When the first two films in a series generate over $500 Million in box office receipts and countless dollars in toy and merchandise sales, it is a safe bet that the studio will do whatever it can to keep the almighty dollars keep coming in.
Sequels are often a safe bet in Hollywood as they have a built in audience and name recognition, combined with the general fact that even if a sequel does1/3 the business of the previous film, it is likely to make good money at the box office.
Despite lackluster reviews from critics and many filmgoers, 1997s Jurassic Park The Lost World was one of the years biggest winners at the box office. Boosted by a $92.7 Million opening weekend in the bank, the powers that be at Universal started to make plans for the next chapter in the series.
Steven Spielberg decided to pass on directing duties and focus on producing the new Jurassic Park film leaving Joe Johnston to take over the reins of the lucrative franchise. The biggest issue facing the new film was creating a script, as the first two films had the advantage of having best sellers from Michael Crichton to base their screenplays upon. However, with no new novel in the series available, it fell to screenwriters Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor to create an original script that would continue the success of the film series and ensure the lucrative continuation of the series.
The story takes place a few years after the event of the first two films where the worlds population has come to accept that Dinosaurs do indeed exist on the Isla Nublar. This has lead to a belief amongst many that and that further study of fossils of the creatures is no longer necessary to the point it has been in the past. This is viewpoint is very difficult for Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil) to accept as he has spent his time following his visit to the original Jurassic Park speaking out against the company who recreated the animals as theme park attractions. Grant is also working on a theory that Velociraptors were able to communicate with one another and had the Dinosaurs not been eliminated, they instead of primates might have evolved as the higher lifeform on Earth. Grant is however unable to get the needed funding he needs to continue his research and is faced with shutting down his research in only a few short weeks.
Just when all seems lost for Grant, a wealthy couple arrives with an interesting proposition. It seems that Paul and Amanda Kirby, (William Macy, Tea Leoni) have chartered a plane to fly over the forbidden Isla Nublar and they want to fund Dr. Grants research if he is willing to be their guide. Despite some misgivings, Grant realizes this is the only way to continue his work and before long he is on the way to the island.
It does not take long for Grant to realize that this is not a site seeing trip for a wealthy couple but rather a rescue attempt. It seems that the Kirbys are a divorced couple who is looking for their son who vanished on the island 8 weeks earlier. On top of this, Kirby is not the wealthy person he claimed to be, and before long, Grant and the crew find themselves in a spectacular plane crash, stranded on the island running for their lives, from all manner of deadly creatures.
While the film does not have the tightest of scripts, the FX is truly amazing. While the sight of the Dinosaurs does not hold the awe it once did in the original, it is amazing to see how the technology has improved as the creatures are even more detailed then they were before. The animals show a spark of intelligence and at times menevolence in their eyes much to dismay of many a character who ends up on the lower end of the food chain to one of the creatures.
Jurassic Park III also introduces some new animals such as the deadly Spinosaurus and a nest of Pterodactyls who menace the cast in a visual spectacle. The film also had a sense of humor about it, and an ongoing series of jokes regarding a unique cell phone ring is very funny. In once scene the audience went from laughing to jumping from their seats in less than 30 seconds, truly an effective use of audience manipulation.
While it would be easy to pick the film apart for plot holes, pacing in parts, and a lack of originality with some of the scenarios, it is important to remember that the film is intended to be nothing more than a Summer thrill ride. It is under this scenario that Jurassic Park 3 succeeds. It is not as good as the first film but better than the second. The return of Sam Neil as Dr. Grant was a good idea as his calm demeanor in the face of crisis and his humanity made him stand out from the rest of the cast who were little more then stock characters in the film. Leoni and Macy did have some nice scenes but they were little more than the romantic element to the film. As the strained couple who learn to love one another again in the middle of all the chaos, but their lines and situation were so stock, it was obvious where their relationship was going.
Word has it that plans are already underway for a fourth installment of the series and here is hoping that the creative element do not rest on their past formula and decide to push the envelope a little bit. JP3 was more of a scenario that unfolded for the viewers over 90 minutes much like a theme park ride. It had its thrills and chills, but there were moments were things just went along. In a leisurely manner waiting for something to happen. Johnston allows this to happen as he knows that the real stars of the film are the creatures and since the audience is coming to see them, not griping human drama and well written character interactions, he puts his focus on the creatures and the humans as the struggle to survive and outwit one another. Bottom line, if you go in not expecting much in the way of a story and want to have some thrills and laughs while you marvel at the top notch FX by ILM, then JP3 is a relaxing afternoon in the park.
3.5 stars out of 5
Gareth Von Kallenbach
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