Friday, February 21, 2020

Green Phoenix - Jurassic Park III Review

Film poster with a logo at center of a skeleton of a Spinosaurus, with its mouth wide open and hands lifted up. The logo's background is red, and right below it is the film's title. A shadow covers a large portion of the film poster in the shape of a flying Pteranodon. At the bottom of the image are the credits and release date.Upon the success of Jurassic Park, Director Joe Johnston expressed an interest to Steven Spielberg of directing a potential sequel. Though Spielberg already had intentions of directing The Lost World: Jurassic Park, he gave permission to Johnston to direct a third film, should such a film ever be produced. This understanding that he would not be able to direct the third film in the franchise pressured Spielberg to change the ending of The Lost World to include the T-Rex San Diego scene, which would have been the climax of the third film had Spielberg's initial plans gone through.

As a result, the third film was handed to Johnston with many of its best moments already utilized by previous films and a lack of novelization to base their ideas on, as Michael Crichton never wrote a third Jurassic Park novel. The result was a difficult pre-production as Johnston struggled with multiple writers to develop a proper script and story. With some scripts reading "like a really bad episode of Friends", the production almost immediately started on a rough patch. This resulted in a film that while a commercial success, drawing in nearly 369 million dollars with a 93 million dollar movie;  the film was critically mixed.

A sentiment I can't help but agree with, even with how much I love the Jurassic Park franchise and the nostalgic memories I have with this one in particular.

  • Directed by Joe Johnston
  • Produced by Amblin Entertainment
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 129 Minutes



Several years after The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant, a survivor of the original Jurassic Park, is tricked by a pair of parents into traveling to Isla Sorna in order to help them find their son, who went missing in a parasailing accident near the island.

After the group is stranded, the survivors, which includes a few mercenaries and Dr. Grant's research assistant, must figure out a way off the island and hopefully find the missing boy as well. All while being chased by a pack of vengeful Velociraptors and the Spinosaurus, a creature even more terrifying than the Tyrannosaurus Rex.



Being totally honest, this movie is a mess.

I love the Jurassic Park franchise and even I will acknowledge that this film really doesn't compare to any of the others in the franchise. It feels far more like a Made-for-TV movie at times and the story feels either unconnected or strangely random in its narrative points.

And the fact that this film is almost singularly responsible of robbing us of future Jurassic Park films for nearly a decade and a half is really going to hurt my overall perceptions of the film. I want to give this film an easier time because of its nostalgic memory, but I just can't. With the benefit of hindsight, this film just has way to many issues in nearly every category that brings this film down to an absolutely average score.

Which just might be the worst thing anyone can say about a Jurassic Park film.

VISUALS - 6/10

On the surface, one would think that with the same special effects crews, including the legendary Stan Winston, at the helm of this film, that the visual aspect would be just as high quality as the rest of the franchise. And in some individual scenes, such as the boat scene, are handled incredibly well and easily among the best dinosaur moments in the franchise. In the same vein, the Pteranodon bird cage is tense and a wonderful introduction of flying reptiles to the Jurassic Park mythos officially.

But this film just feels very visually different from the rest of the franchise. Cheaper and more TV-movie feeling. And I thought long and hard about why this feeling resonated with me before it finally came to me. What makes this film feel so visually different from the rest of the franchise.

The lighting and the scale.

This film is incredibly bright in terms of lighting. There are very few scenes of darkness and even those scenes are usually much brighter than the dark that a horror film would usually have, which unfortunately makes some potentially scary scenes rather funny (the Carnotaurus scene). Now the original Jurassic Park was quite bright as well, but it had an altogether different kind of brightness.

The original Jurassic Park felt warm and tropical, matching the island aesthetic and helping to immerse you in the scene, whilst also making the night and rain scenes feel tropical and warm.
Image result for spinosaurus jurassic park 3
The Spinosaurus does look badass though.

Jurassic Park III is saturated throughout with a lot of blue in its lighting, which unfortunately makes this island off the coast of Costa Rica feel like its in the forests of Washington State (which is weird because this film was shot on location in Hawaii like every other Jurassic Park island scene.

In addition, this film takes place in very cramped places or on the island almost entirely. There is very little buildup to the island adventure, leaving the world feeling very small and isolated. This film just doesn't feel as grand as the rest of the franchise.

Because of that, I really can't give it any higher than an above average score (barely above average). It maintains the high quality animatronics and special effects, but the lighting and scale give a very made-for-TV feel to the overall product.


I will be frank and brief.

Besides the original Jurassic Park theme song, which always plays in these movies, I cannot recall even a single track from this film. I just can't.

In every other regard, the audio quality, especially with the dinosaurs is spectacular and immersive. I enjoy the work on the Velocirator sounds, as it plays a pretty integral role in the overall narrative, but sound effects and mixing aren't enough.

A key point of immersion for films comes from a memorable soundtrack and Jurassic Park films can't just rely on nostalgia to coast their way through audio-wise.


The Jurassic Park franchise is a horror film series. A key draw in horror for many audiences is in the unique deaths that occur to the characters in any film franchise. A notorious death or a lot of them. In this way, either the strength and number of those characters in any franchise can make or break it, especially film to film.

In most horror films, especially slashers, the films tend to go for quantity over quality, with many deaths being relatively samey (with the occasional notable outliers). Monster movies (which Jurassic Park aligns more with) tend to, due to the unique nature of the monster, be a little more creative or subtle with their deaths. Though the Jurassic Park franchise had the benefit of good effects which it wanted to show off.

This resulted in amazing death sequences in the original Jurassic Park and its first sequel. Everyone remembers the death of Gennaro (the lawyer), the death of Dennis Nedry to the Dilophosaurus (which still haunts my nightmares), and the wish-boning of Eddie Carr in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

I'm going on about the deaths so much because, unfortunately, Jurassic Park III just doesn't measure up. The cast is the smallest of any film in the franchise and, as a result, has the lowest death count as well, with 75% of the kills occurring within the first 30 minutes of the film.

Image result for jurassic park 3 mercenaries
Hi! We will be your pre-viewing meal for the evening.
With all these deaths so earlier, and most by the same dinosaur, the film is forced to rely on the strength of its characters alone to create memorability. This is not a strong-point in this film (though memorability has been a problem for most Jurassic Park human characters).

Jurassic Park III has Sam Neill returning as Dr. Alan Grant, but he spends most of the film being essentially 110% done with dinosaurs. We have the divorced couple looking for their son who will obviously overcome their differences and reconcile for their family. We have the pretty guy who will grant us both the midpoint betrayal and immediate redemption before his death (which in turn becomes the end of movie fake-out) and the mercenary who we all know isn't making it to the end of the movie and is only their to give us a death later in the film.

And then there is Eric Kirby, the kid whose rescue kicks off the whole movie.

Honestly, Trevor Morgan, the actor who plays Eric, is the star of this whole goddamn picture. Eric is incredibly funny and smart and you can actually buy that this teenager managed to survive on an island of dinosaurs for 8 weeks. I honestly wish the movie was about him entirely about him.

In fact, my editorial for next week will be on that very subject. But more about that at the end.

On the whole, the characters in this movie are something of a disappointment. There are no surprises and the samey nature of all of the deaths leave you feeling empty. I don't remember anything about the mercenary characters who all die in the beginning of the movie beyond my natural nerdy fact-based knowledge.

We have Eric Kirby, but he isn't introduced into the film until it is far-too-late for us to enjoy it.

STORY - 4/10

How many times can these movies run on the same damn plot with little to no deviation? Say what you want about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (and trust me...we'll get there) but at least it tried to shake up a tired formula.

This plot is almost literally just half the plot of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It's essnetially the first 30  minutes of The Lost World stretched out 130 minutes. And it really feels like it.

The characters don't even really try to rescue Eric for most of the movie. The kid essentially rescues them, so even the rescue plot is completely bonkers. And that says nothing about how thin the justification to get Dr. Grant back on the island is.

Dr. Grant: "I will never step foot on that island!"

*Waves a $20 at Dr. Grant like he's a stripper.

Image result for airplane taking off gif
 It's completely ridiculous. And it leaves this film feeling compeltely isolated and disconnected from the rest of the franchise.

It's no wonder the fourth film took nearly a decade and a half of development hell and rewrites to be created. This film essentially left it with no where to go or build off of narratively speaking.


I love all the Jurassic Park movies. This entire franchise, alongside the Indiana Jones series essentially was my childhood. As such, I do have something of a nostalgic soft spot for this film. As soft as that part is though, I cannot ignore that this is defintely the black sheep and eye sore of the franchise.

When film franchises talk about the third film being the one that derailed all future projects, they are talking about Jurassic Park III. Beyond the incredible effects, which by this point are a prerequisite and minimum for a good Jurassic Park film, not a point of exceptionalism, there really isn't much here.

I wish there was and I can see what this film could've been. It just doesn't reach it, to my eternal disappointment. Leaving me forced to rank this as a barely below average film. The lowest score I have given to this franchise thus far.

In fact, I see the potential for this film so much that I will be devoting next week's editorial to discuss that very subject.

How would I have fixed Jurassic Park III on Building Better Backstories IV.

  • 6/10
  • 4/10
  • 4/10
  • 4/10

 FINAL SCORE - 4.5/10

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