For the third film the ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise, my family treated me to a trip to the cinema; finally I was to see these wonderfully crafted creatures on the big screen. Just how the animated dinosaurs were meant to be seen. My dad had treated me to popcorn on this particular trip and I saved my first bite for the opening credits. When the film started I took my first bite and felt the crushing blow of disappointment. I had the dry, bitter taste of salted popcorn instead of the soft comforting taste of sweet. I had a weird sense of panic and sadness. I didn’t want to miss the start of the film by swapping the popcorn at the retail stand (and in turn annoy my dad) but I also did not want to eat the rest.
This crushing disappointment of mistaken popcorn identity pretty much sums up my feelings towards ‘Jurassic Park 3’. High expectations followed by being completely disenchanted. Had I been a little older, I probably would have seen the warning signs early on. Steven Spielberg was attached as a producer only, with the director’s chair filled by Joe Johnston, whose work up to that point (and since) was a mixed bag. Johnston is a director who has specialised in helming mid-level blockbuster fluff such as ‘Jumanji’ and ‘Hidalgo’; films made for the studios with the intention of earning a quick buck so they can invest their money into the bigger films.
Herein lies the problem with ‘Jurassic Park 3’. The film was put together by a director who has forged a career from making middle of the road studio flicks. For the studios, he is a capable pair of hands, as his movies always make good money (he helmed the first ‘Captain America’ film). But for a franchise with such an adoring fanbase as that of ‘Jurassic Park’, a director with real vision and spirit should have been given the thumbs up, if it was not to be Spielberg.
The story sees Dr Grant (Sam Neil) hired by Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H Macy and Tea Leoni respectively) to help find their son who has is lost on one of the islands. The plot, to the film’s credit, is more simple than ‘The Lost World’. It goes back to basics – a group of people trapped on an island with dinosaurs hunting them. Simple right? Of course, the theme of parental fear is dominant once again here, but is never really explored as much as it is in the previous instalments. You could argue that’s a positive step, but it means the film feels much more flimsy than the previous two and there is less to chew on once the credits role.
Unfortunately, the film has mediocrity splattered on every frame. A new species of dinosaur has been introduced, but doesn’t command the fear and awe the iconic T-Rex did; a sign of things to come for ‘Jurassic World’? Perhaps in more inventive hands, it may have worked, but set pieces are handled clumsily and haphazardly. That’s not to say the film is a total waste of time. There is a really atmospheric sequence towards the climax of the film in a giant bird cage which works rather well. But at the same time, all this does is remind you of the quality of scenes in the predecessors to this installment. I’m sad to say that this bizarre bird cage scene is just about the only memorable moment of a film mostly devoid of invention and passion.
The film is not awful, contrary to how people may remember it. There are glimpses of greatness within the uninspired murk, and it’s just a shame a better story could not have been created for this third outing. Whilst ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ was long and bloated, it was also gripping and fun. Even with the animatronic dinosaurs still looking beautiful this time round, ‘Jurassic Park 3’ feels more like a money move as opposed to an artist’s expedition.
DIRECTOR: JOE JOHNSTON
STARRING: SAM NEILL, WILLIAM H MACY, TEA LEONI