I’m about to seriously ruffle some dinosaur feathers this #JurassicJune with this proclamation, but I love Jurassic Park III! And honestly, coming straight off of The Lost World? I have to say, it feels like a return to form.
I know the issues with this movie, okay? I know and I acknowledge them because I’m willing to critically look at things I love. I know everyone says this is the worst of the original trilogy, but I’m always going to have a soft spot in my heart for it. This was the Jurassic Park I got to see in theatres as a ten year old kid. This is the Jurassic Park that has my favourite dinosaur in it. This is the Jurassic Park that didn’t bring a fucking T-Rex to San Diego for the worst scene in the franchise (that’s not counting Jurassic World fyi, I’m saving all my vitriol for that film for next week’s retrospective).
What, you think William H. Macy doesn’t belong in a Jurassic Park movie but you think a T-Rex in San Diego drinking from pools, eating dogs, and smashing up buses is a good idea? Well you, sir or madam, are incorrect and should sit quietly and think about the rest of your opinions. Because if they’re as wrong as your opinion on Jurassic Park III, you’ve got to get your life in order. You’ll be happier for it!
The story of Jurassic Park III follows the Kirby’s, two bungling mid-Westerners trying to save their child who’s stranded on dinosaur island. They make-believe as millionaires looking to fly low over Isla Sorna for their adventurous anniversary and convince Alan Grant and his grad student Billy to go with them. And by convince I mean trick and essentially kidnap them because they land on the island to look for their kid Erik and you better believe Grant is having none of that bullshit!
Then, because of dinosaurs (what else did you expect), their private plane gets fucked up and now all of them are trapped. And there’s a new apex predator there to fuck them up at every turn!
The spinosaurus is my absolute, hands down, now and forever favourite dinosaur! I don’t think my mother had any intention of seeing Jurassic Park III until I saw a commercial or read something in a magazine or found out through the cosmic alignment of prophetic dreams that there was a spinosaurus in this movie and I started demanding to know at every turn when she was going to take me to see Jurassic Park III!
They’re just so fucking cool! To those that say they feel cheated that the big baddie (the T-Rex) of the last two films is killed off so quickly when the spinosaurus breaks onto the scene, I say you just bet on the wrong horse! The spinosaurus was the largest carnivore, had a huge fin for intimidation and balance, their front arms were actually useful, and they could move through water as quickly as they could run on land! T-Rex ain’t got nothin’ on my bae the spinosaurus!
You can write all the OC, wishfic, drabble fanfic where your SO the T-Rex wins that you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that a spinosaurus could (all the way through to would) win in nature, and definitely did win in this film.
Those that are still upset? Just fucking chill, would you? You’re still getting dinosaurs! More dinosaurs than we got in The Lost World and would get in Jurassic World fourteen years later!
Even if you really love the T-Rex because it’s been your favourite since you were a kid, you have to admit that three movies in a row with it would have been a bit much. By immediately doing away with the T-Rex (or at least a T-Rex because what are the chances it’s the same one?) you can show the audience something new and up the stakes, which is what you should strive to do in any form of sequel.
But okay, to get off the T-Rex and its (superior) counterpart the spinosaurus, let’s look at what doesn’t work in Jurassic Park III, because I see the problems too. Like I said before, I’m willing to look at it critically and accept it with those problems! And the biggest problem within the story is that Jurassic Park III is just an hour and a half long chase sequence. They don’t ever get a moment’s peace on Isla Sorna, going from a plane crash to a T-Rex to a spinosaurus to raptors to pterodactyls and then back to the spinosaurus and raptors. They don’t get to learn anything about the dinosaurs and don’t have any trials to go through to get them to their inevitable rescue.
And when I say trials, I mean like how Ellie had to get into the generator room. She jumped over trees, fought off a raptor, and then turned on the generators. Comparatively, what Grant, Billy, and the Kirbys go through is just very much survive this one spot to move onto the next and survive there too.
I don’t personally have a problem with this and I’ll tell you why: there’s nothing left to learn about Jurassic Park either as a theme park or an organization. We know about the super intelligent raptors. We know how John Hammond went about resurrecting the creatures. We know about InGen and their less than ethical history of keeping people uninformed about how exactly they played God. What’s left for Grant and the others to do except stay alive?
Honestly, I’ll take a constant dinosaur chase scene over the too slow, just too ridiculous Lost World and will vehemently defend Jurassic Park III against the absolute turd that is Jurassic World! Yes, I’ll even take the dream sequence bit with the raptor on the plane looped for an hour and a half over either of these!
Say what you will about Jurassic Park III but you have to admit it at least gives you dinosaurs (I’m looking at you Lost World) and it at least gives you characters that you can marginally care about (I’m looking at you Jurassic World).
Doctor Grant is back! Hallelujah! Someone with the proper agency to be on dinosaur island! I’ll never forgive The Lost World for having chaos mathematician Ian Malcolm return as the star. What’s a mathematician going to give us on dinosaur island? A theoretical mathematician at that. We’re all good at math in theory. I can fill an equation with nothing but variables and pull an answer out of my ass too, am I qualified to go to dinosaur island?
Well, not to toot my own horn, but after a decade of rabid dinosaur fandom as a child, I’m better qualified than Malcolm!
Now, to remain critical when it’s needed, there’s also a fairly obvious problem with the group of characters that appear in Jurassic Park III, and it’s how flat they all are. Grant is covered from Jurassic Park, as is Ellie during her two scenes (Laura Dern <3), but everyone else is only kind of one thing. And for half the cast, that’s dinosaur fodder. The ones that don’t end up eaten by dinosaurs are filling a singular role within the narrative. Billy = attractive, charming dude that is ultimately a part of the problem, Mister Kirby = comic relief, Erik Kirby = child that needs to be protected but also knows a lot about dinosaurs and talks about them at a level the audience can understand, Missus Kirby = woman.
It’s a little frustrating to have the female representation for the majority of the movie be Téa Leoni screaming. Not that even the other male characters have so much more to do, but it’s especially clear when it’s the only woman’s role in the piece.
But, it’s like I said before, Doctor Alan Grant is back and that’s something! A big something! Sam Neill was born to play my favourite child-hating, raptor-loving paleontologist Alan Grant. The man was a gift for the ‘I can’t believe you won’t shut up’ face and it’s a pleasure to see it again here after dealing with whatever it is Jeff Goldblum is always doing with his face.
Here’s what makes Jurassic Park III an absolutely worthy part of the original trilogy. Three words for you folks, three glorious words: giant animatronics, bitches!
Apparently there were a few animatronics (or at least puppets) in Jurassic World but they’re nothing compared to the spinosaurus that was 1,000-horsepower and could turn its head at twice the force of gravity, with the tip of its nose moving at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour! That’s fucking metal as fuck! The practical effects are always great, especially the fire scene on the river. That nighttime fire scene is just so damn dramatic and a clear homage to the T-Rex scene of the first one. It’s so amazing to see the spinosaurus rear back its head while surrounded by fire and just roar into the darkness! It’s worth the price of admission!
Bringing out my critical eye though, yeah, the effects aren’t quite as top touch as I’d like all these years later. Nothing is ever going to compare to that nighttime T-Rex scene from Jurassic Park, but some of the random occurrences of dinosaurs we come across could definitely look better. Especially that… red dinosaur with the horn? I don’t know what it is, but I know it looks way to cartoony for my liking. And the parts involving the parachute are clearly beyond what they were capable of doing.
However, the pterodactyls? Pretty good looking. The spinosaurus and T-Rex fight scene? Pretty slick. It’s not terrible by any means, just a little lackluster.
But pretty much everything is lackluster when held up against the first Jurassic Park and we all know that! Accept it and just enjoy the fact that there is a 1,000 horsepower, gasoline powered dinosaur roaring it’s way across the screen!
We’re back on Isla Sorna for Jurassic Park III and it actually feels like a Jurassic Park theme park island this time, as opposed to the dinosaur island that it felt like in the The Lost World. It’s great to see the characters in a lab, looking at the equipment that brought dinosaurs back from the dead. It’s even cute to see Mister Kirby try and make change for a long abandoned candy machine. The traces of humanity littered around the island are what reminds you that this came about because of the hubris of man. It keeps it in perspective and the whole thing is a little more grounded. That’s what The Lost World was really missing, a little bit of reality to keep it from floating off to goddamn San Diego!
The best part of returning to Isla Sorna was the scene with the pterodactyls in the giant birdcage. Such a great reveal to work in flying dinosaurs! I mean, yeah, we saw flying dinosaurs at the end of the The Lost World but that feels tacked on with no real sense of purpose.
But the whole part here in Jurassic Park III? A great way to bring in a new species looking to make Grant’s life a living hell within a completely enclosed area upon an island they’re already trapped on! Here we get Grant having the dramatic realization that they’re in a birdcage. It’s reminiscent of scenes from the first movie because here is something new to see. But instead of a flock of dinosaurs on a wide open plain we see a huge pterodactyl emerge from the mist. It’s an amazing environmental reveal!
In conclusion: I really, truly do love Jurassic Park III! The spinosaurus is fucking great, in both CGI and animatronic form, Grant steals the show once again, and yes, I even like watching William H. Macy because he is charming and has kind eyes!
Now, am I saying that Jurassic Park III couldn’t have been better? Yes, of course, all movies stand to better. The characters could have been fleshed out more, the action could have been more concentrated so other sections of the movie would had more (or any) screen time, and the main antagonistic dinosaur could have had more to do than just present a physical barrier from this point to the next in the story.
But am I also saying is that Jurassic Park III could have been worse? Yes it could have been.
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