Jurassic Park III [DVD]
Screenplay : Peter Buchman and Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor (based on characters created by Michael Crichton)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Sam Neill (Dr. Alan Grant), William H. Macy (Paul Kirby), Téa Leoni (Amanda Kirby), Alessandro Nivola (Billy Brennan), Trevor Morgan (Eric Kirby), Michael Jeter (Udesky), John Diehl (Cooper), Bruce A. Young (Nash), Laura Dern (Dr. Ellie Sattler))
Everyone who worked on Jurassic Park III was obviously well-aware that the novelty of seeing realistic, computer-generated dinosaurs on the rampage has lost its novelty by the third go-round. This is not to say that there is not still giddy, guiltless fun to be had, but they wisely dispense with the build-up and get right to the meat of the thing. Within 20 minutes, we're right in the heart of the action, and it doesn't let up in until the movie is over after a scant, breathless 90 minutes.
Steven Spielberg, who directed the original Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequel, The Lost World (1997), takes a backseat as executive producer this time around, instead handing the directorial reigns over to Joe Johnston. While Johnston's last film was October Sky (1999), a sweet-natured, largely actionless coming-of-age tale about a teenager who dreamed of being a rocket scientist, he has had plenty of experience coordinating special-effects-laden mahem directing movies like Jumanji (1995) and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). Johnston is surprisingly good at generating suspense and maintaining the tension of lengthy action sequences, although his visual style is rougher and more hectic than Spielberg's—he can't maintain Spielberg's tense gracefulness.
This third time around returns us to Isla Sorna, the B-site island featured in The Lost World, which is still populated with all sorts of dinosaurs. Apparently, the Costa Rican government, which controls the island, doesn't seem to care that the dinosaurs are there, and is more than content to let them live (this also conveniently allows for endless sequels as long as the movies keep making money).
Returning from the first movie is Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, the famous paleontologist who, after his experiences in InGen's ill-fated Jurassic Park, detests the genetically engineered dinosaurs and prefers to study fossilized remains as "the real thing." The early scenes in the movie re-establish his character and introduce a new physical development for the most-featured of all dinosaurs, the viciously intelligent velociraptors. Not only does Grant now believe they are smarter than primates, but they have a special resonance chamber that allows them to "speak" to each other.
Along with his budding protégé, Billy (Alessandro Nivola), Grant allows himself to be talked into flying with a wealthy couple, Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) over Isla Sorna to see the dinosaurs. However, it turns out that Paul and Amanda are not rich adventure types, but rather a desperate divorced couple on an illegal search mission for their 13-year-old son, Eric (Trevor Morgan), who disappeared on the island while parasailing eight weeks earlier. Unfortunately for Grant, he finds this out after their plane has crash-landed on the island and all the mercenary-types with large guns hired by the Kirbys have already been turned into dino snacks. The speed with which the supporting character are killed off is astounding, which quickly leaves us with only the core group of character struggling to make it off the island.
Written by Peter Buchman and then rewritten by the duo of Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Citizen Ruth, Election), Jurassic Park III is much cheekier than its predecessors, perhaps because all movie series eventually find themselves lurking into self-parody in order to keep the gears running. There's nothing original to be found here—virtually ever scene is a reworking of a scene from one of the earlier movies—but the tone is slightly twisted to allow for more comedy. It is surprising, though, considering the satiric wit that Payne and Taylor have evinced in their earlier movies, that it isn't more self-parodic than it is. And, unfortunately, what comedy does exist is often weighed down by sticky sentiment involving the Kirbys coming back together as a family unit.
Still, Jurassic Park III offers a number of good action sequences and a handful of new dinosaur terrors, including the enormous Spinosaurus, which has a face like a crocodile and a giant, spindly, fan-like spine along its backbone. We immediately know just what a bad mutha the Spinosaurus is because, within moments of the plane crash on the island, the characters get ringside seats to a battle to the death between it and the T-Rex, the previous dino champion of the Jurassic Park movies. No big surprise who comes out the victor.
Another one of the movie's best sequences involves the characters getting trapped inside an enormous aviary constructed for a family of flying Pteranodons. And, while the Pteranodons almost fly away with the movie, director Johnston keeps it all in line, taking us through one final climactic sequence with the Spinosaurus, and then delivering the appropriately happy ending that is, thankfully, tinged ever so slightly with a parodic over-the-top quality. And the redux of the final shot of Jurassic Park of the helicopter flying away across the ocean to the escalating strains of John Williams' familiar theme music is given a slight twist as the 'copter is joined by the Pteranodons, thus fulfilling the most crucial aspect of any sequel: that there be an opening left for another.
|Jurassic Park III: Collector's Edition DVD|
|Jurassic Park III is available in both widescreen and full-frame versions, sold seperately.|
|Audio|| Dolby Digital 5.1 surround|
DTS 5.1 surround
|Languages||English (DD 5.1, DTS 5.1), French (DD 5.1)|
|Supplements|| Audio commentary by technical crew |
"The Making of Jurassic Park III 22-min. featurette
"The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III 6-min. featurette
"Tour of Stan Winston Studios" 3-min. featurette
"A Visit to ILM"
"Behind the Scenes" of three scenes
Jurassic Park III Archives: Production photos and poster gallery
Theatrical trailers for all three Jurassic Park movies
"Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs" 5-min. featurette
Cast and filmmaker biographies
|Distributor||Universal Home Video|
|Release Date||December 11, 2001|
|Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), the image quality on this DVD is rock-solid—bold, well-saturated colors, a sharp picture with excellent detail, and thick, dark blacks with good shadow detail. The somewhat darker nature of this movie as opposed to the original Jurassic Park, particularly in the jungle scenes, is well rendered. There is also a separately available full-screen disc with all the same supplements, although I don't know why anyone would want to watch this film in anything except its original aspect ratio.|
|This disc is equipped with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround soundtracks, both of which will give your system a serious workout. As the majority of the movie is composed of one action sequence after another, the full system is frequently put to use, with good imaging and directionality to convey the sense of chaos and excitement while the subwoofer is utilized to give real depth to the dinosaur roars and heavy stomping. The battle between the T-Rex and the Spinosaurus is as good as sequence as any to show off the bass capabilities of your system.|
| Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the supplements on this "Collector's Edition" version of Jurassic Park III relate to the special effects, starting with the audio commentary, which features only members of the special effects team. No director or actors to be found here, only animatronic special-effects wizard Stan Winston, live-action dinosaur effects supervisor John Rosengrant, Industrial Light & Magic animation director Dan Taylor, and mechanical effects supervisor Michael Lantieri. |
If you're looking for a good entry point into the supplements after having watched the movie, "The Making of Jurassic Park III" is a good place to start. It's a whirlwind 22-minute overview of every aspect of the movie's production, featuring interviews with more than a dozen people, including producer Kathleen Kennedy, director Joe Johnston, technical advisor Jack Horner, production designer Ed Verreaux, and actors Sam Neill, William H. Macy, and Téa Leoni, among others.
"The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III" is a largely worthless six-minute featurette that mostly recycles footage from "The Making of..." featurette to briefly showcase the movie's real stars, the dinosaurs. Paleontologist and technical advisor Jack Horner has some good comments, and it is almost worth watching for Stan Winston's overstated claims that the movie serves as "museum-type education" because it introduces people to various dinosaurs.
Although far too brief at only three minutes, the "Tour of Stan Winston Studios" is a tantalizing glimpse into the backstage work that brought the dinosaurs to life, at least in terms of anamatronics. Composed entirely of raw video footage (no interviews or voice-over narration), it shows some of the laborious work that went on in both the studio and on the set during filming.
"A Visit to ILM" is much more in-depth in showing how computer-generated effects were used to create the dinosaurs. This feature is divided into four sections that roughly correspond with the steps used in generating the effects: Concepts, The Process, Muscle Simulation, and Compositing. Each section includes an introduction and various demonstration featurettes. So, for instance, in "The Process" section, you get to see how the T-Rex vs. Spinosaurus battle sequence was created, while in "Compositing" we see a demonstration of how multiple layers of live footage and computer-generated imagery were put together to create the seamless image of Dr. Grant kicking a Pteranodon in the face.
"Dinosaur Turntables" are little more than 12 animated 3-D computer models of the various dinosaurs that appear in the movie.
"Behind the Scenes" is an interesting feature that includes three major effects sequences in the movie—Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane, Raptors Attack Udesky, and The Lake—and intersperses the scene with behind-the-scenes footage.
The Storyboard-to-Final-Feature Comparison allows you to watch three scenes from the movie—The Lab, The Aviary, and The Boat Attack—while also looking at the storyboards.
"The Jurassic Park III Archives" is just a fancy name for two stills galleries. One is of production photographs and is one of the worst examples I have seen lately of what happens when a DVD tries to do too much for you. Rather than allowing you to move through the photographs at your own pace, they are animated in an irritating scrolling pattern that moves much too fast. The poster gallery is better because, even though it runs on its own, it doesn't scroll and it allows you time to scrutinize the more than 40 poster concepts, some of which bear eventually discarded titles such as Jurassic Park: The Breakout and The Extinction: Jurassic Park 3.
"Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs" is a throwaway four-and-a-half-minute featurette that shows the work paleontologist and technical advisor Jack Horner is doing in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana, where many, many dinosaur skeletons are being dug up.
Also included on the disc are theatrical trailers for all three Jurassic Park movies, all in nonanamorphic widescreen, as well as production notes and an extensive set of cast and filmmaker biographies.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick