Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: "Jurassic Park III" is a Third of the Original Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 2 (of 2001) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jurassic Park III (2001)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence
DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston
WRITERS: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor (based on characters created by Michael Crichton)
PRODUCERS: Larry J. Franco and Kathleen Kennedy
EDITOR: Robert Dalva
Razzie Award nominee


Starring: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Bruce A. Young, and Laura Dern

The subject of this movie review is Jurassic Park III, a 2001 science fiction and dinosaur movie from director Joe Johnston. Steven Spielberg, who directed the first two films in the Jurassic Park franchise, executive produced this film. Although musical themes by John Williams, who composed the music for the first two films, are used, Don Davis provides the musical score for Jurassic Park III.

Jurassic Park III is purely and simply product; it is created and delivered to its consumers in the form of movies, toys, and interactive media. The movie is a quick, chaotic thrill, that attempts to waste nothing via tight, concise action and storytelling and wastes all its potential to be a really good movie in an attempt to make sure no one gets too long a glance and at this scared, awkward baby.

Based more on the Steven Spielberg directed 1993 original than the 1997 Spielberg follow up The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, this movie stars Sam Neill who reprises his role from the original as Dr. Alan Grant. William H. Macy and Tea Leoni play a divorced couple that tricks Dr. Grant into finding their son (Trevor Morgan) who is presumed missing on an island used by InGen, the dinosaur creating frankencorp, to produce dino specimens for their dino theme parks.

The cast, led by, Neill is up to the task of making a really good film. Neill is earnest and believable as Grant, and the character fits him like old, familiar clothes. Macy is always a pleasure to watch. His Paul Kirby is a weak, flawed and disingenuous man who climbs out of the morass of wimp hood into manhood as the film progress. Leoni’s Amanda Kirby is equally up to the task of transformation, and that is shocking. She is a likeable actress, but she is usually one note only; it was refreshing to see her play a character that can actually grow as the movie progresses. Morgan as their son Eric and Alessandro Nivola as Grant’s assistant Billy Brennan are also both fully fleshed three-dimensional characters. The viewer cares about these characters, and we cringe when they are in danger as much as we cheer them on their quest for survival.

These wonderful characters are the mark of strong writing, but what does go wrong? Johnston is a capable director and has shown the ability to control the pace of an SFX film that could get out of control in less skilled hands, as he did in Jumanji (1995). It seems as if the movie is hung on a thin, thread. Its premise is a basic and quick “get in, snatch and grab, get out.” The creators are blessed with even more knowledge about dinosaurs than its two predecessors, as well as SFX (special effects) and CGI (computer generated imagery) capabilities that surpass the original's (a movie that is still as good today as it was back in 1993).

One gets the sense that the filmmakers were very concerned about making a short movie, one in which the audience would not get to restless. That’s understandable. No matter how good the computer and effects work get, or how much new technology dates the original, any follow up to Jurassic Park cannot have the impact that the original did. Every dino sighting in the first film was a thrill; it was like discovering a whole new world. Jurassic Park was and will always be a landmark of cinema, a testament to both Spielberg’s savvy and skill and a testament to Hollywood SFX men, the special ones who always introduce us to something that we never thought we’d see on the big screen. They show us the amazing and do it with such class, quality, and skill that they leave us breathless and speechless and wanting more.

So how can part three compete with that? The sequel deals with it by running away from trying to be something special. It scampers through the dino-infested jungle of its predecessors like a madman, as afraid of its own shadow as it is of the raptors.

Granted that the characters are fighting for their lives, they rarely take the time to stop and observe something that would and should leave them speechless. A hallmark of the first was how the characters could be both fascinated and horrified by the wonderful things before them. They’re seeing real living breathing dinosaurs, and they’re only mildly interested. Yes, they’re genetic replicants, but these dinos are as close to the real thing as they’ll probably ever see. Even Dr. Grant didn’t seem too awed by the appearance of this film’s giant predator villain, the Spinosaurus, which runs through the film like a clumsy, wrecking bawl, screeching and slobbering all over the proceedings. Even the new look raptors mostly seem to be stiff and nervous models on the runway of an annual Paris toy show.

Through all this, one can see the skill and talent of Johnston and his writers, which includes Alexander Payne, the auteur of the (sadly) ignored Election. Even in a quick 90 minutes, one can see the quality of the work of the cast and crew. It’s a shame we got a truncated Reader’s Digest version of a story that could have been so much more. Still, it was as nice a treat as one can expect from a summer movie.

6 of 10

2002 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Remake or Sequel”


Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).

No comments:

Post a Comment