JURASSIC PARK III
Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Bruce A. Young, Laura Dern
MPAA Rating: (for intense sci-fi terror and violence)
Running Time: 1:31
Release Date: 7/18/01
Review by Mark Dujsik
It’s common for a franchise of movies to decrease in value from one installment to the next. Considering the quality of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, it seemed like the next entry in the Jurassic Park series would follow in suit. Yet Jurassic Park III is one those rare occasions where a series finds a new life. This is quite surprising considering that Steven Spielberg, who directed the first two, is not on board as director (he has an executive producer credit). Taking over for Spielberg is Joe Johnston, whose previous credits include The Rocketeer, Jumanji, and October Sky. Considering who his predecessor was, he does an extraordinary job providing more thrills than any other movie to date this summer. The summer is a time for frivolous entertainment, but this is the first movie this summer that accomplishes both parts of that description instead of merely the first.
Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) has used his experiences at Jurassic Park to develop a theory about those nasty Velociraptors. However, when he holds a lecture about his theories, the only thing people care about are his real life exploits. When asked if he would go to Isla Sorna, the island from The Lost World, he says, "No force on heaven or earth could make me." However, he is not getting as much funding as he used to, and when Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) ask him to name his price to take them on a tour of the island, he’s more than willing to accept. However, there is something suspicious about the trip. Soon the Kirbys want to land on the island. After Grant is knocked unconscious, they are on the ground. Apparently, the Kirbys are looking for their son, who was lost on the island during a trip.
But the plot is only an excuse for a series of dinosaur attacks—each building in intensity. The movie has a feeling of an old-fashioned creature movie, right down to its plot. The people are simply helpless prey for whatever dinosaur happens to have the spotlight. Jurassic Park III presents sequences with two dinosaurs new to the series. There are now flying dinosaurs, the Pteranodons, and another, the nemesis of the movie,a gigantic, long-snouted, finned dinosaur called the Spinosaurus. The action starts immediately upon arrival to the island. This huge dinosaur makes a sudden appearance, and the sequence that follows is an intense one where the Spinosaurus uses the group’s airplane as a plaything. Soon enough, we learn just how dangerous this new dinosaur is as he and the infamous T. Rex battle to the death. This scene plays like a Godzilla movie.
You’d think that in introducing its most threatening monster so early, the movie would run out of steam, but it somehow finds a way to give the audience as many cheap thrills as are possible in a movie like this. It’s this drive to entertain that really makes this movie fun. There’s enough downtime in between the action sequences to give the audience a rest, and the film runs at a brisk hour and a half. So with both of these factors, the movie never overdoes itself, and its story never distracts from the action.
The performances here are effective, considering that the actors are never forced to do much in the way of character. Seeing Sam Neill on screen for the first time made me realize what an important part to the series he is. He was not in The Lost World, and we know what that did to the movie. It’s his character’s attitude that adds something to the proceedings. The actor’s interaction with the effects is also effective, and it adds to the suspense and scares. The special effects themselves are well-done, but considering how amazing seeing the dinosaurs for the first time in the original was, this movie shows just how desensitized we have become to effects. In other words, they’re there, but they don’t amaze as often anymore.
Jurassic Park III is a step in the right direction for the series. We’ve already dealt with the ethical dilemma in the first one, and it really doesn’t have a place anymore in the world of these movies. The dinosaurs are here, and they’ll be around for some time to come. Let’s hope they appear in more movies like this one that realize the fun of a good, cheap thrill.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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