In 1993, Steven Spielberg brought Michael Crichton's best-selling book to life, winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, not to mention making a bundle for a movie that was, frankly, really good. I just watched that classic again, and realized just how realistic everything was, and just how exciting it was.
So it's sort of strange to see Jurassic Park III, which does everything that a sequel should not. Jurassic Park managed to mix fairly reasonable science, drama, suspense, and action together extremely well, but Jurassic Park III does away with any kind of meaningful drama, science, and suspense. None of the characters have any depth, including Dr. Grant, who is treated more as a bitter returning veteran than anything else. Tea Leoni should slap herself for accepting such a stupid role (she screams for her son through a megaphone, which attracts a dinosaur, not to mention a dozen other idiotic things). William H. Macy is somewhat likeable but his comical timing seems out of place in what should be a serious film.
And that's where the biggest problem lies. Director Joe Johnston (Spielberg is executive producing) treats Jurassic Park III as a commodity that needs no introduction, and makes fun of it much of the way that Ridley Scott did Hannibal. Comedy isn't just written into the script; it is part of the story in a way, and in a way that doesn't work. People came to watch a serious action movie, not a slightly funny second sequel.
The Lost World acts as a perfect transfer from the first movie to third, as it was entertaining but pretty (and maybe overly) stupid. Where Jurassic Park was entertaining and smart, Jurassic Park III is neither. While it does have some decent scenes, the lack of good characters makes for a complete lack of suspense; not once was I on the edge of my seat. There was only one moment that made me jump. The rest of the time, I was wishing that mostly everyone would get eaten.
It doesn't help that the story is ludicrous. The son of Macy and Leoni is parasailing when the people steering the boat below are mysteriously eaten (although it is never explained what exactly happened to them), and somehow he goes from the coast to the interior of the huge island. For some reason Macy and Leoni know this, so instead of searching the coast first, the logical spot, they go into the middle where they crash. They then magically come across their son, despite the island being huge, and make their way to the coast, where something really cheesy happens. Why is there a kid in every Jurassic Park? It makes no sense, except that the kid in this movie is smarter than everyone else combined. Oh yeah, did I mention that the dinosaurs are chasing the group because one of them is carrying some raptor eggs?
Another problem lies in the dinosaurs. The raptors show up several times throughout the film, but really do not do much, despite them being the most popular dinosaurs of the trilogy. They show up, surround the characters, and then leave time and time again. It's pathetic. The suspenseful scenes that occur in the first two films (the raptors in the kitchen, and the raptors in the field) have no place in Jurassic Park III. As for the T-Rex, he shows up for about half a minute, and that's it. The only reason the T-Rex isn't in it much is because the creators decided that moviegoers need an even bigger creature, the Spinosaur, which surprisingly actually exists (I looked it up), but I doubt it was as ruthless and persistent as the one in the movie. It follows the group everywhere, and even manages to carry their satellite phone with it. I would have much preferred to see the return of the T-Rex instead of the uninspiring Spinosaur. The Teranodons are pretty cool, though.
I have heard some critics note how much better the graphics are in this one, but I disagree. The original's graphics are still flawless, and this time around it seems as though the dinosaurs are too computerized, and too rushed. Where the dinosaurs in the first one were treated as amazing beasts, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park III are treated about as special as a cow. They just don't seem as real.
There are some decent action scenes, but the suspense never shows up. Some thought The Lost World was stupid, but they had no way of knowing that Jurassic Park III would be ten times as worse. In a summer of stupid movies, Jurassic Park III is ranking up there with The Mummy Returns, and if I lived near Michael Crichton, I would make sure he doesn't get a hand on a gun, because he might shoot himself after realizing that his intelligent thriller has turned into another popcorn film that even the audience won't like.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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