Yep, the one with the Spinosaurus. Funnily enough, the spell check on WordPress tried to change that to Tyrannosaurus.
Joking aside, my spellchecker is onto something. Jurassic Park III is entertaining, but also clumsy, pushing to be different to its predecessors but rarely succeeding.
This time around it’s Sam Neill’s Dr Grant being lured back into danger. Surely he learnt about the perils of visiting these islands for dig funding the last time? Before you can say anything about life finding a way he’s stranded with an estranged couple looking for their son.
Jurassic Park III isn’t a bad film. Comparing any of the sequels to the original is moot, but I’ve never been able to put my finger on what separates this one so clearly from the others. Alas, I’ve figured it out.
Jurassic Park is a visual wonder, from the sick Triceratops to the T.rex exiting her paddock. With a soaring and heart warming soundtrack, it’s equal parts awe-inspiring and horrifying. But none of that would matter if it wasn’t grounded by compelling characters that we want to follow. They debate, they bicker, and they have the capacity to be hugely brave or massively duplicitous. The dinosaurs are just a result of this; a judgement on Man’s meddling.
Unfortunately, even a glance at the amount of time the dinos get on screen in the sequels shows that this has been forgotten. ‘Bigger, better, more teeth’ does not translate into a better film. Handing the reigns to Joe Johnston doesn’t help; his ‘Saturday Morning Serial’ approach to films might work in The First Avenger, but not here. The writing and direction of Jurassic Park III leaves it constantly operating in chase mode. Each character is always reacting to something, which doesn’t give the film the opportunity to be anything else until its abrupt and awkward ending.
There’s one subject that I’ll cover with a few paragraphs, as it’s one of the main reasons we’re here. The dinosaurs.
What were they thinking changing the Raptors? I understand that real Velociraptors look very different, as mentioned by Dr Wu in later films. But in this series Raptors are human size and scaly. Don’t tweak them because they don’t need it. There was no need to make them talk either. Rather defeats the point of being a hunting pack if you have to shout at each other.
Then there’s the big bad of the film, the Spinosaurus. With the T.rex and Raptors generally sharing the spotlight I understand the urge to change things up. But killing a Rex early on in a fight that it should have won doesn’t start things off on solid footing. Admittedly the Spino has an intimidating stance, and comes across very well in its final water based scene. But the jaw can look goofy, and ultimately it just doesn’t feel iconic enough for me.
It could be argued that the real stars of the film are the Pteranodons. They’re threatening ,creepy on the ground, and add a new angle to the danger the human characters find themselves in.
Returning to the characters, I don’t care about anyone bar Grant, who could be removed from the story fairly easily. There’s a bigger problem though, and it’s that no one of note dies. We know the kid won’t die, and it’s unlikely his parents will. Grant won’t, so that leaves his sidekick Billy. Sadly the film bottles it, swerving away from real consequences. People should die, whether that be for greed (like Nedry), or hubris (Muldoon). Judgement on Man doesn’t carry that much weight when no one actually bites it.
Jurassic Park III is a puddle deep thrill ride that doesn’t do enough to be either the best or worst of the series, failing to understand what made the original so good.
Just ask my spellchecker.