Dir: Joe Johnston. US.2001. 90 min.
Continuing to expand theboundaries of tech- nology, rather than exciting entertainment, Jurassic ParkIII, the franchise's thirdinstallment, builds on Spielberg's dual hits, Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), which jointly have grossed over $1.5billion worldwide. Much darker than the previous films, Jurassic Park III feels more like a horror movie set in anamusement park than a good sci-fi adventure. While the story is weak, thespecial effects are strong, and the creatures are much more sophisticated thanthose in the earlier chapters. It's doubtful that this sequel, which creditsSpielberg as the executive producer, will score as big as the second one, TheLost World, which still holdsthe record as the biggest grossing opening weekend in North American filmhistory, with its phenomenal figure of $92.7m. However, Universal's revitalizedad campaign, which now sells the film as a PG-13 horror flick domestically,should result in one of the summer's strong openings, though the movie will nothave as long legs as its predecessors.
In terms of the franchise, JurassicPark III is the weakest in thetrilogy. The new picture is not an event movie in the way that the formerinstallments were. Even before its overseas release, the first Jurassic Park successfully penetrated the cultural and socialfabric of other countries, with Dino-Mania sweeping the entire globe. And untilTitanic came along, the 1993picture was the biggest-grossing movie of all time on a worldwide basis.
Although it uses charactersand concepts created by Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park III is the first of the series not to be adapted fromthe author's novels. A priority for the studio, which needed a summer tentpole,the film was rushed into production in Hawaii long before there was a finishedscreenplay with a satisfying ending. In a much-publicized move, the cast waslater re-teamed for reshooting a new conclusion, which is acceptable if notterribly thrilling. The final script is credited to Peter Buchman and Election's Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, who functioned asscript doctors, with additional polishing by an uncredited John August (Go).
The link with the previouspictures is provided by the reliable actor, Sam Neill, as Dr. Alan Grant, oneof the world's foremost paleontologists, and by Laura Dern, who was in thefirst film and here makes a special appearance in a small but crucial role, asDr. Ellie Sattler.
As viewers may recall, Grantwas skeptical when he accepted an invitation from industrialist John Hammondfor a preview tour of his company InGen's latest brainchild, a unique touristattraction located on Isla Nublar, a remote island near Costa Rica. Unlikeanything the modern world had seen, Jurassic Park would allow visitors to interact with thegenetically engineered dinosaurs. However, the highly anticipated trip quicklyturned into a terrifying nightmare, when the cloned Velociraptors and T-Rexesclaimed the would-be amusement park as their very own.
Personally shaken andnarrowly escaping death, Grant put the fateful experience behind him, though,like most scientists, his commitment to study the dinos remained staunchlyintact. Years later, InGen's debacle and the economic-political climate havetaken their toll, and public or private funding for dinosaurs research hasbecome nearly impossible.
Desperate to find newresources for his research, Grant is at his most vulnerable when he receives anoffer from a presumably wealthy adventurer, Paul Kirby (Macy) and hisattractive wife, Amanda (Leoni), to serve as their personal guide on an aerialtour of Isla Sorna, another InGen site. Adjacent to Isla Nublar, thisquarantined island has become a primordial breeding ground for Hammond'screation, as well as a magnet for thrill-seekers. To demonstrate his generosityand the seriousness of his proposition, Kirby opens his checkbook. What's anidealistic and desperate scientist to do' Despite doubts and hesitations, heaccepts the offer, unaware of the couple's true identity and motivation.
In a gorgeously shotprologue, the viewers see a teenager named Eric (Morgan) and an older manpeacefully flying over the island, only to crash some moments later. It turnsout, Eric is the couple' son, and older man is Amanda's boyfriend, both of whomhave disappeared with no trace.
Accompanied by his youngprotege, Billy (Nivola), Grant suspects something's fishy whenthe pilot prepares to land on the island. A protest and fight occur aboard thehelicopter, only to be interrupted by an enormous creature that appears out ofnowhere, forcing the plane to crash into the jungle. Grant soon realizes thathis hosts are divorced, and that the reason for inviting him on the journey isto search for and rescue their missing son.
This entire plot happens inthe first reel, the only one in which attention is paid to such"irrelevant" matters as ideas, characterization or motivation. Fromthen on, the movie assumes the shape of a yarn about an ethnically diversegroup fighting for its survival, while stranded on an island inhabited bygenetically cloned prehistoric beasts. Recalling Aliens (the second picture in that particular series) andother sci-fi adventures, this tale is structured in terms of encounters withthe creatures, chases, deaths, and survival -- until the next encounter.
As the marooned groupattempts to locate Eric, it needs to find a way to escape InGen's newcreatures, including the massive Spinosaurus, which hunts both on land andunderwater, and Pteranodons, which has the ability to fly. A few revelationsare made along the way, such as the couple's shock, when they realize thattheir experienced guide has been to Isla Nublar, but not Isla Sorna. A measureof sentimentality and some requisite family values are introduced once Eric isfound, about mid-way into the picture.
It's always intriguing toguess which of the mission's participants are the greediest, and which will bethe first to face the horrifying creature and die after the bloodyconfrontation. When Aliens was released,critics pointed out the story's race and gender biases: the first victims to gowere women and