In the first of a new series of articles looking back at films which didn’t quite get the warm response they perhaps deserved, Adam Brannon examines 2001’s Jurassic Park III.
The first Jurassic Park was a lesson in how to do most things right with a big blockbuster. It had action, suspense and drama only a person like Steven Spielberg could bring to the silver screen.
Its box office success speaks for itself, having been re-released a couple of years ago, it finally crossed the coveted $1bn mark, a feat mainly reserved for films released in the 21st century. Naturally sequels were inevitable with Spielberg returning for 1997’s reasonable The Lost World and Joe Johnston taking the helm of 2001’s critically panned Jurassic Park III.
But how bad was it? Despite not having Spielberg at the forefront of the film, he still remained in an executive producer capacity and Johnston directs Jurassic Park III with a good amount of flair, but a worldwide gross of just under $400m showed fans didn’t feel the same way.
The majority of criticism thrown at the sequel was its poor character development, lack of tangible plot and ridiculously short running time and yes I agree, all these things make it the poorest film in the series. But, it’s not as bad as the critics would have you think.
A great deal of effort went into producing a film which would stand on its own, away from the previous two films and it partially succeeds in this respect.
The special effects once again are top-notch with the series’ trademark animatronics being seamlessly integrated with the now commonplace CGI. Of course a heavier use of CGI was to be expected in this film as it became the norm but it was nice to see the frankly brilliant animatronics getting their moments to shine.
Following the story of a divorced couple trying to track down their missing son, who just so happens to have vanished after parasailing alongside Isla Sorna (Site B) – the plot could have gone in numerous directions to make it different from its predecessors; but it just didn’t go quite far enough.
Having Sam Neill and Laura Dern return after Jeff Goldblum’s cracking performance in The Lost World was the biggest highlight in JPIII. Despite Dern’s glorified cameo, it was nice to see the two characters interact with each other after the events of the 1993 original.
Introducing a whole host of new dinosaurs is also another positive point to the film. Allosaurus, Ankylosaurus and of course the flying reptiles Pteranodon were all present in the film with the latter in particular providing some of the movie’s most spectacular action sequences.
However, the stand-out addition was the controversial Spinosaurus, who also features in the film’s much-derided logo. A dinosaur that wasn’t included in any park information or any of Ingen’s documents proved to be a sticking point for fans but there is no denying it was a forced to be reckoned with in such a short film.
From the first glimpse of the dinosaur’s huge sail to its horrifying roar, it proved a fine addition to the series – though its taking down of the franchise favourite T-Rex seemed one step too far for Jurassic Park diehards.
Nevertheless, the sequence were it chases our protagonists along a rusty old fence was one of the franchise’s more breath-taking moments.
I’ve not forgotten the Velociraptors either. They received a complete overhaul in JPIII and became even more menacing than in the previous editions. Developments in palaeontology meant they received a feathered crest on their heads and despite their new appearance they were still a creature to be feared.
Now, the not so good. A real weak link in Johnston’s film was the characters. Receiving no development at all, we still know hardly anything about their backgrounds by the time the end credits role.
Tea Leoni is also severely miscast in a role which requires her to do so much screaming. She simply becomes an annoyance and you kind of hope she’ll be picked off as lunch instead of making it out alive.
William H Macy is reasonably good and of course Sam Neill plays Dr. Alan Grant with the same finesse he brought to the first film, but even he doesn’t register much in comparison to the 1993 original.
Despite its short running time and lack of story, Jurassic Park III was a reasonably fun summer blockbuster, especially in the quiet year of 2001. Unfortunately, it is not as fondly remembered as its predecessors simply because it lacks Steven Spielberg’s director credentials.
With the release of Jurassic World coming in June this year, let’s hope director Colin Trevorrow delivers the film that JP fans truly want – and for goodness sake, let the T-Rex return to the top of the food chain.