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JURASSIC PARK III
Widescreen

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Laura Dern
Director:  Joe Johnston
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 (English and French), DTS
Video:  1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio:  Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  84 Minutes
Release Date:  December 11, 2001

“This is how you make dinosaurs?”

“No, this is how you play God.”

Film *** (on the cheese scale)

When Jurassic Park was unleashed on audiences in the early summer of 1993, it decimated previous box office records, becoming the highest grossing film up to that point (surpassing even director Steven Spielberg’s beloved E.T., coincidentally released the same day 11 years earlier).  Of course the film was a success for a reason: it not only combined state of the art animatronics with never before scene computer generation, but it also had an original and intriguing story idea.

Needless to say, a sequel was inevitable, however little sense it made.  Author Michael Crichton (who by then was a household name in Hollywood with films like Rising Sun, Disclosure, and even the pilot of E.R.) hurried into production of a second book so Spielberg’s sequel could be made.  When the time came, many folks (including myself) went running to stand in long lines, only to be disillusioned by the histrionic crap that was, and is, The Lost World.

By the time a second sequel was announced in 2000, many were undoubtedly skeptical.  In the first film, the characters went to Jurassic Park, in the second, they went to “Site B,” Ingen’s “secret island” where the dinosaurs were supposedly hatched before they were transported to JP (even though in the original we’re shown them being born in Jurassic Park).  So where else could the plot go?  Were filmmakers really going to take audiences back to the same island with the same characters?  Or were they going to create yet another island full of dinos conveniently? 

It seemed that everyone involved with the Jurassic Park franchise was so busy trying to ride the dinosaurs until they were once again extinct, that they didn’t mind that the motivations for the human characters continually going back to get eaten were getting as fantastical as the reasons people kept returning to Camp Crystal Lake in the Friday the 13th series.

So it was somewhat surprising that the film wasn’t actually that bad at all, and is much better than its preceding sequel (even though there are some incredible lapses in plot).  To give you a quick run through of the plot seems ridiculous, as unlike the original (which despite its title, was more about the sometimes-terrifying results of what can happen when man’s grasp exceeds his reach, rather than just dinosaurs eating everyone), this movie is meant to be pure action, and admittedly the script comes in low in the “originality department.” 

The point of this film is to find a way to get everyone on the island, and let the action (token character eating) begin.  So why the three star rating?  For one, Jurassic Park III is clearly superior to the Lost World, which, led by a burned out and stammering Jeff Goldblum (who probably realized he’d never headline another feature film again), was preachy, depressing, and above all, bloated. 

In striking contrast, at a short 84 minutes (45 minutes shorter than JP II), the pacing of JP III is taut, and filled with some actually humorous moments (especially one with a satellite phone).  It’s here that the film succeeds, as filmmakers recognize that any imaginative idea from Crichton’s original novel had already long ago been spent on the first film, and beaten to death in the second.  The result is a much leaner and more action packed film.   

Moreover, Sam Neill’s return to his role as Dr. Alan Grant brings back a feeling of legitimacy to the series that was sorely missed in the previous entry.  In closing, while it does not have all the charm and mystery of the original, Jurassic Park III still manages to entertain. This is a short, fast, and thrilling ride in the park.  Enjoy!   

Video ****

As expected, Universal has made JP III a feast for the senses.  The colors look incredibly natural, from the lush jungle landscapes of Isla Nublar, to the deep browns of the dig site in Montana.  The dinos (which is what you came to see anyways) look fabulously detailed, and shadowing and black levels retain their integrity throughout.

Audio ****            

Universal has included both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS track.  As one might expect, both tracks are powerhouse mixes that should challenge anyone’s system.  The bass is deep, and I mean DEEP throughout the film.  The track also sports incredible range: every snort, screech, roar, scream, splash, explosion, and rumble is picked up with clarity. The surrounds are used adequately to constantly bombard the listener with a range of sounds from the score to screams.  All in all, chalk up another great disc in Universal’s belt.           

Supplements ****

For this very fine collector’s edition, Universal begins the disc with the “Making of Jurassic Park.”  In at roughly 23 minutes, this is a relatively informative piece that shows future moviegoers a little bit of behind the scenes filming coupled with interviews of the cast and crew.  

Next up is a feature commentary with the special effects team involved with the film.  While occasionally a bit technical (obviously, these guys are talking about special effects and not character motivations), this is an interesting track nonetheless.  However, a director’s commentary with Joe Johnston would’ve been nice.

After that is “The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park.”  This is essentially an overview of what was said in the “making of,” along with a few more interviews with cast and crew of what went into making the new dinosaurs for the film.  Following that was “A Visit to Stan Winston Studios,” which consisted of a few minutes look at the models used in the production and how they were made.  One of my favorite features was “A Visit to ILM.”  Broken down into four categories: concepts, muscle simulation, the process, and composition; this includes interviews with ILM experts that shed light on the wonderful advances being made in the industry.    

Also included on the disc is “Dinosaur Turntables,” a computer generated three-dimensional look at eleven dinosaurs (and one human) featured in the film, along with their respective heights and lengths.   Subsequent to that was “behind the scenes,” which featured three events: “Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane,” “Raptors Attack Udesky,” and “The Lake.”  As the cast supposedly did most of their own stunt work, along with the fact that they were dealing often times with giant animatronics, this was one of the better behind-the-scenes features I’ve seen.  Another fun feature incorporated in the supplements was “Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison,” which broke down into “The Lab,” “The Aviary,” and “The Boat Attack.”  Also included were “The Jurassic Park III Archives,” which held production photographs and a poster gallery of unused poster ideas.

“Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs” with paleontologist Jack Horner is a particularly interesting featurette on the disc.  In this feature, Horner, who’s consulted on all three films in the series, discusses his recent dig for dinosaur bones in Montana, and how lay people can get involved in the dig.   

Rounding out the package were trailers for all three films, production notes, cast and crew bios, and finally, game demos for those that have a DVD-ROM.

Summary:

While it certainly isn’t Citizen Kane, Universal has nonetheless provided a terrific disc that sports a great transfer and very decent supplements for a reasonable price.  I have no problem recommending this one for your stocking.