Michael Crichton is gone. Spielberg dropped down to executive producer. Jeff Goldblum suffered an injury before filming began and dropped out. The script is unfinished when filming starts. “Jurassic Park III” set itself up to be a disaster, but perseverance paid off to create an enjoyable, if lacking, survival movie filled with (yet again) brilliantly designed dinosaurs…. even if they don’t fit in with the previous films in the series.
Amanda and Paul Kirby (Tea Leoni and William H. Macy respectively) have lost their child on Isla Sorna, otherwise known as Site B in the Jurassic Park project, after a parasailing incident. Lying to get Alan Grant (Sam Neil) onto a plane for a fly-over in order to search for their son, the group faces a small problem when the pilot botches a take off, leaving them stranded on an island full of the most lethal predators the world has ever seen.
Funny story: While viewing this film on opening day, the first early morning showing, I was nearly kicked out for blowing up in a tirade when a raptor actually talks during a dream sequence early in the film. It took five minutes and an usher to finally settle me down. Basic rule of thumb: Don’t mess with my dinosaur movies.
Regardless, the scriptwriters here basically took an attitude of “the hell with it” and let the design department go nuts. Their latest creation, the Spinosaur, is a brilliantly realized monster. Though it makes absolutely no sense when you think of the previous two films (how could they miss the largest predator on the island twice?), the impact this animal will have on future entries is obvious.
In the films most exciting moment, a Tyrannosaur, a major threat in both of the preceding films, enters into a life or death struggle with the long-snouted newcomer. With a sort of primitive “passing of the torch,” the Spinosaur soundly defeats what was once the king. It is this moment where the film picks up a head of steam, which it never lets go of.
Running briskly at around 90 minutes (the shortest film in the series by over thirty minutes), little time is wasted with any type of a storyline and the shooting script likely contained countless lines like “dinosaur attacks.” This relentless pace keeps the audience in their seats with one shock moment after another. The raptors reappearance is wonderful, a welcome change from the clumsy and rather stupid animals in “The Lost World.” Their new ability to communicate follows with recent research and used with perfection.
Before all of this action however, the film does get off to a rocky start. Besides the dream sequence (which to this day still irks me), the parasailing sequence that opens the film is just abysmal. The actors are obviously suspended by strings in a studio and super-imposed via a computer. The lighting from the background doesn’t even match the actors. Other moments of the film are also uneven, including a script with far too many borrowed elements.
Billy, Grant’s sidekick, has a lucky backpack, a theme extracted from the second sequel. The airplane sequence in the trees is obviously inspired by the rain-soaked car falling sequence in the first film. The stampede is yet another moment of unoriginality for fans, which makes this film seem just a bit too familiar. Also, where exactly did that ending come from? It just kind of “happens” and the credits roll.
But, “Jurassic Park III” succeeds where “The Lost World” failed. Where that film tried to recapture the feeling of the first movie, the third entry just tosses everything to the wayside, creating a thrilling adventure that never lets up and never gets bogged down by any sub-plots. There is no message here. We get an island, dinosaurs, and people. It’s the perfect recipe for a summer popcorn flick and one that was executed just like it should have been. (**** out of *****)
Presented in separate widescreen (1.85:1 as reviewed here) and pan and scan versions, Universal did a decent job in presenting the film on DVD. This is the best looking of the three films, suffering from little or no compression problems that plagued the other discs. The only real issue is some occasionally annoying film grain, which is only a problem in a few scenes. The detail in the jungle is sharp and the black levels set the tone. This is not a transfer that will stun videophiles, but it does a fine job of showing the film with minor problems. (****)
Listening options include standard Dolby 5.1 and a mesmerizing DTS track. Though listed as DTS 5.1, my receiver took it in as DTS ES, giving viewers with the proper equipment the maximum surround sound experience. Needless to say, it doesn’t disappoint, and if you’re watching the film any other way, you are not getting the full effect.
The only way to describe the bass is abusive, shaking the room relentlessly with every roar and footstep of the giant lizards. Jungle sounds move fluidly through all the speakers and the use of positional audio in the front speakers is some of the best on the format. Actually, this is likely one of the top five discs on the market in terms of a purely visceral audio experience and it should heard by anyone with even a passing interest in home audio. (*****)
In a miracle of compression technology, this disc is packed with special features, even with the multiple audio choices and excellent video presentation. A commentary track from the special effects team is included, but the director or the writers would likely be more interesting, talking on how they came up with the script for yet another sequel. The standard 22-minute “Making of Jurassic Park III” is a decent look at the film, but was obviously shot as a promotional piece with the actors introducing the characters and the story.
Eight minutes are spent on the new dinosaurs in the film along with a look at the changes made to the raptors. Jack Horner, the famed paleontologist, had a hand (for the first time in the series) in designing the dinosaurs. The brief feature entitled “A Tour of Stan Winston Studio” shows how some of the full-size dinosaurs were built and includes some behind the scenes footage. “A Visit to ILM” is not what it sounds like, but rather a look at how the CGI sequences were accomplished from beginning to end. There are 20 of these segments, all varying in length.
An odd feature is “Turntables,” which features some of the computer generated models rotating in the air. Eleven dinosaurs and the CGI model for Alessandro Nivola are featured. The behind the scenes option offers up three sequences, inter-cut with footage from the set. The same goes for the storyboard comparisons. Those interested in the finding of fossilized dinosaurs will likely be disappointed with the all-too short 4-minute visit with Jack Horner on a dig in Montana. Rounding off this excellent set are the usual production notes, trailers, crew filmographies/biographies, and plenty of behind the scenes photos. (****)
Even though most of the Jurassic Park community despises the third film, this is most likely a jaded view from those who simply want the magic from the initial movie recaptured. It could never happen. This is simply a fun, dumb, summer thrill ride about dinosaurs that eat people. There is no need for some deep backstory or characters people can relate to. When so much screen time is given to the characters everyone came to see in the first place, I fail to see what the problem is.