“I read both of your books. I liked the first one more. Before you were on the island. You liked dinosaurs back then.”
In this day and age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, movie franchises are planned out years and half a dozen sequels in advance. But a mere decade or so ago, a decent sequel was a novelty, and a third movie was more than likely one last cash grab before all goodwill was pissed away. In my memory, Jurassic Park was the blockbuster hit that deserved every cent of its box office success and every newspaper inch of its critical praise. While The Lost World: Jurassic Park was its less appreciated, cash in sequel.
Also in my memory, as someone who had seen neither of its predecessors, Jurassic Park III was the expected shitty, last breath cash grab that ended being revered as nothing but a shitty, last breath cash grab. But I never saw Jurassic Park III in the context of it being the second sequel, eight years after the beloved original. I saw it less than 24 hours after shot gunning the first two. I wonder if that affected my opinion of Jurassic Park III? I wonder?
In a style classic to the Jurassic Park series, we have a clear series of events unfold. An opening scene (Part A) where some mysterious, dino related violence goes down. In this case, young boy Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan) is parasailing with his step father over the island that was Site B in The Lost World. While its existence, and prehistoric inhabitants, are public knowledge after the events of The Lost World, access to the island is restricted. Which leads to Part B, when a hero is lured or tricked into going to the island. In this case, it’s Alan Grant (Sam Neil) from the original movie who thinks he’s just going to observe the island from the air with some rich industrialists.
Which is where Part C kicks in. Said rich industrialists, Paul (William H Macey) and Amanda Kirby (Tea Leoni) are actually the parents of the missing Eric. Once they land on Site B, we head straight into Part C. Our characters are stuck on a dinosaur infested island with a geographical goal some distance away that they need to reach if there’s any chance of being saved by some outside force.
Look, I know by pointing out that all three movies in the franchise to this point used the exact same story arch might seem like a slam, but I was totally on board all three times. Just like the T-rex attacking the jeeps in the first movie, or the T-rex attacking the trailer in the The Lost World, the set pieces built around characters claustrophobic peril worked pretty much just as well here.
But like The Lost World, the main area where Jurassic Park III falls down is on its reliance of going for MORE and BIGGER, instead of going for smarter. The Lost World was all bout having MORE. More T-Rexes, more raptors. Jurassic Park III gives us MORE and BIGGER. I guess by 2001, there was nothing surprising or scary about a T-Rex, so we get the bigger stronger, faster Spinosaurus. And when the raptors show up, it’s not impressive enough that they could use door knobs like in the first movie. Now they can talk to each other as well.
Jurassic Park III is a big, dumb spectacle that relies on cheap thrills for audience reaction. But you know what, so is the original Jurassic Park. And in both cases, that’s totally fine. I have no problem with a movie being a big, dumb spectacle that relies on cheap thrills, as long as it knows that’s what it is. Maybe seeing all three movies in two days made me appreciate this third installment more than I should have, but I don’t care. I can’t imagine I’ll watch any of them ever again, but I’ll always appreciate them as big, dumb, great fun.