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Should I Watch..? 'Jurassic Park III'

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

Film's poster

Film's poster

What's the big deal?

Jurassic Park III is an action sci-fi adventure film released in 2001 and as the title suggests, it's the third entry in the Jurassic Park film series based on the works of Michael Crichton. The first film to not be based on an existing novel, the film sees expert Dr Alan Grant join a team that visits the second island occupied by genetically cloned dinosaurs and end up fighting for their lives. The film sees original star Sam Neill reprise as Grant alongside William H Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan and Michael Jeter. The film is also the first not to be directed by Steven Spielberg, instead handing the directorial duties over to his friend Joe Johnston. Sadly, the film is the lowest earning in the series so far with global takings of $368 million - still a box office success but far below the other films in the series. Critics were divided over the film. Some praised the film's tense action sequences and effects while others derided the film's shallow narrative and poor characterisation. The film would be followed by a fourth film, Jurassic World, in 2015 which served as a soft reboot for the series.

Watchable

What's it about?

Paleontologist Dr Alan Grant has recently discovered startling evidence about the intelligence of raptors but struggles to fund his research, despite his experience on Isla Nublar at the now abandoned Jurassic Park site. Working patiently alongside his young assistant Billy Brennan, Dr Grant discovers salvation in the unlikely form of business tycoon Paul Kirby and his wife Amanda who offers him a proposal. To celebrate their forthcoming anniversary, the Kirby's have secured permission to fly over Isla Sorna (InGen's site B for the proposed Jurassic Park theme park) and wish to have Grant serve as their guide. Initially reluctant, the Kirby's offer to fund Grant's research for the future so Grant and Brennan go along for the ride.

However, it so appears that not everything is as it appears as Grant learns during the flight that the plane carrying them towards the island intends to land there. Terrified at the prospect, Grant is about to protest before being knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he soon learns the truth - the Kirby's have lost their teenage son Eric on Isla Sorna after a paragliding accident and wish to find him with Dr Grant's help, together with a small but heavily armed group of mercenaries led by Udesky. But after their plane unexpectedly crashes trying to escape from a hungry Spinosaurus, Dr Grant fears that none of them will be able to escape the island alive...

Trailer

Main Cast

ActorRole

Sam Neill

Dr Alan Grant

William H Macy

Paul Kirby

Tea Leoni

Amanda Kirby

Alessandro Nivola

Billy Brennan

Trevor Morgan

Eric Kirby

Michael Jeter

Udesky

John Diehl

Cooper

Bruce A. Young

Nash

Laura Dern

Ellie

Technical Info

*based on characters created by Michael Crichton

DirectorJoe Johnston

Screenplay

Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor *

Running Time

92 minutes

Release Date (UK)

20th July, 2001

Rating

PG

Genre

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Razzie Award Nominations

Worst Remake or Sequel

It's a shame the human cast are upstaged by their dinosaur counterparts - the film has little narrative to engage audiences with, reducing the film to a serious of scares.

It's a shame the human cast are upstaged by their dinosaur counterparts - the film has little narrative to engage audiences with, reducing the film to a serious of scares.

What's to like?

For a film with a budget hitting the best part of $100 million, you'd expect some quality to be on screen somewhere and sure enough, the dinosaurs are once again the stars of the show. Combining cutting-edge animatronics, puppetry and CG, the beasties look fearsome and ready to gnash their way through cast and scenery alike without so much as a thank-you. It's the little touches that impress the most such as the human cast being trapped in the remains of an aeroplane while evading slashing claws and smashing windows or a velociraptor tentatively nudging a character's hair. It all makes the film's many action scenes feel more real and more thrilling than before. There's also no shortage of action in the film which takes a short-cut to the good stuff and throws us head-first into the sort of gripping adventure the franchise demands.

The film also makes the most of its jungle location with beautiful coast lines, dense swamps and misty mountains obscuring perhaps the most welcome addition to the series: the otherworldly and very convincing Pteranodons. Johnston's direction might lack the master craftsmanship of Spielberg but he injects the film with pace and energy. It feels more exciting than the somewhat plodding The Lost World: Jurassic Park which was unnecessarily darker in tone and was also saddled with a very silly ending. I will also pick out Morgan's performance as Eric, the young boy trapped alone on the island struggling to survive. While the character's story might feel farfetched (and that's saying something in this series), Morgan makes you empathise and believe in him as he adjusts to this strangest of settings. Besides Neill's cynical Grant and Macy's typically lily-livered everyman, the young star stands alongside his contemporaries and acquits himself well.

Fun Facts

  • The wide shot of the excavation site near the beginning of the film was actual footage from a real excavation site in 2001. The dig was led by Jack Horner, the consultant paleontologist who has worked on every Jurassic Park film so far and inspiration for the character of Dr Grant.
  • At no point did the film have a completed script. While the first act of the film was written, the middle of the film was incomplete and nothing was written for the final part. A number of drafts were suggested with different writers working on the project including Crichton, who left after a week when he wasn't satisfied with the project's direction. Spielberg later criticised the decision to begin filming without a script, saying "what you want to say is 'who launches a $100 million ship without a rudder, and who's getting fired for this?' But that's the way it goes."
  • The decision to replace the T-Rex with the Spinosaurus proved controversial among fans of the series but the plan was for the Spinosaurus to replace the T-Rex from the beginning. The fight between the two, filmed as a homage to a similar scene in the original King Kong, involved both animatronic creations actually doing battle. Due to the significant power difference between the two, the T-Rex actually had its head ripped off!

What's not to like?

The reason I only single out Neill, Macy and Morgan for praise among the human cats is because compared to the others, they give Oscar-worthy performances. Leoni is not just irritating but unnecessary - her sole role in the film is to provide the scare scenes with someone screaming. Nivola, who I confess I'm not overly familiar with, doesn't do much to endear himself to me because his performance is so wooden that it makes the trees seem more emotive. Even Neill and Macy don't exactly cover themselves in glory - Neill seems genuinely grumpy about being on set and is a difficult character to get behind while Macy essentially plays yet another ineffective American everyman, similar to his Oscar-nominated appearance in Fargo. Together with Jeter's unconvincing appearance as a mercenary (which was surely a miscast), they share some light-hearted dialogue but don't offer much more. No wonder I preferred the dinosaurs.

Of course, how magical these creatures are depends on how much exposure you as a viewer have had to them previously. I have yet to see any of the more recent visits to Jurassic World so I don't know how far the technology has improved. But the film lacks that sense of wonder you felt the first time you saw the original Jurassic Park. That film proved a seminal moment in effects, much like the pioneering work of Ray Harryhausen did in The Beast From 20'000 Fathoms in 1953. But for all the scientific accuracy by experts at the time, Jurassic Park III simply doesn't inspire wonder or awe at these prehistoric beasts running amok the way they should. I've no doubt that they pushed the technology as far as it could go but it feels perfunctory and ordinary, instead of jaw-dropping and fantastical.

Much like his character, Sam Neill is coaxed back to the franchise presumably by a big fat cheque. Can't say I blame him.

Much like his character, Sam Neill is coaxed back to the franchise presumably by a big fat cheque. Can't say I blame him.

Should I watch it?

If all you are looking for is a gripping and exciting thrill ride featuring dinosaurs eating people then Jurassic Park III will satisfy your needs perfectly well. But it still feels a long way short of the brilliance of the original film, lacking the imagination and depth that made the first film almost possible. It's very silly and about as scientifically possible as Barney the Dinosaur but its cheap thrills are done well enough. Stay for the visuals, forget about everything else.

Great For: dinosaur fans like my nephew Finley (although he might be a bit young considering the scares), quick adrenaline rushes, running a franchise into the ground

Not So Great For: fans of the first film or novel, the easily spooked, character development

What else should I watch?

Fortunately for this film, dinosaur films of this type tend to be the reserve these days for ultra-low-budget knock-off specialists The Asylum. But Jurassic Park certainly revived interest in bringing giant monsters back to the big screen such as King Kong, making his third appearance in feature films in Peter Jackson's 2005 version before appearing again in another reboot, Kong: Skull Island. Now that CG and Andy Serkis have combined to put puppetry and animatronics into the historical dustbin, there is a certain something lacking from the experience these days and personally, I don't have much desire to see more giant creatures wrecking society. Frankly, coronavirus has done a better job of that than any enormous ape or T-Rex ever could.

In my experience, dinosaurs remain as hugely popular with young children as they ever had but I would think twice about taking anyone younger than ten to see a Jurassic Park picture. Far more family-friendly fare is available out there - CG animation kings Pixar have The Good Dinosaur in their back catalogue which is an uneven but well-intended effort although to be honest, I prefer Rex from the Toy Story franchise. The increasingly obscure Land Before Time series continues to rumble on with more direct-to-DVD entries (the most recent was The Land Before Time XIV: Journey Of The Brave - I'm not joking!) while the much more enjoyable Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs brought them into the franchise. And then there's Disney's own effort, Dinosaur, which had a more realistic look to its animation but otherwise didn't exactly change the world.

© 2021 Benjamin Cox

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Benjamin Cox (author) from Norfolk, UK on January 16, 2021:

I would say that the argument against genetic experimentation is somewhat side-lined in favour of the 'look how scary these things are' approach this film takes. But it isn't as preachy as the first film was and besides, I wouldn't want a pet dinosaur based on anything I saw in any movie!

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on January 06, 2021:

Given the bad reviews it got, I found this movie better than I thought it would be. There is something, however, about the Jurassic Park/World movies that seriously irritates me: I feel like they're wagging a giant finger at me and saying, 'See, you shouldn't have cloned extinct animals.' I love the dinosaurs, though.

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