Jurassic Park III (2001) Review

Jurassic Park III (2001) Director: Joe Johnston

★★☆☆☆

The third Jurassic Park installment revisits certain themes previously alluded to in earlier films, particularly the question of communication among the dinosaurs. This was an eyebrow raising decision especially when considering that velociraptors barely had managed to open doors in the first movie. At any rate, Steven Spielberg did not direct this film, instead handing the reins to his friend Joe Johnston, and it was the first Jurassic Park film not to be based on a Crichton novel. Director Joe Johnston was a former Industrial Light and Magic special effects curator before moving into the director’s seat with movies like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), and Jumanji (1995). Predictably, the production for Jurassic Park III was a mess –Michael Crichton departed from the project early on and vowed never to watch the final product, while the script was constantly being rewritten and the concept was cycled through various writers and ideas. In addition, John Williams was unavailable as he was busy scoring Spielberg’s other concurrent film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

In this third installment, the paleontologist Dr. Allan Grant (reprised by Sam Neill from the first film) is brought back and swindled by a divorced wealthy couple (played by William H. Macy and Téa Leoni). The couple pledges funding to his archaeology dig-site in exchange for an aerial tour of the island of “Site B” from The Lost World, known as Isla Sorna island. Grant reluctantly agrees to the trip but as it turns out they make an unplanned landing on the island, and the true mission is to search for the couple’s son who disappeared near the island while parasailing. When danger is apparent, they try to leave the island but the plane crash-lands after one of the crew is eaten by a “Spinosaurus.” Now they must find a way to radio for help, but this was the “Site B” island so Dr. Grant is not familiar with the terrain, nevertheless they soon locate the long-lost boy and try to make their way to safety, all the while learning that the dinosaurs are now capable of sophisticated forms of communication as well as possessing the ability to orchestrate complex traps for the humans. In the end the group battles the Spinosaurus, and Dr. Grant radios for help. Just as the raptors are about to attack, the Navy and the Marines suddenly arrive to save the day as a deus ex machina. As the group is rescued we see a flock of Pterodactyls soar up into the clouds.

In Jurassic Park III there are a few compelling action sequences, such as scenes of raptors attacking from a distance as if they are highly intelligent mercenaries, and one notably eerie scene which takes place inside a giant Pterodactyl cage is quite memorable. However, I just didn’t care for the attempts to “humanize” the vicious dinosaurs as solely fixated on caring for their young, and there are a variety of other ridiculous scenes (especially in a nightmare/flashback wherein Dr. Grant dreams of a velociraptor speaking to him on a plane). In all, this is a mostly forgettable movie.

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