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Jurassic Park III
Reviewed by Kenn McCracken, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Joe Johnston
Genre:   Science Fiction / Action / Suspense
Released:   July 2001
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   4/10 (What Is This?)

Well, at least it isn't The Lost World.

I tried to do everything possible to free my mind of expectations and hopes so as not to be disappointed. At this moment in time, I can't imagine how horrible the film would have been if I had been looking forward to it. On some levels, admittedly, this is the formula for summer blockbuster: big screen effects, action and adventure, stars, chases, and a little humor thrown in for good measure. On all the other levels, though, one thing comes through clearly: we've seen this before. A lot.

This is the first of the Jurassic Park franchise not to be helmed by Steven Spielberg (he acts only as executive producer this time around) nor written or conceived by Michael Crichton. Instead, it was penned by a newcomer and the authors of 1999's excellent Election, and directed by Joe Johnston, whose previous efforts include Jumanji and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. On this level, though not everything works, there's at least a fresh perspective, badly needed after The Lost World (or Godzilla, as it is sometimes known).

Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm is gone from the cast, but returning are Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant and Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Satler (the latter in a brief but conveniently pivotal role). Neill has returned to his work as a paleontologist, studying the velociraptor from afar, vowing never to go back to Isla Nubar - hesitating, even, to discuss the Jurassic Park incident. Enter Tea Leoni and William Macy as Amanda and Paul Kirby, who hire Neill to give them a guided tour (from the air only, they assure him) of neighboring Isla Sorna, offering him badly needed money for the trip. Neill is so badly in need of funding for his research that he agrees, and - well, you can probably guess what happens next. In fact, you might be able to accurately predict the entire 85 minutes of the movie without much effort - the thirteen-year-olds in the theater with me did.

I suppose it's possible that Hollywood is thinking with its eyes no further than the bank, because they sure don't make summer blockbusters like they used to. The actors all seem to be going through the motions, nothing more, and frankly it's a sad day indeed when William Macy's talents are wasted like they are. The only stand out star of the film is Trevor Morgan as fourteen-year-old Eric Kirby; his presentation is a great blend of teenaged bravado and scared kid.

The action and humor both seem as predictable and uninspired as the cast. Similar sequences can be found in both previous Jurassics, substituting an airplane fuselage for a camper and a boat for a car. There are a few moments of shock, thanks mostly to Stan Winston's amazingly talented team (responsible for the dinosaurs) as well as the sound designers. As good as they did, though, even the dinosaurs can't save the film - hell, even Discovery has dinosaurs now, and that two hours won't cost you $8.

The film tries to pick up the groove of the original; mostly, though, the film slides through from beginning to end, shooting subtle but caustic references at the sequel but not faring much better in the end.. It sends you some humor (little of which is worthwhile), a lot of scares (few of which actually work), and some chase scenes and clever escapes (by clever, I mean used previously). Perhaps the worst thing is the blatant opening for yet another sequel in the closing moments - prior scenes in the movie call for a little fear from the characters, but what we get is calm explanation.

Maybe they were just happy to be going home.

Kenn McCracken is Comics Editor for RevolutionSF.

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