Jurassic Park Retrospective (Part 3)
By John Hussey.
Following the success of The Lost World: Jurassic Park it seemed near impossible to imagine another sequel, especially one that could top the first. After four years of waiting Steven Spielberg returned to bring us the third instalment within the franchise, Jurassic Park III. This one had a lot riding on it after the huge success of the first two films as well as the fact that this film wasn’t based upon a book like with Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The third film would be an entirely different story, created off the back of the filmmaking team. Another strange aspect was Spielberg not returning to direct, deciding to instead oversee the film as executive producer. All these different elements stacked up and made for an uneasy approach for fans of the franchise.
In my opinion this film really was a wasted opportunity. Like with a lot of films out there the trailer jazzed it up too much and gave false hope to the audience, with the end product being a massive disappointment. It didn’t deliver what it promised. The first two films were masterpieces, blockbuster legends that should be recommended to everyone. With Jurassic Park III, on the other hand, I would happily tell fans and casual viewers alike to skip this film because they aren’t missing much.
The fundamental disappointment about this film was the fact that it didn’t feel like a Jurassic Park film. The design and structure of the previous two weren’t there. There’s a few nods here and there but the film overall was just broken and littered with bad writing, bad casting and a extremely terrible and lacking narrative. I believe the only reason Alan Grant (reprised by Sam Neill) was brought back was because they needed something from the past to engage the older fans with. His return didn’t even work in my eyes. Unlike with Ian Malcolm’s return in The Lost World: Jurassic Park Alan received no real character development, or purpose for that matter other than informing the rest of the characters that they were stuck on a dangerous island filled with dinosaurs, something he could relate to because he’s been in that situation before.
The narrative was bland. Its concept was unoriginal and didn’t serve to attract much attention, added by the stupid reasoning that got the characters onto the island. It’s flawed to think people would be allowed near the island despite the fact that it’s clearly indicated a no fly zone which showed the government prevented trespassing. Also after the boat was attacked why did Eric and Ben glide towards the island? Surely they had some form of transport that got them to the island other than the dinky boat they were paragliding from. Either way, if you hadn’t guessed, the film becomes a rescue mission with Alan tricked into going to the island after Eric’s parents, Paul and Amanda, told him they wanted him as a guide whilst they flew above the island (despite the island indicated as a no flight zone). With little characters onscreen, with some essentially written in to be killed off upon arrival, there was little to engage with and it became a game of ‘what dinosaur will chase after them next’. There was little story and this, I think, weakened the overall appeal for me. The first two films had a rich narrative filled with great characters, themes and developments whereas this film seemed to go side-ways instead of forwards.
Let’s start with the themes. The first two films, as indicated in my last two retrospectives, shared a franchise long story-arc of having foolish businessmen playing the powers of God and as a result caused mayhem and disorder. With Jurassic Park III on the other-hand we had nothing of the sort. We actually lost a crucial part of the franchises structure and design, which is another reason the film was so bland. There was nothing original about the narrative and without the feature of the reoccurring story-arc the film really lost its purpose. It didn’t continue anything, which isn’t a bad thing if the film was trying to go in a new direction but it didn’t. It added absolutely nothing new to the franchise and appeared as a simplistic add-on to two brilliantly, outstanding products. The only actual indication to the franchise’s themes was when Alan’s right-hand man, Billy, tried taking some Velociraptor eggs in order to grant Alan’s expedition more funding. This entire part of the film appeared completely out of place and out of character for Billy. It felt shoe-horned in to establish that the film had a reference to the franchise’s themes but failed miserably. If anything, it served to allow Alan to compare Billy to InGen in order to re-establish that Jurassic Park was a bad idea which didn’t really go anywhere.
What I felt was really annoying about Jurassic Park III was its constant emphasis on the dangers of Isla Sorna. Alan constantly reassured the other characters, and the audience, that they probably wouldn’t survive. The film rehashed this idea throughout and it grew stale very quickly because the film felt reliant on this idea, showcasing that the filmmakers were just trying to make a grittier The Lost World: Jurassic Park and failed. The original sequel did everything right in terms of making a grittier film filled with mortal danger. Jurassic Park III had none of this apart from cliché moments that practically used the danger as a tool to promote the film. Apart from these moments the film had no substance. The narrative certainly wasn’t driven by the characters because apart from Alan there weren’t any likeable characters. The film, to me, was all about the dinosaurs trying to kill the main characters and that was it. The Lost World: Jurassic Park was all about survival but it had a solid narrative and plenty of characters that you could engage with. It made me wonder how this second sequel could get it so wrong.
Another big promotion to the film was the full inclusion of Pterodactyls, after their brief cameo at the end of the previous film. That entire section was great to see but after the first viewing it becomes tiresome because it adds nothing new to the film due to the fact that all we’d seen up till that point was dinosaurs trying to kill our heroes. The film even went as far as betraying the original concept of having the Tyrannosaurus as the lead dinosaur in order to make way for a more powerful creature, the Spinosaurus. Again, upon first viewing this creature was magnificent to watch and seeing it tear down a Tyrannosaurus showcased its power and how fierce this third instalment was. But that’s all it does. It’s also made even more disappointing by the fact that the Spinosaurus essentially stalked the characters throughout the film, becoming more of an obstacle rather than a threat. The Tyrannosaurus never felt like an obstacle, or a tool, within the previous films and each appearance felt fresh and a joy to watch. With this film the Spinosaurus was just there for the sake of it and merely there to emphasise that this particular film was more dangerous than the previous films combined.
Even the Velociraptors were tools to establish a threat throughout, shown through their ability to communicate with one another to become efficient killing machines. For the first time their appearance was disappointing and bland. Despite the fact that their appearance in The Lost World: Jurassic Park was short-lived, it was still exciting and very engaging. It showcased the characters final major obstacle before getting off the island and it was a true battle for survival. With this film there wasn’t anything to say, like with the rest of the dinosaurs appearances. You didn’t even get to have those all mesmerising moments of observing the island for its beauty because of the over-usage of gritty narrative. There were only two scenes that did this, the arrival scene flying over the island and the scene were their driving down the river in the boat, which felt shoe-horned in to allow for a momentary reprieve.
Jurassic Park III was a disaster of a movie and one I could happily forget, but sadly has to be on my blu-ray shelf to complete my Jurassic Park set. The narrative was extremely bland, the characters were unlikable, Alan’s appearance was for the sake of it and the entire film relied too much on making it grittier (something The Lost World: Jurassic Park already did successfully) instead of creating an interesting narrative to expand the franchise. I felt there was no development and the movie was there just for the sake of having a third instalment. It’s no wonder that Jurassic World has taken so long to make.
I just feel very disappointed by this film. It’s a total let-down and almost dampens the franchise as a whole. My hopes at the moment is that Spielberg has learnt from his mistakes and that Jurassic World expands upon the franchise, which it looks that way judging from the trailers, instead of just cashing in on previous successes. Despite the fact that Jurassic World seems to be going down the same route of Jurassic Park III of having a bigger, more dangerous dinosaur it would seem it has brought back the core themes of foolish businessmen tampering with nature, this time committing genetic engineering. I look forward to the fourth instalment and hope that the long awaited sequel was worth the wait. As for this particular abomination, I’d simply say that Jurassic Park III is worth one look. You’ll either walk away satisfied enough to claim some sort of enjoyment or you’ll find it a major disappointment. So my advice would be to either approach this with care, as it isn’t a masterpiece in the slightest, or simply avoid it completely and move straight onto Jurassic World because I can ensure you that you wouldn’t be missing anything important.