Jurassic Park III: The Worst of the Franchise

Michael Jeter, Alessandro Nivola, Sam Neill, William H. Macy, and Téa Leoni in Jurassic Park III. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Jurassic Park III manages to get even darker than the prior films but the sequel doesn’t quite capture the magic of the franchise.

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) heads to Isla Sorna under false pretenses.  Assistant Billy Brennan (Alessandro Nivola) joins the Jurassic Park veteran on the trip.  Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda Kirby (Téa Leoni) offer Grant funding if he gives them an aerial tour of the island.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Grant starts to protest from the very moment that they set foot on the ground.  This may be his first time visiting Site B but he’s no stranger to the running and screaming.  The Kirby family brings along their associates, Udesky (Michael Jeter) and Cooper (John Diehl), while Nash (Bruce A. Young) pilots the plane.  There is no guarantee that anyone gets out alive as the Kirby family reveals their real reason for coming to the island: Finding Ben Hildebrand (Mark Harelik) and Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan).

Perhaps Jurassic Park III’s problems go down to the fact that they had to craft a new script around what dinosaur molds they had.  Peter Buchman wrote the script but it was thrown out weeks before filming was set to begin.  This is where Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor entered the picture.  While Dr. Alan Grant was already set to return, their draft brought Dr. Ellie Sattler back into the fold.  The script issue is a major reason why this film is so messy.  Obviously, many months go into the design process–be it molds or CGI effects.  At times, it feels like they are just putting sequences together.  One cannot help but feel bad for the actors.  It certainly isn’t their fault–they just have to work with the material given to them!

One of the drafts for The Lost World: Jurassic Park featured Pteranodons but budget reasons meant cutting it out of the film.  The aviary sequence had originally been featured in Michael Crichton’s novels and at Steven Spielberg’s request, the dinosaurs are included in the film.  Their inclusion manages to up the stakes as everyone tries to get out of harm’s way.  Another sequence featured in the novels includes a T-Rex attack on a river raft.  The film makes a key change with the Spinosaurus doing the damage.

Velociraptors have always had a presence in the franchise but this time, they have a larger presence.  The raptors also manage to evolve in terms of how they behave in the earlier films.  In this film, we have a better idea of how they communicate to other raptors for help.  The other thing that the visual effects designers do for the species is give them more of a bird look.  This is due in part to the recent discoveries of the time.  Because of this, the predators have never looked scarier.

Jurassic Park III is the worst of the franchise but the film does have its moments from time to time.

DIRECTOR:  Joe Johnston
SCREENWRITERS: Peter Buchman and Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
CAST:  Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter

Universal Pictures opened Jurassic Park III in theaters on July 18, 2001. Grade: 3/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.