Jurassic Park 3
For the last sixty years or more, Hollywood has depended on the sequel to cash in on the success of a film. In most cases the following films decline as the franchise grinds on. Rarely, the sequels match or exceed the original. With the incredibly profitable Jurassic Park films a third installment was inevitable. Under the circumstances the best that can be hoped for is for the film to be entertaining. Jurassic Park 3 does succeed in that, its fun to watch. It does little to extend the characters or the franchise but it is a 90-minute ride. The film starts with a young boy, Eric (Trevor Morgan) and a man para-sailing over the infamous Site B Isla Sorna. The name on the parasail is Dina-Soar. Of course someone would come up with the bright idea of making money from the most dangerous place on earth. Of course they crash on the island. Cut to a familiar face, Alan Grant (Sam Neill) survivor of the original encounter with the dinosaurs and his former partner and lover Ellie (Laura Dern). She is now happily married with two small boys. The two have remained close, forever bound by their brush with death. Next, the scene shifts (its a short film things have to happen fast) and a rich couple Amanda (Tea Leoni) and Paul (William H. Macy) Kirby. They want to hire Grant to supervise a fly over Isla Sorna. He refuses but in order to fund his dig he gives in. Does that sound familiar? Of course it turns out that the Kirbys are not rich, they are upper middle class, they are divorced and they want to find their son Eric. The plane crashes and the ride begins. While the plot is thin the film delivers what people are paying for. There are plenty of new species of dinosaurs. Bigger, meaner and better animated than every. They fly, swim and run around the island after a little human snack. It turns out the Raptors can communicate and plot. There is a dinosaur larger than the T-Rex. Pteranodons swoop down from the sky to pick up a human morsel to feed the nest of their young. The film is little more than an excuse to put people on the menu for hungry dinosaurs. Dino food is people, oops, wrong film. Thankfully, there is little bits of humor thrown in at just the right moment. Both Macy and Leoni have comedy in their background and can pull it off.
Speaking of Macy and Leoni, they were perfectly cast for this film. Neither is know for action flicks. They can pull off the roles of a normal divorced couple fighting extraordinary circumstances to save their sons life. Macy has been a mainstream character actor and independent leading man for many years. As a favorite of directors lie P.T. Anderson he has experience in a variety of different roles. He has played everything placed before him with wit, emotion and depth. Even when hindered with a thin script like this his talent and humanity shines through. Leoni has also paid her dues. Coming from a lot of TV work and smaller films she handles herself admirably in this film. Because of these two actors there is a little sub theme that brightens the flick. As they try to save their son they draw closer as a couple. After being chased by huge dinosaurs what ever lead to their divorce seems trivial and becoming a family again more important. Its a nice little human touch that is greatly appreciated. The best supporting role has to go to Michael Jetter. As the wimpy guide who is actually the tour set up man, he adds to the frustration of Alan with everyone pretending to be something they are not. Neill and Dern reprise their roles as if they never left them. They flow effortlessly back into character. Once again Neill shows excellent chemistry with the young co-star Morgan.
Director Joe Johnston is no stranger to the action special effects genre. He was at the helm for The Rocketeer and Jumanji. Johnstons ability to inject humor into an action film was most evident with Jumanji. In JP3 we see little moments one taken right from Peter Pan where a huge dinosaur eats a human carrying the satellite phone. What makes this movie is the many scenes with the dinosaurs. They come from all directions. They come in herds, packs and by themselves. Johnston has the ability to mix things up with the point of view taken by his cameras. He provides a myriad of angles to keep the audience somewhat off balance. Even in scenes that are supposed to be murky he keeps the lighting at a level where the view is not too compromised. Hes a very good director of this genre of film. A professional that knows how to construct such a film and pace it to keep the audience entertained.
The disc is packed with extras. There is a commentary track with the special effects team, a tour of the ILM computer graphic process, a tour of the set, and a special featurette with John Horner, a real digger, showing the newest dinosaur finds. There is even a DVD ROM game to play. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. The DTS did provide a slightly fuller sound stage but both are incredibly well done. The sub woofer is almost constantly on full. The rear speakers used for the slightest ambient sound. The sound field also tracks the action in a manner far better than most films. The video is 1.81:1 anamorphic video and is reference quality. Add this one to your collection, not for the merit of the story but for the fun of it.