Jurassic Park III (2001)

There was no reason to make a Jurassic Park III. Sure, there could be a sequel — The Lost World left that door open — but there really didn’t need to be one. What’s more surprising is that the open door isn’t what the filmmakers used here; they decided that bulldozing through the wall just to the right of the door would be a better idea. Instead of the evil corporation doing something involving the dinosaurs, we follow one character who was absent from the last film, and a bunch of new ones who serves the purpose of either running from the prehistoric creatures or being eaten by them.

That one character is Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), the protagonist of the first Jurassic Park who decided not to appear in its sequel. He’s back for the third installment, presumably because Sam Neill needed some extra cash. Maybe he wanted to finish his basement renovations. Grant’s working at a university teaching students about dinosaurs, and fields daily questions about whether or not he’d return to an island populated by them. “No force on Earth or Heaven could get me on that island,” he tells us. It’s at this point when we know he’ll be going to the island.

His focus of study is the velociraptor, as after almost being eaten by one in Jurassic Park, he must have decided to learn everything there is about them. He even has nightmares about the raptors — although that only happens once for a sad excuse at a jump scare. He is approached by a rich couple who tell him that they’ll give him a check for any amount that he wants (for his research) if he’ll take them to the dinosaur island. Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Téa Leoni) are their names.

You’ll be unsurprised when it turns out that they’re not just insane risk takers. They’re actually going to the dinosaur island to find something — or someone — and after forcing Dr. Grant into the plane, they knock him out until landing. One thing leads to another, a plane gets destroyed, and everyone’s trapped on the island. Oh, and the dinosaurs are not happy about it, although if they were, I would guess that something was amiss. Jurassic Park III is basically a find-a-way-to-survive film.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, the first two films didn’t have real characters, so why should this one? Granted, those ones were at least trying, but since it didn’t work out, the attempt has been cut out. We jump right into the action, and save for a couple of short scenes in which characters actually talk to one another without barking orders, the action is relentless. As a result, this is a much shorter film, clocking in just over 90 minutes.

Thank goodness. I don’t think I could handle this film if it happened to be longer. I’m sure there was a two-hour cut made at some point in its production history, but trimming it down was definitely the right decision. This is an abysmal film, and while it is more action-packed than either of the first two films, the action is all terrible. It’s so clichéd, so worthless, so boring; if I was in a drowsy state, the film could have put me to sleep. I actually wondered if I had dozed off for a portion of it just because of how short it was.

And it all looks awful. You know how in Jurassic Park — and even to a smaller extent The Lost World — how the dinosaurs felt so real? How the CGI had time and care put into it so that the main attraction felt like it could be in the same place and time as these characters? Yeah, that’s what happens when time and effort is put in. In Jurassic Park III, there isn’t a single dinosaur that looks real, even though this film is out in 2001 and the first one was 1993. Technology like this doesn’t get worse!

I’ll tell you what I’m guessing happened. The filmmakers decided to use cheaper, faster technology to render their dinosaurs, knowing that regardless of how they looked, we’d see their movie. We’d already gotten over the dinosaurs in the second installment, so they guessed that they could get away with lackluster special effects. I know that this decision took me out of the film. I actually could believe in the dinosaurs in the first two films, but in this one, they seemed fake, like they were right out of a video game.

Like in the first film, I found myself rooting for the dinosaurs. It’s established early on that raptors will play a prominent role, and when they appeared, I was glad. But they didn’t even act like the raptors in the first film, which was very disappointing. If they had, it’s possible that the movie would be over 30 minutes in, as these humans never would have made it past them (the first time, anyway). But, no, these ones are more interested in watching their prey than actually hunting them, leading to some terrible stare downs that lead nowhere and make no sense. Yes, we get it, the raptors are smart, but they’re still hunters and they don’t do any hunting in this film!

Jurassic Park III is a mess, and I sincerely hope it’s the last in the franchise. It’s sloppy throughout, right from the beginning to the deus ex machina ending. It doesn’t care about the characters, it doesn’t want to contain an actual plot, and specific scenes are so cliché that any surprise they try to generate completely fails. To top it off, it’s like the filmmakers didn’t even care, bringing in sloppy CGI to render the only things that we want to see done perfectly: The dinosaurs.

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