JURASSIC PARK III
Reviewed November 25th, 2001 by Dan Jones
”The odds are we won't leave this island alive.”
Jurassic Park; where to I begin? The series began with the blockbuster original based on Michael Crichton’s novel revolving around a company genetically engineering dinosaurs in the hopes of opening an amusement park that would attract visitors worldwide, and in turn extreme amounts of money. Of course, in the original, and in the two sequels to follow, things rarely ever go according plan. From here, we go to beautiful CGI created creatures interacting with, and often times trying to maim and slaughter, our cast of unlucky characters.
Jurassic Park was undoubtedly a huge box office smash, raking in well over a billion dollars on a film budget that was only about sixty-three million dollars. When a film makes this kind of money, sequels are almost always to follow. Let’s face it...most people do not like sequels. Often times they do nothing more then lessen the quality and impact of the original movie with bad scripts and equally bad plots that serve to do nothing more then expand the pockets of those that make it, because these people know no matter what they put on screen will bring people in (“If you build it, they will come”). Some might say that what was to follow the original Jurassic Park fit this description to a T.
The Lost World, or Jurassic Park II, was quite a rework of the original Michael Crichton book; much more then the original transfer of book to film seen in Jurassic Park. The Lost World again continued on a bit of the Jurassic Park formula of dinosaurs hunting humans (whom always happen to bring along a couple of kids...), and again upped the ante on how good CGI dinosaurs really could look. There were truly some tremendous visuals in this sequel, one of my favorite being the scene in the large field, in which raptors sprang in on the group of people running through it. The Lost World was much more violent, and did have its strong points, but overall the movie did not have the feeling of the first; and then there was that ending... Yet, obviously, people wanted to see this movie; and they did...in droves. The Lost World is still the largest opening weekend by a movie ever, if you go by the four-day Memorial Day weekend; if you don’t, well then its grossing numbers come in second behind the newly released phenomenon Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Lost World raked in well over half a billion dollars worldwide, all on a budget of a mere seventy-three million. We had to know there would be a third.
Enter Jurassic Park III, the long awaited sequel that would end (?) the Jurassic Park trilogy. I have to admit I went into the theaters with high expectations, hoping that this second sequel could at least end the series gracefully...without leaving a bad taste in my mouth. The result? Well, mixed to say the least.
Jurassic Park III, directed by Joe Johnston instead of Steven Spielberg whom directed the first two, came in on a budget that of course was more then the first two, ninety-three million dollars to be exact. Again, the film turned generous profits, although fell considerably short of the kind of money the first two generated...which, is probably for the best, as the series really has lost its lasting power.
Jurassic Park III is, let’s face it, a B-movie. The plot is really, really lacking; serving nothing more then getting the cast of characters onto Isla Sorna. Character development is nowhere to be found. And the script is...well...lacking. What we do get is dino-terror, just about non-stop; and I guess with a B-movie, that is all you can really ask. We get a couple returning characters, the most important being the now infamous, Jurassic Park surviving, paleontologist Alan Grant played by Sam Neil. Also included are William H. Macy and Téa Leoni whom play the parents of Erik Kirby whom has, happily enough, ended up on Isla Sorna. Macy and Leoni’s characters then trick Grant, and his new partner Billy Brennan (played by Alessandro Nivola), to come with them on a sightseeing fly-over of Isla Sorna...of course, what they really want to do is land and find their son, and they want Grant’s experience to help them in surviving. That is about where the plot ends. The plane lands. Dinosaurs show up. Our characters try to then take off on the plane, fail, and then try to survive after there means of transportation is destroyed. Carnage ensues. Added to the fray this time are more evolved, super intelligent raptors, which can now communicate better then ever before imagined, new InGen dinosaurs, and more sticky situations for our characters to survive.
Ok, now that I have knocked just about everything having to do with Jurassic Park III, I must say there are some rewarding aspects to the film. If anything, this is just a fun movie. Park your brain and watch some truly great visuals, and some great looking dinosaurs. My favorite scene has to be the fight between the T-Rex and the “Spinosaurus” (or whatever)...truly a great looking scene...too bad there were not about five more scenes like it.
Overall Jurassic Park III is an okay movie. Is it better then the second? Well, I know most people hate The Lost World, but besides the ending, I felt it had a more engaging plot then the third entry in the series had. Of course, the El Mariachi sequel, Desperado probably had more plot then Jurassic Park III. I won’t lie and say I didn’t feel somewhat cheated by Jurassic Park III, it was extremely short, and it didn’t do anything to really advance the series; but, all things considered, it was an enjoyable action movie, and I’m glad I own the DVD. Oh yeah...the DVD? So that is why you people are here, eh?
On the DVD front, Universal has decided to once again, box the series together. This time, you can obtain Jurassic Park III singly, in either wide-screen of that other type of viewing (cough...full screen...), or obtain it in the Jurassic Park Trilogy box set, which includes a supplemental forth disc. For those of you who bought the original first two discs and don’t feel like buying this whole new box set, but still want the supplement disc that you rightfully deserve, Universal is allowing you to send them $6.95 and they’ll send you back the forth disc to complete your make shift DVD set. But, of course, you do not get that nice big trilogy box. But of course I’m not talking about the trilogy box set in this review, so I don’t even know why I wrote this paragraph; forgiveness please.
For this Widescreen Collectors Edition version of Jurassic Park III, Universal has really put together quite a good DVD, jam packed with just about all you need to know about the movie, and then some.
For video, we get an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Since this is a newer movie, built on a huge budget, one can only assume that the transfer will look great. For the most part this is true, yet I could not help but notice some considerable compression problems here and there along with the overuse of the all-to-popular edge enhancement technique. This is not to say it is a bad transfer, for it is definitely not, but it could be better. Maybe a Superbit style release could fix some of these problems, giving us a less compressed version of the film. Colors are strong throughout the film, blacks are deep and rich, and there is not a bit grain to speak of. Overall, the movie looks very good; but it does have the aforementioned small issues here and there that are worth noting.
This release of Jurassic Park III on DVD marks the first time Universal chose to include 5.1 DTS and Dolby Digital tracks on the same disc, instead of offering them separately. Most appreciated Universal. These tracks, as one would have to expect out of a straight out action movie, are very, very good. Both tracks are very lively and explosive during the strong action scenes, spreading the sound well over the five channels, and putting great use to the LFE. Which track comes out on top? Well, I’d have to say the DTS track; it just seems to grab the more subtle sounds better, giving a more realistic sound to this very unrealistic, yet exciting, eardrum-breaking mix. Also included is a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track, along with English Captions and Spanish subtitles
Extras? Yea, quite a few, quite a few. First off, we have “The Making of Jurassic Park,” a twenty-plus minute piece on the creation of this third and final (?) entry into the series. This is a relatively good and informative, somewhat promotional, behind the scenes feature, and does give some quality insight into a relatively straightforward film. Most of the actors pop in here and there, as well as a lot of the visual effects team and director Joe Johnston.
Next up is a screen-specific audio commentary track by the visual effects team. Although it would have been nice for the director, Joe Johnston, to pop in here and there throughout the track, this commentary is quite good and definitely worth a listen.
Next up, the four-part-extra entitled, “A Visit To ILM.” This extra gets us into Industrial Light and Magic, and helps to tell us just how these dinosaurs are put to screen, and how they make them look so damn good. This extra is divided into Concepts, The Process, Muscle Stimulation, and Compositing. This feature runs about fifteen minutes in total and is definitely worth a watch.
Rounding out the extras is a number of featurettes. First up is “The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III,” which deals with, you guessed it, the new dinosaurs brought into this second sequel. This is wroth a look, deals with some CGI rendering and even talks with paleontologist Jack Horner. Next up, “Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs.” This is a quick extra that features the aforementioned Jack Horner and his job as a paleontologist in Montana. Quite a cool extra. Next, we have a Behind-the-Scenes Montage and “A Visit To Stan Winston Studios.” These are relatively fun to watch extras, if not too informative overall. Next, we have some Storyboard Sequences, a photo gallery (JPIII Archives), a small assortment of get-old-quick DVD-ROM features, and Dinosaur Turntables, a feature that gives us a look at some dinosaur 3D models.
Finishing off the supplements are the standard treatments. We get the theatrical trailers for all three of the Jurassic Park movies, plus production notes, cast filmographies, and promo ads. For whatever reason, the theatrical teasers are not included.
Deep breath...that’s all the extras. Who just buys DVDs for the movies now anyways?
Now I have to conclude things. No one is going to say that Jurassic Park III is the best of the series, obviously that would go to the original. It is up to you on whether or not III is better then II. Is this disc worth it? Well, if you own the first two, then of course pick this up, send off for the forth supplement and complete your set. If you do not, well...then perhaps I would just give this one a rent. If you have been holding off on buying the first two in hopes of the trilogy box set, then by all means pick that one up. All the Jurassic Park DVDs have a ton of stuff on them along with looking and sounding fantastic. Jurassic Park III is no different. Recommended.
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