Jurassic Park 3 (2001) Review

Sometimes the simplest way to fix a creative issue is to strip it back to its purest parts. After the mess that was Jurassic Park: The Lost World – Director Joe Johnston brings Jurassic Park back to the elements that made it work so well in the first place. It isn’t perfect or anywhere near as good as the seminal original but does recapture some of what made Jurassic Park such a classic.

The first positive move is to bring one of the more decent, recognisable characters to the centre of the film. Sam Neill returns as Alan Grant and is as grumpy, cynical and haunted by the events of the original movie as you’d hope. The scenes where he is desperately avoiding a Q&A about the first two movies’ events establish his hatred and understandable sour feelings. It means that when he does go back to the island, it means so much more!

We’re back to a much more interesting selection of characters

Johnston has also decided to get rid of the host of characters and army of faceless goons that plagued the second movie. We are back with a core team that we can get to know and then care-about when being chased by dinosaurs. Putting a broken family in the mix is also very effective and William H Macy and Tea Leone handle this with ease.

We have the action hero in Alessandro Nivola playing Billy Brennan and then the customary child played by Trevor Morgan. Except in a slight twist – this time the kid is actually smart and doesn’t just get himself captured or constantly chased. It’s a small change but makes that much more of a difference.

New dinosaur – Spinosaurus (no really!)

Jurassic Park isn’t about the people though. It is about the dinosaurs chasing those people. Here we get a mixed bag. The Raptors are elevated to a more prominent position than ever before and as scary as they could be – aren’t really used to the same effect as they were in the first movie. T-Rex gets a disappointingly brief one scene showing as this movie becomes all about the newest dino discovery (particularly at the time of the movie’s release) – Spinosaurus.

 

It is probably because I love the “classic” dinosaurs so much but I resented all the screen time this one dinosaur got compared to the others. It is very cool and the first moments when it attacks the plane that bring the characters to the island is very cool but it wouldn’t have hurt the movie to mix in a T-Rex – just to keep things slightly more interesting.

Finally – Flying dinosaurs!

Luckily the movie makes up for this with the introduction of a “classic” dinosaur. In a great “reveal” we finally get the Pterodons or Pterodactyls that have been teased in previous movies. These are realised in the scary way that is necessary for a Jurassic Park movie to be successful. It is just a shame that like so many of the other dinosaurs, their appearance in fleeting.

This mix of negative and positive amount to a Jurassic Park movie that has a lot of the good bits of the original, the chases, the suspense, the larger set-pieces, but never has the awe that we want with the film. Even after all the chasing and screaming, the ending just resolves itself – nice, simply and quite damp compared to what has gone before. It comes down to one key detail – the distinct lack of goosebumps!

Overall, Jurassic Park 3 is a step in the right direction but a small one. It has a better cast, playing much more interesting characters. The dinosaurs are used well but the choice of central dinosaur means we lose out on some “classics” that are sorely missed. It is scary in places and has some cool set-pieces but ends on such an easy, damp note that you never really feel the excitement that has been missing since that first visit to the Park.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Still lacks the magic of the first movie
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6 comments

  1. Good review. Curiously, the structure of the plot for this reminded me of a family-friendly version of James Cameron’s Aliens. There are a LOT of similarities if you think about it. Sam Neill facing the horror again, the species vs species right to survive, the face-off in the nest. I haven’t seen the film for a good while, so there are probably many more things to point out too – but I distinctly remember being particularly struck by the similar story elements.

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