Retro Review: Jurassic Park 3

“The third time is the charm” says an old clichéd saying. Often in Hollywood, a movie franchises’ third film reveals if a franchise has the longevity to carry on into multiple theatrical returns.

The third film curse has fallen on such franchises as “Alien”, “Jaws”, “Batman”, and “Superman”. In those multi-million dollar franchises, the third film showed the franchise was showing signs of wear.

Film studios will often seek the paycheck before actually analyzing the concept of the second sequel.

Often they will go on without the original cast or crew or sometimes adjust formats to make the franchise fresh.

Each one of these adjustments is often fatal for the survival of the franchise. One of these elements rings true in the 3rd Jurassic Park.

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) returns in the third entry in the popular dinosaur series. This time he is joined by a couple who wish to fly over the infamous island of Isla Sorna (the island used in the 2nd film).

The couple (Tea Leoni and William H. Macy) offer Grant a lot of money so that he would be their tour guide. Grant’s protégé Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola) accompanies Grant for moral support.

When the plane which is supposed to do a flyover and instead lands on the island, Grant becomes petrified as he learns he has returned to his nightmare. The nightmare becomes even more of a reality when the plane ends up crashing into the thick underbrush of the island. How will Grant overcome his fear and escape the clutches of the island? What new ungodly creatures will Grant encounter this trip? And what are the ulterior motives of his companions?

“Jurassic Park 3” is not your typical Jurassic Park entry. The best word I can say to describe it is that it’s a “hybrid” sequel. Which loosely means the elements of the previous films are there but there is something missing and a new vision has come forth.

From the time the film begins I found the pacing to be quick and methodic as it seemed to hurry to get going. As the race begins we are quickly reintroduced to Dr. Grant and his new companions then tossed into the island. The action scenes where the people are fleeing in terror are very intense. The script reminded me of a B-films at times which is often overloaded with effects.

I loved the “atrium” scene and the aftermath of the plane crash the best. These action-horror scenes are brilliant and are incredible to watch. A giant dinosaur playing with the crashed plane was a great way to begin the island. The “atrium” for me was the pinnacle of the film because it was fresh, interesting and a total delight. These two scenes are vintage thrill-seeker rides. I also loved “action” Neill because it was great seeing Sam Neill in another adventure and in a quite different element than other pictures he has been in.

However the lulls in between attacks lacked the compassion and scientific debate that the characters in the first two films had. Neill’s communication and relationship with the boy in this film seems awkward instead of fatherly. I loved the relationship Neill had with the kids in the first film but here its not given much of a chance.

Other flaws include where the film will add humor (which is actually a string of one-liners) to avoid this obvious ill chemistry between cast members. Another problem is that in a couple scenes the film is poorly lit to the point that its very hard to make out which actor is which as the adventurers encounter the “Spinosaurus” in the water. The breath-taking “awe” scenes from the first two films are trimmed down here to about 3 minutes. But at a running time of only 95 minutes, it’s hard to get all the necessary elements for a great sequel in.

I believe a lot of these differences have occurred because Michael Crichton didn’t deliver the story this time. His foundations maintained the scientific “curiosity verses atrocity” which is why this whole menagerie of creatures even exist on the island. Crichton also always included the villainous INGEN as part of the concept and in the third film INGEN isn’t even involved. I believe if Crichton would have helped with the film’s scope and foundation it would have been a very interesting sequel given the film’s premise as it exists now.

I loved the first two films and this film will be a great collector’s piece to conclude the Jurassic Park trilogy but I can’t say it’s in the same company as the first two entries.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Here’s what I gave the first two films:

Jurassic Park (4.5 of 5)

The Lost World (4 of 5).

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