Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Jurassic Park III" (2001)

Starring Sam Neill, William H. Macy and Tea Leoni
Written by Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Directed by Joe Johnston
Rated PG-13 - Language, violence
Running Time: 93 Minutes

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) continues his research into velociraptors, years after his ordeal on Isla Nublar. But while the public is still fascinated with the living dinosaurs on Isla Sorna, Grant prefers to focus on actual fossils rather than "theme-park monsters" as he describes them. One day, he's approached by a wealthy businessman named Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) who offers to pay Grant a large sum of money to guide Kirby and his wife Amanda (Tea Leoni) on a sight-seeing tour of Isla Sorna. Grant is convinced to go along by his research assistant, Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola).

But when they reach the island, Grant discovers that Kirby is in fact not a wealthy entrepreneur but a simple hardware store owner. It seems his son, Eric (Trevor Morgan) was lost on the island during an illegal parasailing adventure. Now Kirby has gathered a team to try and find Eric. But with their own plane destroyed, Grant, Brennan and the Kirby's are now trapped on the island as well, hunted by a fearsome new predator: the "Spinosaurus."

Though it wasn't particularly well received critically, "The Lost World" made quite a bit of money, so a few years later came "Jurassic Park III," a technically proficient but mostly needless sequel.

Apparently filmed without a finished script, "Jurassic Park III" feels like it's put together with missing bits from the previous two films. Major sequences like the aviary and riverboat chase are inspired by parts of the original novel, and the film ultimately just sort of ends. It all feels cobbled together, even if director Joe Johnston makes the individual parts work pretty decently well.

Concepts that might have worked on paper come across as dumb in the execution, however. For example, a subplot involving a satellite phone eaten by one of the dinosaurs and the ringtone signals its arrival as it stalks Grant and the others across the island. Or that Amanda and Paul Kirby reconcile their differences by working together to rescue their son... just a couple hours after Amanda comes face to face with the corpse of her boyfriend who was mauled by dinosaurs.

Though the film makes some basic attempts to change things up by including the Spinosaurus as the main antagonist rather than the T-Rex, they're not radically different in any way that counts. The velociraptors are back pulling their same old tricks, though the producers have given them some interesting new visual designs.

"Jurassic Park III" is mostly serviceable as an afternoon diversion, but for the fact that the ending is so incredibly limp. After some solid action sequences in the back half of the film, the raptor-filled finale is disappointing at best. But that's mostly a problem that stems from the fact that the script mostly just involves people wandering through the jungle from one encounter to the next.

Sam Neill returns as Alan Grant from the first film. He does his job here, but like with Goldblum in "The Lost World," it doesn't seem like he's giving one hundred percent. To his credit, Trevor Morgan doesn't become "that annoying kid character" in the movie. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni are actually a bit more annoying than their son.

There's not much more to say about "Jurassic Park III." Aside from solid direction from Johnston, the film is little more than a showcase for the ever-evolving dinosaur effects. The whole film looks good, save for some green-screen effects in the opening scene that haven't aged well, and there are no bad performances from the cast (but no great ones, either). Even Don Davis ably stands in for John Williams on scoring duty... but it all adds up to a film that is far less than the sum of its parts. At only 93 minutes, it's short enough that watching it isn't a slog.

See Also
Jurassic Park
The Lost World: Jurassic Park