Jurassic Park 3 (2001) Movie Review

The original Jurassic Park was a best-selling novel about genetic engineering used on dinosaurs by the prolific novelist/filmmaker Michael Crichton. The book was turned into a movie by Steven Spielberg as an adventure romp that tackled some of the elements in Crichton’s excellent book, including moral ethics, Darwinism, and a host of other questions in regards to genetic engineering. The usage of dinosaurs as the product of genetic cloning was simply a means to an end. Crichton was more concerned with the morality of science and man’s attempts to mess with nature.

Spielberg’s movie version of Jurassic Park became a child’s fantasy about dinosaurs, and while the movie does address genetic engineering, it quickly tossed the question out of the window and went for cool dinosaurs, running from dinosaurs, and fighting dinosaurs instead. I distinctively remember falling asleep halfway through the movie in a theater filled with people. As you probably guessed, I never played with dinosaurs as a kid.

After the phenomenal success of the Jurassic Park movie, Crichton wrote The Lost World, a sequel to Jurassic Park. Spielberg once again took the book and adapted it into a movie but this time completely discarded all the questions and points made in Crichton’s book for a dumb adventure movie. The biggest points made in Crichton’s The Lost World is not that dinosaurs are cool, but that mankind is inherently dinosaur food. The simple reason is that humans are too small and too weak to compete with the dinosaurs, and as per the rules of Darwinism, humans are meant to be food for the dinosaurs. Look at it like this — humans eat cows and all manner of animals for one simple reason: because we can, because there’s nothing those animals can do to stop us. It is the same with humans and dinosaurs.

I bring up Crichton’s books to illustrate the simple nature of dinosaur movies. You can’t have deep thoughts when watching a dinosaur movie. You can’t ask questions that are meant to be rhetoric, which can never be answered, because the answers do not exist (or is still to be discovered). Questions such as morality and genetic engineering will never be answered by a single voice; as the saying goes, “Opinions are like a-holes, everyone has one.” Which brings up Jurassic Park 3, the second sequel to Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park, which is neither directed by Spielberg nor adapted from a Crichton book.

Jurassic Park 3, much like The Lost World did, was bring back a character from the original movie in order to link the sequels into one universe. In the case of The Lost World the filmmakers brought back Chaos Theory mathematician Ian Malcolm, played in both movies by Jeff Goldblum. The second sequel brings back two characters from the original, Doctor Grant, played by Sam Neill, and Ellie, played by Laura Dern. Dern shows up in the beginning to give background story on Neil’s character.

Before anyone knows it, Grant has been hoodwinked by a couple into flying to Isle Sorna, the dinosaur island from The Lost World, an island off the coast of Costa Rica that has been closed off from the public. Unfortunately, for an island filled with dangerous, man-eating dinosaurs, it’s open to anyone who wants to break the law and land or visit the island anyway. Gee, “restricted area” sure doesn’t mean what it used to, huh?

Before you can say, “Restricted area,”, the plane carrying Grant and the couple, 3 mercenaries, and Grant’s assistant, Billy, is being knocked out of the air by a dinosaur and it’s chomping time. The couple quickly reveals that they had lied to Grant about wanting to sight-see Isle Sorna, and is in fact here to retrieve their son who had fallen down on the island 8 weeks ago after para-sailing over the island. Is the Costa Rica government so cheap that they can’t afford to hire at least one cop to sit on a boat to ward people away from an island that pretty much devours any flesh that comes near it? Talk about irresponsible! Then again, if logic meant anything to Jurassic Park 3, there wouldn’t be a Jurassic Park 3. So there you go.

Jurassic Park 3 made one very crucial mistake when they first wrote the script. There isn’t enough dinosaur meat. What I mean by that is, there isn’t enough characters to be chomped by dinosaurs. Two of the mercenaries are killed off right away, leaving Grant, the couple, Billy, and a third mercenary. That’s 5 people, including the couple’s son, who is eventually found and comes along for the ride. That makes 6, and that’s not nearly enough to last 90 minutes. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Jurassic Park 2 was the wanton killing by the dinosaurs. That was made possible because there was an army of extra to be sacrificed, thus it gave the movie urgency and a sense of dread and doom. You started to think that almost everyone is game.

Not so with Jurassic Park 3. There’s never any sense of real dread, of doom, or even of danger. The survivors constantly joke about their situation and things are played for laughs. I surmise this decision to make Jurassic Park 3 a lighter adventure romp is due to the lack of characters to begin with. Then again, if this is supposed to be a comedy, didn’t I just see two men get chomped to death by dinosaurs? Those were not very, uh, funny moments in my opinion.

After the last two Jurassic Park movies, no one goes to a third Jurassic Park movie to work out their ethnical and moral dilemmas as relating to science. You go to see Jurassic Park movies to see dinosaurs and lots of them. With Jurassic Park 3, you get plenty of dinosaurs, and they are all seamlessly integrated into the movie. The film is a fun ride if all you want is a fun ride, but I doubt if the filmmakers really cared about exploring any question besides how many dinosaurs is too much.

Joe Johnston (director) / Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (screenplay)
CAST: Sam Neill …. Dr. Alan Grant
William H. Macy …. Paul Kirby
T’a Leoni …. Amanda Kirby

Buy Jurassic Park 3 on DVD