Film Review: Jurassic Park III (2001)

Also known as: Return to the Island: Jurassic Park 3, Jurassic Park 3: The Extinction, Jurassic Park: Breakout (working titles), JP3 (abbreviated title)
Release Date: July 16th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Based on: characters by Michael Crichton
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, Laura Dern, John Diehl, Mark Harelik

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I read both of your books. I liked the first one more. Before you were on the island. You liked dinosaurs back then.” – Erik, “Back then, they hadn’t tried to eat me yet.” – Dr. Grant

Well, this is the film that killed off the franchise. Well, at least for more than a dozen years until the Jurassic World series of films started in 2015.

I should preface this by saying that on its own, this isn’t a bad movie. However, when compared to the two before it, it’s a pretty big disappointment. 

The story, given the circumstances of this movie’s universe, seems plausible and I can buy into people returning to the island for the third time.

Granted, this isn’t the same island, it’s a neighboring island. I have to assume that they did that because recreating the Jurassic Park sets, once again, would’ve been really costly. So most of this actually takes place outside, in a dense jungle with only a few scenes on the island actually going indoors.

Narrative setup aside, this has okay action and a new dinosaur threat that is sold to the audience as being more threatening than a T-Rex. Was it really more threatening? Probably not but by the time you get to the third film in a series, you need to up the ante. They could’ve just added a third T-Rex like the previous movie added a second but whatever. Most people know what a T-Rex is; most people don’t know what the hell a spinosaurus is and if they do, they probably never thought, “Oh, I bet that fella can take a T-Rex!”

The only really cool dino addition to the film franchise is the inclusion of the pteranodons. While we got a glimpse of them in The Lost World, we didn’t get to see them in action, fighting with humans. The sequence that features them is the highlight of the film for me and much better than anything with that doofus spinosaurus.

Sam Neill returns and is in the whole movie, Laura Dern shows up for two scenes but Jeff Goldblum was nowhere to be found because I honestly can’t believe that he’d go back to dino-land a third time. But what do I know, I guess, as he’s actually going to be fully involved in the third Jurassic World movie, which I believe comes out in 2021 but who knows with all the COVID bullshit.

Anyway, Neill is good as Dr. Grant, once again. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by imbeciles that make you want to throw an Amazon Echo at the TV screen. I generally like William H. Macy and Tea Leoni but they were absolute idiots in this. It’s not their fault, it’s just the characters they played.

Ultimately, this is just more of the same with half the passion and enthusiasm of the two films before it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Also known as: Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World (working titles)
Release Date: May 19th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: David Koepp
Based on: The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Camilla Belle

Digital Image Associates, Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

I barely remembered this film, as I hadn’t seen it in its entirety since the theater in 1997. Although, I have seen bits and pieces on television over the years. However, I usually catch the movie at the end, once the T-Rex is running around San Diego looking for its baby.

So I wasn’t sure what to expect in revisiting this but I always remembered not enjoying it as much as the original. However, it has a lot more Goldblum, so that is kind of a selling point, regardless of the overall quality.

Staring with what I liked about the movie, I thought it was immensely cooler simply for the fact that it was darker and pushed the envelope a bit further. It felt much closer to Jaws than the first film and it actually showed a good amount of dino on human violence. A lot of people get eaten, as well as a dog. We even see a girl get savagely attacked and are left with the impression that she was eaten to death. But we are told, several minutes later, that she survived the attack and was doing okay.

The tone in this movie, for the most part, was just right. It comes undone in the third act during the San Diego sequence but the movie did pretty good up to that point.

As mentioned in the second paragraph, this movie is heavy on the Goldblum, which I liked a lot, as even though he’s one of the three stars of the first movie, by the mid-point of that film, he’s kind of just hanging out in the techies’ office.

Looking beyond just Jeff Goldblum, this film had a great cast between Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, as well as cameos by Richard Attenborough and his character’s grandchildren. This also featured Pete Postlethwaite in what I would call one of his greatest roles. His character was complex, interesting and he really shined in this role, despite not having the screen time that the bigger stars had.

I also liked the sequence where the raptors are hiding in the tall grass and picking people off, as everyone is running away from the danger. It’s superbly shot and it’s a chilling scene that has held up remarkably well, especially when other scenes don’t look like they’re on the same level as the first movie.

Moving on to the negatives, the CGI and special effects, overall, look worse than the first film. I found that baffling, considering that this came out four years later in an era where CGI effects were moving forward by leaps and bounds.

However, the scene where you see the first dinosaurs greatly pales in comparison to the dino reveal scene in the first picture.

Also, the movie doesn’t feel like a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s a hard thing to explain and his magical cinematic touch is difficult to quantify but this just doesn’t have that “touch” that other Spielberg adventure films have.

Something that made me scratch my head and go “huh?” was the scene where Goldblum’s daughter uses gymnastics to kill a raptor. I remember people bitching about this back in the day but the whole thing slipped away from my memory over the last twenty-three years. It doesn’t break the movie but it makes you question whether or not Spielberg was off that day and left the film in the hands of a stoner baked out of his mind.

While I liked most of the action, the sequence with the research trailers hanging off the cliff ran on for too long. It was stretched out for suspense and to set up the curveball that was the arrival of two T-Rexes but it was poorly crafted with bad pacing and it disrupted the suspense it tried to build towards.

Lastly, I didn’t like the San Diego shit. I get why they did it, as they had to try and up the ante with this film and taking a T-Rex to a major American city seemed like the next logical step. It just feels out of place and strange. Although, I did like the film’s token asshole getting eaten alive by the baby T-Rex.

This film is a mixed bag. It’s mostly good and it’s a better-than-decent popcorn movie to escape into for a few hours. However, it kind of shows that maybe this concept should have been kept to one film.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Also known as: JP (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: June 9th, 1993 (Washington D.C. premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Michael Crichton, David Koepp
Based on: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, BD Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval, Whit Hertford

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, but, John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Dr. Ian Malcom

I think it might be hard for younger people to understand the hype around Jurassic Park when it came out. For me, it came out in the summer between middle school and high school but I spent most of my eighth grade year listening to my science teacher enthusiastically rave about the novel it was based on. In fact, she offered up extra credit for those of us who read the book and did a report on it, which I did. I liked the book better, FYI.

Anyway, I think that I may have been just a hair too old for this movie to have had the same effect on me as it did younger people in my life. For those born just after the Star Wars films had their theatrical releases, this was their Star Wars. And while I liked it, quite a lot, I do feel like the movie is a bit overrated.

Now I still think it’s damn solid and a fun movie but the story seems pretty basic, overly simplistic and just there to show off what Industrial Light and Magic could do with CGI effects. In that regard, this is a masterpiece of its time and without this film, we wouldn’t have gotten anymore Star Wars films, as this was the real test that George Lucas wanted in order to see if he could make more space movies in the way that he had always envisioned.

This led to the Special Edition Star Wars movies, which I thought were cool to see but I still preferred the unaltered originals. But then those movies led to the Prequel Trilogy and a bunch of other effects heavy films to follow.

Getting back to this film, though, it kind of recycles the best animal horror elements of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws but makes the monster a bunch of dinosaurs and shifts the man-eating to land.

Overall, this is less horrific than Jaws and it isn’t really categorized as “horror” even though it very much is. But I guess marketing it as such, kind of hurts trying to sell it to the public as a family adventure movie. Now if they had put (or left) some actual gore in it, I probably would’ve dug it more as a kid but then parents would’ve been outraged and this might not have become a massive franchise.

The film is really good and probably Spielberg’s best from the ’90s, after Schindler’s List, of course.

It was well cast and the main players are all pretty great, as they created iconic roles that seem to leave a void when they aren’t included in the Jurassic movies after this one. This was, in fact, the only film to feature the Jurassic Holy Trinity of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern.

This one also feels the most special, as it was the first. It’s probably the best too but I really need to watch the second and third, as it’s been years.

Top to bottom, this is just fun, energetic, doesn’t have a dull moment and you find yourself getting lost in it. It’s a good movie to turn your brain off to and it’s still one of the greatest popcorn movies of its time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Also known as: Jurassic Park 5 (Uruguay)
Release Date: May 21st, 2018 (Madrid premiere)
Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Written by: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Based on: characters by Michael Crichton
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Jason

Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures, Perfect World Pictures, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Universal Pictures, 128 Minutes

Review:

“Do these animals deserve the same protection given to other species? Or should they just be left to die?” – Senator Sherwood

I might be the only person on Earth that prefers this movie to its predecessor. But don’t worry, I’ll explain.

This was the first Jurassic Park/World movie that I didn’t see in the theater. The reason being was that the trailer didn’t do much for me. But that was a mistake on my part because we live in a world where trailers give away the entire movie and from what I saw, this looked like the same movie with just an exploding volcano added to it.

In reality and to my surprise, just about everything you see in the trailer solely covers the first act of the film. The last two-thirds of this picture went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, it offered up a really interesting twist on the mythos and it actually turned into a haunted mansion movie where instead of ghosts, we get a man-made killing machine in the form of a dinosaur.

loved the third act of this picture, which saw our heroes stumble across a black market dinosaur auction in the secret, high tech basement of a secluded mansion. Plus, once the shit hits the fan, we get the little girl that lives in the house, hiding and trying to outwit the killer dinosaur that is just one cool looking monster.

The cinematography and the lighting in a lot of the third act sequences are reminiscent of classic horror. In the moment where the little girl is hiding in her bed with covers up to her eyes, you see the killer dino slither down the outer mansion wall, casting a silhouette across the glass and inside wall like a shot from Nosferatu or other German Expressionist horror films of the 1910s and 1920s. Once the dino gets inside, the moment where the shadow of his claw inches across the back wall while the girl shivers under her comforter is visually stunning and a real call back to the films of F.W. Murnau, Robert Wiene and Fritz Lang.

Jumping back to the black market auction sequence, I really liked this idea. It really kicks off something that the filmmakers talked about when the first film was coming out. They wanted the series to evolve into what happens when dinosaurs become a big business, how that can be corrupted and how it will effect the larger world, off of the island. This film leaves us with a conclusion that brings this series into new and uncharted territory. And frankly, I’m not sure why more people weren’t on board with how this film evolves beyond just dinosaurs on an island that mankind can just avoid (but never does).

In my opinion, this film gave the franchise a good shot in the arm, giving it more energy to move forward into the future. Now I’m actually kind of enthused about the future of these movies, as the next one certainly won’t be just the same ol’ shit. It could be a really interesting end to this trilogy.

In fact, I’d take another decade or so off after the next film and then come back in the 2030s with a third and final trilogy that is pretty much Dino Riders. I’m not the only one that remembers the awesomeness of Dino Riders am I?

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the Jurassic Park/World films.

Film Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Release Date: May 29th, 2015 (France premiere)
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Written by: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Based on: characters by Michael Crichton
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan, Andy Buckley

Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Monster is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat.” – Henry Wu

*written in 2015.

It took a really long time to get this fourth Jurassic Park film. For me, it felt as if I was waiting a bit longer than most, as I wasn’t a fan of Jurassic Park III and I thought The Lost World had promise but crossed over into absurdity towards the end. Truthfully, I was only a big fan of the original film.

Ultimately, this film is better than its two predecessors – making it the best film in the Jurassic Park franchise since the original.

I miss Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern but Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard made a nice duo and did a good job. Vincent D’Onofrio did his part as the villain but was basically just Vincent D’Onofrio. The kids were okay but slightly annoying but then again, kids in film typically are. I liked the parts played by Omar Sy, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus and Irrfan Khan. Judy Greer and Andy Buckley also did good with their limited roles.

The film certainly churned up a lot of nostalgia and overall, it was a pretty pleasant experience. There were homages to all of the previous films: some subtle, some blatant. The vibe of the film was consistent, the musical score was better than decent (but not as good as John Williams’ original) and the horror aspect was pretty well executed.

What this film is missing though, is that Spielberg magic that the original had. While this film brings out emotions and gives a fan of the original movie some chills, it is all just because of how good the original film was. This movie relies on tapping into the well of the original Jurassic Park because it has to. It succeeds in that though, because it brought me back to how I felt watching the original the first time but it also made it clear that this wasn’t that film. I don’t really fault the filmmakers, as the original film was special. Even Spielberg couldn’t replicate his own magic with The Lost World. It is hard to capture lightning in a bottle once, let alone twice.

The plot of Jurassic World was pretty straightforward and slightly cookie cutter but there were a few twists and turns that I didn’t anticipate. The dino battles were great, the action was superb and the set and creature designs were pretty on point.

This is a fun and engaging summer film, deserving of the blockbuster status it was designed to achieve. While not a great picture, it will most likely be remembered fondly for years to come.

I also hope that this film gives the franchise some legs to keep moving forward. I’d be on board for other sequels if they are able to match the quality of this film and they present fresh ideas.

One plot question though, if they don’t want to remind people of the previous park and its disastrous failing, as made clear by Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, then why did they use the same iconic park gates, same typeface that the original logo had and make constant references to the original when talking to the new park’s guests? I guess if you change the font color to a calming blue instead of a violent red, it soothes people. I don’t know.

But anyway, couldn’t they have at least got Jeff Goldblum back for a cameo? Even at the end? Just have him walk on screen, look at the carnage and let out his patented Dr. Ian Malcolm laugh?

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Any of the Jurassic Park films.

And the trailer.