Jurassic Park III

| July 20, 2001 | 0 Comments

The first Jurassic Park was a very good movie. Sure, nothing groundbreaking…well, actually, yeah, it was groundbreaking, special effects wise…but there was nothing really original about the story or the characters. But at least there were characters. The movie was loaded with a sense of anticipation and awe, stoked all the more by the way the first part of the movie slowly builds up to the appearance of the astonishing Tyrannosaurus Rex. It worked as a thriller and it worked as entertainment.
The second film upped the ante with the amount of dinosaurs it showed, but the story was miserable and that scene with Malcolm’s stowaway daughter gymnastically dispatching a few raptors was embarrassing. The coda, with the T. Rex running rampant through a city, was derivative and boring, and while The Lost World made a ton of money, it stunk.
Now comes Jurassic Park III, which promises more CGI dinosaur footage than was in the first two films combined, the reappearance of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and even his colleague Elly (Laura Dern in an extended cameo), but no Spielberg behind the camera. Which, I was hoping, would mean no little kids on screen. But I was wrong.
The movie starts with Grant and Elly reminiscing about their trip to Jurassic Park. A lecture by Dr. Grant at a university fills in the blanks with some mention of the first sequel. The dialogue and story exposition in the first part of the film is clumsy and perfunctory, and you get the sense everyone, filmmakers included, just wants the dino-mayhem to start. And soon enough, it does.
Enter the Kirby’s, a divorced couple whose child has been lost on one of the dinosaur infested islands for about 2 months. The couple poses as thrill seekers to convince Dr. Grant to give them an aerial tour of the island. Of course, they hide from Grant the fact that their son is on the island, and that they need the scientist’s expertise to help them locate the kid, and survive, once they’ve landed. So the pair basically kidnaps Dr. Grant, and his young assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola, who’s as bland here as he was strange in Face/Off), and, along with a few mercenaries who aren’t around long, the group lands on Isla Nublar.
William H. Macy and Tea Leoni play the Kirby’s, and they both immediately come off as two of the stupidest people in recorded history. I wanted them to die. Why would they even expect their son to remain alive after 8 weeks alone on that island? But they do expect him to be alive, and this being a PG-13 film, we are the stupid ones to expect anything different.
As soon as the group lands, the new dino attraction rears its head and chomps up a few of them almost immediately. The Spinosaurus is more ferocious than a T. Rex, has a fin, and can swim under water. Early on, after trouncing the humans’ plane, it engages in a fierce battle with a Rex that isn’t bad, if somewhat hurried. If nothing else, the movie is fast-paced, moving from one dangerous encounter to another. The group comes up against the Spino, the Rex, the super-intelligent mechas–I mean raptors, and even some pterodactyls. The raptors are so smart this time around, not only are they harassing the humans and setting traps, they’re having conversations and correctly filling out their voting ballots. It’s a bit much.
But they are still scary, at least the first few times we see them.
Eventually, after much terror and running, one of the morons tries to steal some eggs (aren’t you getting sick of that whole angle? The Paul Reiser in Aliens type of guy, who will endanger anyone and everyone just to make money/get a weapon to use on America’s enemies), and attracts the Raptors because of it. Our heroes find themselves in constant danger, and I have to say that this time around, the thrill is gone. There is no longer any sense of awe towards the dinosaurs. They lost their novelty after the original movie, and without a story or any characters to be even remotely interested in, there is barely a reason to watch.
Once the pterodactyls arrived, which did prove to be relatively terrifying, I had already written the movie off. By the time the end finally came around, and we were set up for yet another sequel, I was ready to bolt out of my chair. Jurassic Park III is a by-the-numbers affair and although it moves at a breakneck pace and showcases plenty of dinosaurs, it is so generic and impact-free that there is nothing to remember once you’ve left the theater. No story, no characters, another preposterously resourceful adolescent, and a few big piles of dinosaur dung.

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