Jurassic Park III
Run-time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter
When you start hitting the third and fourth films in a franchise, it becomes increasingly more difficult to keep things fresh and entertaining. When Jurassic Park III hit theaters in 2001, I was a twelve-year-old kid looking for a bit of nostalgia. This is the first movie I remember seeing on opening night, and I recall being ecstatic both before and after the film. Now that I've had ten years to process exactly what goes on this film, I've started to notice the flaws in its overall approach.
We're given an interesting storyline from the get-go (I say "interesting" because I'm trying not to be harsh). While it's not the worst screenplay I've ever seen, there's just a little too much ridiculousness for it to be considered good by any standards. The basic storyline is good: a couple's son is lost on the dinosaur-ridden island from The Lost World, and they hire - albeit through lying - Dr. Alan Grant (Neill) to help them find him. As one can imagine, bad things happen, and everyone becomes stuck on the island, setting up a trek for survival. So, the story isn't bad. What's really worthy of some good eye-rolls are the leaps to assumptions that nearly all the characters take. Because some of the science is a little far-fetched, it's hard to assume that Grant and his protégé Billy (Nivola) can instantly know exactly what the dinosaurs are doing. However, they come to their conclusions with lightning speed, but it just plays out as a little over-the-top.
Still, it's nice to have Sam Neill back in the mix after missing his dry humor in the second film. His presence was steady throughout Jurassic Park, and while he's not quite as good in this installment, I think a lot of the issue has to do with the aforementioned screenplay. We also get a couple of good comedic relief performances from the likes of Michael Jeter and William H. Macy, who proves to be the best actor gracing the screen this time around. Macy has continually proven himself to be one of my favorite actors, and while Jurassic Park III is by no means his greatest achievement, he still brings a very fine presence to the film. Without him, it might be a total throwaway.
I think the biggest issue with the film is that it tried too hard to be different from the first two installments. It almost feels like the filmmakers were trying to spice it up, but they just didn't do so in the right way. Their biggest problem was taking out the T-Rex early in the film, settling for a different beast called Spinosaurus. Now, I see where they were going with this decision - the Rex had been the centerpiece of the first two films, but they wanted to bring something bigger and badder to this one. However, I think that fans of the first two films had grown rather fond of the Rex, and to see it simply cast aside after about thirty seconds was a bit of a let-down. At least we still get the Velociraptors, even if they look drastically different from the first two films...
Still, I can't really complain. We asked for a movie about dinosaurs chasing humans, and that's pretty much what we got. Although it doesn't hold a candle to the previous installments, Jurassic Park III still offers the special effects and the chase sequences, and who knows - maybe you'll get a laugh or two (intentional or not) out of it as well.
2001: Nominee - Best Sequel; Best Young Star; Best Visual Effects