Justin does Jurassic Park III

“No force on earth or heaven could get me on that island.”

The Scoop: 2001 PG-13, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Sam Neill, William H. Macy and Téa Leoni

Tagline: This Time It’s Not Just A Walk In The Park!

Summary Capsule: Been there, done that… what, three times now?

Justin’s Rating: Yabba-dabba-poo-poo

Justin’s Review: If Jurassic Park III is to pass down its legacy for future generations, it is that if you know “the right people” – such as an ex-lover with a tenuous connection to the government – then if you get into trouble and call them, they will deliver, at a minimum, two aircraft carriers by this time tomorrow for your rescue.  According to this film.

When I first saw this movie, it was with my family in a packed theater, and we had one of those horrible movie-watching experiences where the people right in back of us thought that our personal enjoyment of the film would be greater if they constantly made “witty” remarks and fart noises.  Thus, I spent most of the running time fantasizing different types of trap doors and pits I wish that they’d drop through, and not a lot of attention on what was going on.  As far as I could tell, it was a lot of running, screaming, and dinosaurs getting all toothy on humanity.

Upon seeing it again, I now know that I did not miss anything.  Jurassic Park III is a textbook example of taking a highly popular film made by one of the most talented directors in the world, and then trying to reproduce it on a dimestore budget.  You watch this and understand immediately how tacky and trite the first Jurassic Park would have been without the Spielberg touch – it would have been people running, screaming and dinosaurs getting all toothy on humanity, but… kind of boring.

Even the plot feels third-rate: Sam Neill returns for his second outing as Alan Grant, the poor traumatized scientist from the first film who is hoodwinked into returning to Dino-Land for another bout of elimination movie fun.  It turns out that there’s a second, somewhat crappier island that the dinosaur company made, and Grant and his captors/employers go on a quest to find a lost boy.  This means that a major part of the cast are two clueless, bickering divorced parents, so it’s like going on the worst road trip ever.  And knowing how enraptured young boys are with dinosaurs, I’m wondering if they’re doing him a favor by yanking him out of what he’d consider to be paradise.

Although they bring back some of the JP classics – the John Williams theme, the T-Rex, the raptors – JP3 is in many ways much smaller and less grand than its predecessors.  Director Joe Johnston, who does family-friendly adventure films well (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, The Rocketeer), tries gamely to hit the right spots and add a few new twists, but there’s simply nothing new to be had.  Even with a couple new dinos (the Spinosaurus and the Pteradactyls) on the roster, a simple search-and-rescue plot cannot compare to the cool twist of the ultimate theme park breaking down, or even of bringing huge dinosaurs to the modern world (the only interesting part of the derivative Lost World).

What’s more is that because the story is mostly run-run-scream-lucky escape, it’s easy to turn your brain on full-blast to pick apart the rickety plot.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why both of these islands are still left untouched by governments (this second island is a “no fly zone”, except that a parasailing charter company called “Dino-Soar”, apparently makes enough business to sail right up to it) and the creatures left unmolested, even though the entire world knows about them.  At a bare minimum, I’d expect an observation outpost, but nah, let’s just let the dinosaurs breed and live in peace.  I’m sure that won’t ever come back to – ahem – bite us in the butt.

I wanted to like Jurassic Park III better, especially with William H. Macy and Sam Neill beefing up the acting credentials, but you know what?  With no dinos getting blown up or shot, and with the body count way down, it’s the tamest walk in the park yet.

"What lack of budget? LOOK AT THESE DINO EFFECTS! RAWRRRR!"

Intermission!

  • Originally, the film included Jeff Goldblum and his character, Ian Malcolm. But a few days into filming, Goldblum injured his leg and decided to drop out, stating that his character wasn’t that important to the script.
  • The Spinosaurus was the largest animatronic ever built. It weighed 12 tons and was operated by hydraulics. This allowed it to operate while completely submerged in water.
  • The effects crew used 250 gallons of oatmeal to simulate Spinosaur droppings.
  • When the paleontologists enter the bar for dinner with the Kirby’s, you can see a Jurassic Park pinball machine in the background.

Groovy Quotes

Reporter: Are you saying you wouldn’t want to get on Isla Sorna and study them if you had the chance?
Dr. Grant: No force on earth or heaven could get me on that island.

Amanda: This is how you make dinosaurs?
Dr. Grant: No, this is how you play God.

Erik: I read both of your books. I liked the first one more. Before you were on the island. You liked dinosaurs back then.
Dr. Grant: Back then they hadn’t tried to eat me yet.

Dr. Grant: Great, just great. We’re in the worst place in the world and we’re not even being paid.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Jurassic Park
  • Carnosaur
  • Jumanji
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