PG-13. That's all well and good. Dinosaurs be eating people. That's a PG-13. What's almost more important than the PG-13 rating is the 93 minute runtime. Do you know how much that can save a rough movie? Like, this is a short film where dinosaurs are eating human beings and there's blood and stuff. I'm about to tear this movie apart like two T-Rexes splitting a Richard Shiff (Lost World reference. Don't worry about it.) But always keep in mind that this movie is PG-13 and only 93 minutes long. It can't be that awful.
DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston
This one should be easy to write. I mean, it's Jurassic Park III. It is bizarre that I've written reviews for only the bad movies in the franchise. I love Jurassic Park. It is so darned good. When The Lost World: Jurassic Park came out, I lied to myself and convinced myself it was a good movie. Jurassic Park III came out and I knew it was just a bad movie that I enjoyed. That might be the most accurate description of this movie that I can imagine. The only difference is that now, I don't enjoy it that much.
I always play the snob and talk about directors until the cows come home. But most of the movies that come out are made by for-hire directors. These directors service the script as functionally as possible and they get paid. They have the philosophy of, "The audience shouldn't notice the director and should be lost in the film." Normally, that's just fine. While I prefer a director with a voice (as did the New Wave directors), I understand that some properties don't necessarily need Quentin Tarantino behind the camera. (Still curious about what is happening with Star Trek, by-the-way.) But I've never seen a movie franchise point out how vanilla a director is like the incident with Jurassic Park III. Holy moley. Joe Johnston had to follow Steven Spielberg. I don't love The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It's a big step back in the series and you can tell that Spielberg just does not care about the film whatsoever. But there is a technical craftsmanship that is involved in The Lost World. I didn't realize it was there until I saw Part 3. The movie starts off with a remarkably boring and studio driven Jurassic Park logo that is then slashed. I got that with the X-Men movies as well. It is a thing that advertising guys want to see. It is extreme. Then, there is about five seconds of hope for the movie. We get the old font of "Isla Sorna: 209 Miles Off the Coast of Costa Rica" (or close to that) before I can see that Joe Johnston is not Steven Spielberg. Immediately after that sense of familiarity, a big red letters in an old typewriter font says "Restricted" or "Quarantined" or something like that. I thought I was a font snob in 2001. That was the heyday of me playing with fonts and I watched Jurassic Park III a few times in the years following up on that. How did I not get incensed then? It is in these moments that the tone is set and this tone screamed "Syfy Original". It's not that bad, but it is pretty close. I will say that the one thing that is actually an improvement is the movement of the animals. It seems like Jurassic Park III relies more on CG than its predecessors (but I might be wrong. It's just the uncanny valley quality of the whole film). But the dinosaurs "float" less. I remember using that as a defense for this movie when I kept trying to explain why I kind of liked Part III. Remember kids, just like what you like. But don't fight for something that may be weaker. Just enjoy it. But that font shift is just the introduction to a color palate that just seems bizarre. The entire movie looks way less cinematic. I wonder if we're starting to get into the early days of digital or if the movie was shot on video. When you watch The Lost World and Jurassic Park III back-to-back, you can see the differences in film stock. Honestly, Jurassic Park III looks like a TV show. That's not the worst thing in the world, but it does feel like the stakes are way lower.
I hate harping on the same points, but there are fewer and fewer reasons to go back to this island. JPIII might stress that the most. Considering that this movie is only a sweet 93 minutes, a lot of it is dedicating to explaining how Alan Grant got tricked into going back. Mr. Johnston, it is a dangerous move immediately before sending Alan Grant on a plane over the island to say that there is "no way in Heaven or on Earth" that he would ever step back onto that island. Your movie is 93 minutes. I know that you are the king of pacing here, but there is no time for a character change to have him just accept a whole bunch of money. Also, the thing that got him to leave his dig in the first movie is the exact same thing that gets him to go to the island in the third movie. So he says he learned his lesson, but really learned absolutely nothing? Let's talk about that for a second. JPIII might be the morality tale on how to turn something truly special into something absolutely boring. Most people would jump to Star Wars, but people oddly defend the prequels. I'm not going into that here, but feel free to visit my LISTS PAGE and read my thoughts on how the prequels took the edge off Star Wars. ) One crime that franchises commit is that they have to get these characters to act and feel like they did in previous movies. People want to see curmudgeonly Alan Grant yelling at kids again. The problem is that he learned his lesson in the first film. He grew to love those kids and really fixed many of the problems he was having with Ellie Satler. So what did this movie do? Ellie is married to someone else now and Alan hates kids again. Then what was the point of his character growth in the first film. Spielberg realized a lot of this. Ian Malcolm is almost a completely different individual in the second film. It isn't a good movie, but he retained a lot of his growth from the first film. While being fairly flawless with the exception of selfish tendencies, he evolved into someone who comments to someone who takes a stand. It's great. But Alan Grant somehow takes backwards steps. Lots of movies do this and it stinks. Let the character grow a little bit. But this becomes a movie about Alan Grant running from dinosaurs with a kid again. Come on. I've already seen that movie done way better. And that kid? He's too good at everything. I've seen that trope before. The innocent who becomes a Mary Sue because they have to be. I'm sorry, but I don't buy that the kid thought to bottle T-Rex pee in eight weeks. Years, maybe. But that kid became the Batman of Jurassic Park Site B real quick. Also, while I think that they should save the kid, it is pretty lame that Alan Grant is there to save a kid who was having an illegal vacation. I told you! There's a fundamental problem with getting people back on the island and it always involves someone doing something dumb and wrong.
I'm going to just unload my griping fanny pack for the rest of this review. It's full of gripes that I have about this movie and I can't wait to unleash them. I know I won't even cover all of these individual problems. I'm probably going to get interrupted by my kids throughout this review, but I'm going to try my best. This is the movie that started to nerf raptors. I know Jurassic World is the real culprit when it comes to this, but Alan Grant learned to talk to raptors. Everyone complains about this and they are right to. There's something in the early stages that kind of works here. I like that Alan Grant discovers that raptors can kind of talk. That's cool. It makes them even smarter and I can get behind that. But having Alan Grant talk raptor is dumb. SPOILER: That end sequence should be the end of the team. Sorry, but they dug a really big hole for the characters to get out of. They are completely surrounded by raptors in the open. They have raptor eggs. It is their comeuppens. That's how that works. Having Alan make raptor noises is a good idea to confuse them while they figure out a way out is fine. But having the raptors understand Alan and his intentions, so they leave him alone? Boo. Boo forever. That's weak storytelling. I mean, it's dumb, but I don't hate the "Alan" raptor. It's a dream. I should get over it. It just isn't as effective as it is supposed to be. But this next gripe bothers me a lot. It might get tangenty because there are a lot of threads that come off of this one. Billy steals the raptor eggs. Man alive, this is awful. It isn't really clear whether he does this for academic purposes or if it is for financial gain. But they are raptors and he's working to be a paleontologist. It's such a terrible plan that I can't believe it in the context of the film. I know Alan would be mad regardless of what kind of eggs he stole. But even Nedry knew not to mess with the raptor paddock. It is just a character who should know better throwing gasoline on the fire. Why would he do this? On top of that, Alan just comes up with the plan to hold onto them. Send it on a boat the other way. Get as far away from those eggs as possible. Then Alan feels bad when Billy is attacked. Um...no. It's okay to feel bad for Billy, despite the fact that he's kind of a bad guy in my eyes. But saying that you were out of line? Not so much. Calling someone on their evil appropriate. It's pretty awful that Billy did that and I'm not concerned about disciplining him. Then the movie saves him? Why can't we just live with the moment that Billy is dead? They rarely kill off the true protagonists and the movie kind of just lives in a world without consequence. We were all appropriately okay with Billy dying. Bringing him back is just one of the more spineless moves. Also, how did Ellie Satler get everyone back? Is it the guy she married? If so, why not use this plan to get the kid back as well? There's a lot of steps that go between Alan making a five second phone call from Site B to getting the Navy and the Marines out there to save him. Alan Grant is not the national treasure that would bring the military out here. (Also, the militarized theme song of Jurassic Park? *eyes roll*) Also, that was quick.
I'm actually going to make a paragraph break here because I really want to stress this complaint. Alan Grant's (reasonable) plan is to make way for the coast and hope for the best. If they run into saving the kid along the way, the better it works out. Even Alan acknowledges that it isn't likely to happen. They make the joke that it is never going to work out like that. But then, not only does he find the parachute, but he runs into everything Site B has to offer. Apparently, a straight line takes the team to the parachute, the breeding center, the sinking car, the aviary, and a boat. That is a heck of a point in space that you picked, Dr. Grant. Everything that you need to get from Site B is conveniently in one straight line. It isn't a moral decision to ignore the boy if everything works out anyway. It's so lazy.
But I could still watch this movie. For 93 minutes, I get William H. Macy and Tea Leoni across from Alan Grant again. Sure, it's a bad shakeup of these elements, but it kind of is a good time. Even the worst Jurassic Park movie still involves running from dinosaurs. Sure, this dinosaur is the Spinosaurus, a shameless attempt to out-do the T-Rex. (Also, why is this dinosaur following them? They are barely food. They do not have anything special, like a baby Spinosaur on them.) Also, the phone call, while effective as a means to scare, is beyond coincidental when people choose to call. See? That's this movie! I started wrapping things up and talking about the positives and there are so many dumb moments that I have to complain again. Whatever. It's 93 minutes and has good stuff in it. But it is a fabulously dumb movie, so keep that in mind.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.