Features Live Action Movies

Jurassic Park ///

Director – Joe Johnston – 2001 – US – PG – 92m


Joe Johnston directs Jurassic Park ///, the third instalment of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park franchise – out in UK cinemas from Friday, July 20th 2001

This redresses two minor omissions in Steven Spielberg’s first Jurassic Park (1993): JP///’s dinosaurs include some that interact with water (Michael Crichton’s original book contained a T.Rex swimming after its human prey, but the film didn’t) and some that fly (pteranodons). A rival giant dinosaur (here, a spinosaurus) at last fights the star predator (the T.Rex), a device used by dinosaur movies from The Lost World (Harry O. Hoyt; effects: Willis O’Brien, 1925) and King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Shoedsack, effects: Willis O’Brien, 1933) through Disney’s Fantasia (Rite Of Spring segment, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, 1940) to One Million Years BC (Don Chaffey; effects: Ray Harryhausen, 1966).

Gone is all the chaos theory talk and cuddly Sir Richard Attenborough. The proceedings have now been pared down to people trapped on a deserted isle – with no obvious means of escape – and dinosaurs. Guess what – this time those dastardly corporate folks at InGen have populated a third island (Isla Sorna) with dinosaurs then abandoned it. On this basis, with a new island per film and some subtle variations, the series could run and run. That’s fine by me.

Leaving aside Dern, who reprises her role from the original without getting anywhere near the island, the only surviving cast member from the first two films is palaeontologist Neill. Unless you include dinosaurs (surely the real stars) such as the T.Rex, the velociraptors and assorted herbivore herd extras.

The raptors are impressively redesigned (head feathers) but rather less impressively talk to each other (they were terrifyingly smart learners in the original, so why bother?) and at one point even fail to eat our human heroes alive. Their finest moment here has them leaping viciously upward to snap at the camera (as Leoni dangles from a tree branch) – something we saw in the first film, where it seemed to last longer and work more effectively.

If the spinosaurus with crocodile jaws and dorsal fin is memorable enough, the real coups de grâce are the pteranodons – the best you’ve ever seen, even surpassing the one in When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (Val Guest; effects: Jim Danforth, 1970). They first appear on a fog-shrouded catwalk and dominate the final half hour.

As well as Dern, the human cast includes Sam Neill, Alessandro Nivola, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni and Trevor Morgan, all delivering solid performances, and there are no irritating small children (just tough, jungle‑smart teenager Morgan). Yet, the journey of the characters lacks the emotional resonance of those in Spielberg’s original. Better than the lacklustre sequel, it’s not quite as creepy as recent, straight to DVD masterpiece Komodo (Michael Lantieri, 1999).

Nevertheless, director Johnston (October Sky, 1999) clearly loves his dinosaurs: any fellow admirer is likely to have a good time.


This review was originally published in Ad Hoc.

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