Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Alessandro Nivola, Tea Leoni, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter
Plot: Alan Grant (Neill) is dubed back to Isla Sorna to find a missing boy, bringing him head-to-head once again with the deadly raptors and a new dinosaur, much bigger than anything he faced last time.
Jurassic Park III’s big problem is that it cannot quite escape the sense of being a glorified B Movie. While the first sequel to the acclaimed success story may have been a little weak, it boasted a large story that drew the audience in and expanded on the world of Jurassic Park. This sequel feels more like an excuse to spend two more hours in the dangeorus dinosaur-filled world of Isla Sorna.
This is why everything in Jurassic Park’s third movie feels a little routine. The thing with this franchise is that it is always going to get an audience, because it is one of the only, arguably the only, major blockbuster that can do dinosaurs properly. For that reason alone, it is always going to crowd-please on a basic level. Ten year old Luke would have given this movie five stars, because it featured two giant dinosaurs tearing chunks out of each other (even if the wrong dino won!) As an adult, I got the impression that the producers and writers were counting on this and put all of their emphasis into the dinosaurs. This is why the human side of the story is pretty tame. The red shirts are so painfully red shirts that the deaths in this movie never really do anything for those seeking a bit more of a horror atmosphere to their dinosaur movie. There is nothing as pulse-pounding as the original’s kitchen scene in this film. Few characters are actually three-dimensional. Alessandro Nivola is charming enough, but is given a blank slate to work with. The comic relief between William H. Macy and Tea Leoni only half works. By half, I mean Macy’s jokes work and Tea Leoni just makes you want a Raptor to finish her off in the first thirty minutes. At first, the ditzy, screaming woman act is amusing, but far before the film is over, you’ve grown tired of it. The only character worth caring for is Alan Grant. Jurassic Park III manages to win over a few thumbs up simply because it convinced Sam Neill, far better than the material given, to star once again in this franchise. Neill makes his side of the story work, well suited to the palentologist fascinated by dinosaurs, but nowhere near tempted to return to the island that nearly killed him last time. He makes the dialogue feel better and there is something about his terrified yet calm stare when in the face of danger that makes you wonder how many of the cast could take on his role. However, it is an awful shame that this movie ends up resting on one actor’s shoulders.
But it’s not all bad. Jurassic Park III might be as meaty as a fossil, but it is a good bit of fun. The humour is spot-on (“Nobody move!” Sam Neill says, when the gang run into the T. Rex and the following gag is priceless), and the set-pieces, at the very least, work. The pacing is a little off, as if the director doesn’t really want to slow down and savour his scenes, but when it comes to B Movie fun, you could do a lot worse. The bird cage battle is atmospherically fantastic and the Pterodactyls are a great addition to the canon, much more involved than they’ve been in the last two films. Yes, the raptors are pretty lousy in this installment, but at least the first appearance in the labortory is chilling, hitting the right notes. The divisive side of the movie is the Spinosaurus. Hoping to shake up the routine a little, Johnstone drops the T. Rex and makes his principal dino, the much bigger and more formidable Spinosaurus. It wouldn’t be too bad, if it wasn’t for the fact that it is constantly being compared to the Tyrannosaurus. Almost every character reminds us that it is ‘bigger’ and it has to physically kill off the old star of the show in a fun, yet horribly short, battle sequence. All it does is annoy the fans of the T. Rex and doesn’t let us fall in love with this new creature on our own terms. That being said, while its first two attacks are a little underachieving, the finale in the river is visually astonishing. The rain thunders down on an animatronic Spinosaurus (these movie are always better when the CGI is abandoned and we some good, old-fashioned Stan Winston robots), as it hunts its prey through a river. It hits all the right beats and makes sure that, even if the rest of the movie fails to impress, it goes out with a bang.
Final Verdict: Yes, this is a poor man’s version of the original, but it remains a fun way to spend two hours. At least, you can switch off and just enjoy it.