Classic Intel: Jurassic Park III - Online Review

'Essentially the B-movie version of The Lost World, something director Joe Johnston makes very clear from the start'.

The Jurassic Park franchise has its roots in exploring human arrogance: man believes he can not only control nature, but start making some big decisions for it, and fails spectacularly. Spielberg's original film used this premise to wonderful effect, and whilst The Lost World, er, lost its way in particular towards the end, it again explored this idea in some interesting ways. Jurassic Park III has no such interest, abandoning the series' philosophical roots for a much simpler concept: how many idiots can we surround Alan Grant (Sam Neill) with on an island full of dinosaurs?

To put it another way, this is essentially the B-movie version The Lost World, something director Joe Johnston makes very clear from the start. From the claw-slashed opening logo; to the "restricted" label plastered across the screen in big red capital letters after confirming we are back on Isla Sorna; to the mysterious attack shrouded in fog during the first scene, Johnston lays his cards on the table that this is going to be a Jurassic Park film low on subtlety and high on cheap thrills.

In fairness, it's an approach that works for the director here and there. Instead of holding back the action for as long as possible like Spielberg, Johnston is keen to give us danger and excitement at his earliest possibly opportunity - a wise choice with only a ninety minute running time. The Spinosaurus attack within the first half an hour provides some palpable thrills, even if it's not a patch on anything seen in the first two films. The pterosaurs also showcase some fresh ideas from Johnston, these creatures having been absent from the franchise until now and utilised fairly well during one of Jurassic Park III's strongest segments.

The film's weaknesses are too problematic to ignore, however. Despite Neill returning to the franchise alongside the likes of William H. Macy and Téa Leoni in new roles, Jurassic Park III's cast of characters largely falls flat. Macy and Leoni's divorced couple are decidedly tame, making what little development there is between them feel inconsequential. Meanwhile both Alan's sidekick Billy (Alessandro Nivola) and token child Eric (Trevor Morgan) never become anything more than forgettable, generic roles. It's therefore down to Neill to carry the film, a task he takes on admirably but has only limited success in doing.

The level of stupidity displayed by most of the characters is regularly infuriating, with even Alan having at least a couple of uncharacteristically dense moments. The plot lurches along episodically without a well-defined focus, feeling as though Johnston himself is unsure of where exactly he's taking matters. Using Laura Dern's brief first act return as an excuse for a lazy deus ex machina twist late on in the film is perhaps the clearest indication of this.

The dinosaurs too have also lost some of their wonder by this point: partly due to the audience having now seen them twice before in the franchise; partly because Jurassic Park III brings nothing new to the table in terms of their presentation; but, perhaps most critically of all, because the effects here are noticeably weaker than in the previous films. The group passing a herd of sauropods whilst travelling down a river, for example, clearly harks back to the first film and should be impressive, but just feels decidedly ordinary.

When all is said and done, Jurassic Park III fundamentally fails to justify its existence. True, there are enjoyable moments in isolation, but the film neither adds anything new to the franchise's mythology nor tells an interesting or satisfying enough story. If it wasn't for the Jurassic Park label the film is lucky to have stamped upon it, Johnston's film would undoubtedly have been sentenced to oblivion years ago as the occasionally entertaining but ultimately silly dino-sploitation flick it is.

Jurassic Park III was available through Amazon Instant Video.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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