Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: contains medium level violence
Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant
William H. Macy as Paul Kirby
Téa Leoni as Amanda Kirby
Alessandro Nivola as Billy Brennan
Trevor Morgan as Eric Kirby
Michael Jeter as Udesky
Director: Joe Johnston
Paul and Amanda Kirby, a wealthy couple, offer research funding to Alan Grant, a doctor, on the condition that he accompanies them to find their missing son on a deadly island.
I had been making my way rewatching the Jurassic Park movies. I seemed to recall the third film being the worst of the Jurassic movies but didn’t have much memory of it beyond it starring Sam Neill and being the first film in the series to not be directed by Steven Spielberg. After rewatching it, I definitely think it’s the worst of the series, even though I have some enjoyment with it.
Jurassic Park III’s plot is a bit weird when you compare it to the previous movies. It plays out more like a creature feature B-movie than a Jurassic Park movie. Not that there isn’t some positives in that, the plot is a relatively and refreshingly simple and straightforward monster movie. It’s also short at around 90 minutes in length. However, the plot just isn’t substantial, it’s a bit too simplistic, dull and is rather paint by numbers. The Lost World increased the number of dumb decisions made by characters, and Jurassic Park III increased them even further. This is especially the case with the Kirbys (as played by William H. Macy and Tea Leoni), who are very likely the worst part of the movie, quite irritating and hard to like. The plot connivences can also be a lot, even the reason to bring Sam Neill’s Alan Grant to the dinosaur island is just so contrived. It is definitely a movie where you need to suspend your disbelief even beyond everything happening with the dinosaurs. There are some very silly moments and aspects. For example, there are times where raptors almost seem to be talking to each other in dinosaur language or something. Sometimes the film can be funny though (intentional or not), like infamous scene in the first act where Alan has a dream, which has become the biggest joke to come out from this movie. It is worth noting that there were issues during production, with the script being written while they were filming, and it certainly shows. Not to say that it is not enjoyable. It does work as a B level monster flick at times, and it can be entertaining. It helps that the plot is fairly tight and is told at a high pace, not letting itself drag. It is basically a slasher movie with dinosaurs and plays more like a Syfy channel flick, and as that, Jurassic Park III does the job alright.
There is a talented cast involved, unfortunately the characters aren’t interesting. Sam Neill returns as Alan Grant in the lead role and reliably gives a good performance, it was nice to see him again. Alessandro Nivola was a nice addition, he especially works well alongside Sam Neill. Those two were the two performances and characters I actually liked. The Kirbys as played by William H. Macy and Tea Leoni are rather annoying characters who weigh heavily on the plot, despite the talent of their actors. Leoni in particular is reduced to screaming throughout the whole movie and is very likely a strong contender for the worst major character in a Jurassic Park movie. However, the worst handling of a character in Jurassic Park III would be Ellie Sattler as played by Laura Dern, who returns from the first movie but only has a couple of scenes here, she’s barely involved with the plot. It was so minimal it honestly would’ve felt less offensive if she wasn’t in the movie at all.
Instead of being directed by Steven Spielberg like the last couple movies were, Jurassic Park III is directed by Joe Johnston. He’s certainly no Spielberg, but his work on the whole is fine, the technical aspects are pretty good. The cinematography is nice enough and the production design is impressive. There are also some stunning visual effects, even if they aren’t quite as good as in the previous couple of movies. The action sequences are generally solid and tense, a highlight being a scene later in the movie involving a large bird cage. While the dinosaurs are portrayed okay enough for the most part, they just lack the magnetic screen presence that they had previously. I remember a scene where it tries to replicate the feeling of wonder from before, like when we first see a dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park, with the main characters watching in awe as the John Williams score swells. In the third movie however, it just doesn’t have nearly the same impact and instead comes across as hollow. The deaths are probably the most violent of the whole series, possibly even more so than The Lost World, sometimes it is like its from a slasher movie, just one involving dinosaurs.
I don’t dislike Jurassic Park III, but its easily the worst of the Jurassic movies. Not that it doesn’t have some positive things; I liked some of the actors (mainly Sam Neill and Alessandro Nivola), the simple approach, and some of the action. However with its messy script, annoying characters and underwhelming (if competent) direction, its just feels subpar compared to the previous two movies. However, as a dinosaur slasher flick, it works. Its no surprise that after Jurassic Park III, there wouldn’t be another Jurassic Park movie until 14 years later.