do indeed use animatronics which look OK, but there's something about the CGI of Jurassic Park III that doesn't blend in properly. Even the editing from the second Spinosaurus is jarringly crude. From a special effects point of view, Jurassic Park III may have been pretty decent in 2001, but it looks pretty bad now. JP and even TLW:JP still happen to look pretty good.

With only an hour and a half of runtime and a hurried pace, Jurassic Park III goes nowhere fast. Attempts at drama and tension feel completely forced and you can just forget about character development. There is none. I would've been halfway OK with that if the action had worked better than it really does, but that's wishful thinking. It's just set piece after set piece with very little happening. If you have a heart condition, I can definitely recommend JPIII because you won't be seeing anything above resting heart rate.

(Spoilers) The story of a divorced couple getting back together is also painfully cliché. There's just no time at all given to crafting a believable relationship between Paul and Amanda. The whole thing feels very tacked on and I couldn't care less if they ended up together or not. (End Spoilers) It also doesn't help that Téa Leoni and Trevor Morgan are as annoying as they are. You thought that Lex Murphy or Tim Murphy from Jurassic Park were annoying? Trust me, they got nothing on Eric or Amanda Kirby.

With all the one-liners and outrunning of dinosaurs, Jurassic Park III even has the gall to try to create its own "magic of dinosaurs" scene. Everyone is familiar with the first time we ever see a Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park accompanied by the goosebump-inducing score of John Williams right? Well Joe Johnston tries to create his own and it's a complete failure. I can't tell you just how much I wanted to scream at my TV as the faces of those two Brachiosaurus stared vacantly back at me. Williams is also noticeably absent here and Don Davis does a horrible job in his stead. He uses the famous Jurassic Park theme way too often and his incapable of drumming up any sort of tension when it matters most. 

Jurassic Park III doesn't succeed in anything it sets out to do. The action is poorly executed, the tension is lacking and the drama feels way too tacked on. While it's nice having Sam Neil back, he's reduced to spouting one-liners and being a shout out to Indiana Jones. Besides him though, no other character except for maybe Paul Kirby is worth cheering for. That's pretty much because they're either annoying or just boring. JPIII has a bigger budget and a bigger dinosaur than its predecessors, but it ends up feeling smaller and pointless. I honestly hope that Jurassic World can right the wrong that Jurassic Park III is because this is not how you end a franchise.



Related Reviews:

Jurassic Park (1993)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)  

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