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"Jurassic Park III" (2001): Retrospective Review

Cameron's an avid comic book collector, has been watching geeky tv since the early 90s, and for a brief period, ran a comic book shop.

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A Bit of History...

Unlike Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton had little direct involvement with Jurassic Park III, however, there were several nods to Crichton's original novels. As with any major franchise, deviating from the original creator's story, Jurassic Park III had a much different tone than the first two films in the franchise. While Jurassic Park and its sequel had a horror-esque adventure thriller vibe, the third installment moved away from the horror aspects, and felt more like a simple creature feature, without much suspenseful build-up. Of the franchise to date, Jurassic Park III remains the lowest-grossing film.

The Premise

Eight years after the events of Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant is approached by Paul and Amanda Kirby to act as a guide for their anniversary trip to Isla Sorna, insisting on him coming along. After bribing him with an implied substantial dollar amount, Grant and his assistant, Billy, agree to tag along for the ride. As they approach the island, Grant begins giving some expert knowledge on the dinosaurs that appear on the island. To Grant's horror, the Kirbys and their crew begin looking for a landing strip. As Grant protests, he is knocked unconscious by Cooper and wakes up after the plane has landed on the island.

As Amanda yells for Ben and Eric, there is a roar coming from the forest surrounding them, accompanied by gunshots. As the crew tries to take off again, Cooper is devoured by a massive new dinosaur. The plane clips the fin on the Spinosaurus and ends up crashlanding through the trees. As Grant and the others try to get their bearings, the Spinosaurus attacks the survivors, causing them to scatter into the woods. In perhaps the biggest middle finger in the series, the group leads a Tyrannosaurus (theorized to be the baby Rex from Lost World) towards the Spinosaurus, who quickly snaps the Rex's neck.

With the Spinosaurus distracted, Grant confronts Paul as to the real reason for the trip to Isla Sorna. Amanda and Paul explain that they have been divorced for a little over a year, and their son, Eric, had been in a parasailing accident and had been stranded on the island for eight weeks. As Grant tries to figure out a way to get back to the shore, the Kirbys' guide, Udesky, recommends looking for Eric while also sticking with Grant. As the group moves along, they come across a group of Raptor nests, as well as Ben's corpse. Unfortunately, shortly after leaving the nests behind, the group is split up by a group of Raptors in an old InGen facility, leaving Billy and the Kirbys trapped in a tree while Udesky is set as bait to lure the others out of hiding. Grant is saved by Eric, using gas grenades to ward off the Raptors, and Grant shares the news that Eric's parents are looking for him on the island.

As the two groups of survivors begin to converge, Eric hears the sound of his father's satellite phone (it was 2001, keep in mind), and runs toward the sound, reuniting with his parents. As they celebrate, Paul realizes that the last person to have the satellite phone was Nash, Udesky's co-pilot who was eaten shortly after arrival on the island. The group turns to see our friend, the Spinosaurus, who ends up smashing through one of the "dinosaur-proof" fences and chases them into a bunker. While figuring out the best course of action moving forward, Billy reveals that he had stolen a pair of Raptor eggs while at the nest.

Hearing this, Grant gives Billy the cold shoulder and ensures the eggs are protected for when they inevitably encounter the Raptors again. After finding a boat on the river down the middle of the island, the group moves into a network of stairways and walkways built into the side of the mountain. While trying to navigate down to the river, Grant realizes they were traveling through a massive birdcage, meant to house Pterodactyls and other flying reptiles. The group is attacked by a flock of Pterodactyls, leaving Billy at the mercy of the flyers. Grant and the Kirbys escape from the cage, finally arriving at the boat. While the boat is a bit of a clunker, Paul manages to get the boat going down the river, on the way to safety, until they hear the sound of the satellite phone ringing again. In a panic, the group prepares for another encounter with the Spinosaurus but is relieved to find the phone has been pooped out.

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As the boat continues puttering down the river, the sneaky Spinosaurus rams the boat, causing Grant and the others to fall overboard. Grant tries desperately to get ahold of Ellie Sattler (yes, that Ellie Sattler), to see if her politician husband can provide any help for their current predicament. While the phone is ultimately lost, the group manages to ward off the Spinosaurus, setting the river on fire in the process. As Amanda and Eric cry for the loss of Paul, he triumphantly climbs out of the river, announcing that he isn't going anywhere. Amanda and Paul reconcile and the group continues on their way to shore.

Just as the group hears the sound of the ocean, they are confronted once again by a pack of Raptors. Amanda takes the eggs from Grant and gives them back to the Raptors, who take the eggs and move on with their lives. As the survivors arrive on the beach, the Navy and the Marines arrive to assist, much to Grant's surprise and joy. Ellie pulled through for him once again.

What's There to Love?

Seeing Dr. Grant again on screen was such a thrill. While he is far more cynical at this point, it is a natural growth of his character. Michael Jeter's performance as Udesky was one of the best parts of this film. Much like Nicolas Cage, Jeter fully commits to any role he takes on, and as such, delivers powerful performance for a character that ultimately has no greater impact on the narrative.

As with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III introduces us to new dinosaurs, which helps to build a larger scope of what InGen was up to on Isla Sorna. When the group first encounters the Spinosaurus, Billy even mentions that the Spinosaurus was not on InGen's list. In addition to the new characters, viewers are also treated to several returning dinosaur species (Brachiosaurus, Compsognathus, Parasaurolophus, Pteranodon, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor), as well as four new species being introduced on Site B (Ankylosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Corythosaurus, Spinosaurus). The expansion of the InGen dinosaur list helped to pave the way for many of the improvements we saw in Jurassic World.

What Could Have Been Better?

Alright, so there are a lot of things that could have been improved upon. Amanda Kirby was a disappointing character, who filled little more than the damsel in distress role for the film, and spent most of it screaming. In my opinion, killing off Nash and Cooper within the first ten minutes of the film, despite these two apparently being skilled mercenaries felt like a quick cop-out to show the power of the Spinosaurus, but it also felt cheap. There was also a bit of a lack of menace from the Velociraptors that we have seen in previous films. It was refreshing to see them show off their intelligence by using Udesky as bait for a trap, but ultimately, they were outsmarted by a group of people that should have died on the island.

The CGI graphics for the fight between the Tyrannosaurus and the Spinosaurus were terrible, even compared to other sequences from the same movie. The CGI for the Pteranodons was incredible (see below), so the technology was there, but for whatever reason, seeing the fight between these two giants was a massive letdown, especially with how quickly it was over.

Final Thoughts

This film was not the best Jurassic Park movie, but it does not deserve the hate that it gets. While there were some weak points with the film, it is still an enjoyable watch, and there are some scenes that are some of the best in the franchise. The Raptors chasing the survivors through the InGen facility was so well done and showed that the Raptors were so much smarter than we had seen in the past. The performances by each actor were solid, and the ensemble was better for it.

All things considered, I give this movie a 6.5/10. There is a lot to hate, but there is a lot to love. It is a clearly divisive film among fans, but personally, I feel that it deserves a revisit if you haven't seen it recently.

Thanks for reading! If you think there's anything I should review next, leave a comment below! Until next time, stay frosty!

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