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Joe Johnston
Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Laura Dern
Writing Credits:
Michael Crichton (characters), Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

This Time It's Not Just A Walk In The Park!

Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) devoted his entire life to the study of dinosaurs, but he never thought he'd come face-to-face with them ... again.

Eight years later, InGen's failure has caused public and private dinosaur research funding to become increasingly extinct. Desperate to fund research for his new theory of Velociraptor intelligence, Dr. Grant is particularly vulnerable when the wealthy adventurer Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) and his wife Amanda (Tea Leoni) approach him with a proposition. They will fund him if he will accompany them on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna, the second InGen site…the quarantined island that has become a primordial breeding ground and a magnet for thrill-seekers eager to encounter them.

Box Office:
$93 million.
Opening Weekend
$50.771 million on 3434 screens.
Domestic Gross
$181.166 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 12/11/2001

• Audio Commentary with Creature Creator Stan Winston, Effects Supervisor John Rosengrant, Animation Supervisor Dan Taylor, and Mechanical Effects Coordinator Michael Lantieri
• “The Making of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III” Featurette
• “Tour of Stan Winston Studio” Featurette
• “A Visit to ILM”
• “Dinosaur Turntables”
• “Behind the Scenes” Elements
• Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison
• Trailers
• “Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs” Featurette
• Cast and Filmmakers Biographies
• Production Notes


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Jurassic Park III: Collector's Edition (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 1, 2011)

Mock me if you must, but I’ve always liked all three of the Jurassic Park movies. When I state this, I encounter little guff in regard to Jurassic Park itself. Widely regarded as the best of the three films, it became the second biggest hit of the Nineties, and it stills stands 18th on the chart of all-time top-grossing flicks in the US. Some deride its silliness, but most seem to see it as the exciting popcorn film it is, and the groundbreaking computer graphics remain pretty good after 18 years.

Fewer folks think highly of the first sequel, 1997’s The Lost World. As I related in my review of that film, I never really understood the criticisms. Both of the first two movies had their share of flaws, but they also offered a lot of fun action and well-shot segments that I felt made up for the goofiness. If forced to do so, I’d give the nod to Park, but I still think that it and World are largely comparable in terms of quality.

Steven Spielberg directed the first two flicks, but he declined to take the reins for the third effort, 2001’s creatively titled Jurassic Park III. Instead, Joe Johnston led the effort. Johnston started as an artist in the visual effects realm with the first three Star Wars flicks, and after his directorial debut with 1989’s surprisingly compelling Honey I Shrunk the Kids, he went on to helm movies like 1991’s The Rocketeer and 1995’s Jumanji. As such, he seemed to be a logical choice for an effects-intensive affair like a Jurassic Park story.

Although the first two movies clocked in at more than two hours, Johnston cut III to its core; this flick ran only 92 minutes, which was more than a half an hour shorter than each of the prior films. While the two prior films didn’t exactly overindulge in character development, they seem positively rich compared to III, which flies through its topics at an absurd clip.

Because of this, III feels more like a “greatest hits” package. It distills the action to its essence but doesn’t bother with any attempts at depth. Though this still means it offers an entertaining and compelling piece, it definitely functions as the weakest of the three.

In many ways, III resembles a remake of Lost World that omits the San Diego conclusion. At the start of the film, we briefly see an adolescent boy named Erik (Trevor Morgan) as he and an adult man parasail over Isla Sorna, the location of Jurassic Park developmental Site “B” seen in Lost World. (That differs from Isla Nublar, the land on which the actual showpiece “Jurassic Park” attraction appeared in the first film.)

Anyway, Erik and the man quickly run into trouble as something attacks the boat that tows them and they sail onto the island. We don’t immediately learn what happens to them as we soon cut to our old pal Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), one of the original Park participants. In short order we find out what’s happened to him over the past eight years, especially in regard to his relationship with Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), his girlfriend during the Park events. Alan’s tried to put the whole Jurassic Park experience behind him and get on with his traditionally conducted research, but a fascinated public makes that difficult.

Although Grant claims nothing could make him visit Jurassic Park again, a rich couple reprise the temptation of John Hammond from the first film and promise him enough money to fund his dig for years if he acts as their dino tour guide. Prodded by his assistant Billy (Alessandro Nivola), Grant agrees to accompany them on a fly-over trip that won’t actually land on the island. (Actually, they never planned to go to Isla Nublar, as the intention was always to head over Isla Sorna, which Grant never visited.)

As the sightseeing trip progresses, we quickly learn that Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Téa Leoni) Kirby weren’t totally honest about their intentions - or much else, as it happens. They don’t want to view the dinos from afar; the parasailing kid was their son, and they’ve come to rescue him. Not surprisingly, the native critters conspire to make this difficult, and the mission goes awry almost immediately.

From there the movie simply follows the standard Jurassic Park formula. At their essence, these films are just about survival, and that’s what we see in III. The matter is complicated because the Kirbys are still intent on finding Erik, but the focus remains on their basic attempts to stay alive in the midst of the world’s nastiest predators.

So what’s new about Jurassic Park III? Not much, to be honest. As I noted, the plot largely rehashes the basic story of Lost World. Granted, one could consider all three to have the same essential tale, but III seems to match World more closely than the first film, mainly because of the setting. Both take place on the same island, and that variation alters the equation considerably. Isla Nublar was much more technologically sophisticated, especially because Isla Sorna had been long abandoned by the events in World. During Park, Isla Nublar was a place thriving with activity, not the ghost town that was Isla Sorna in the two sequels.

Both World and III follow more linear storylines than does Park as well. That flick offers dual plots, as we watch Grant try to survive in the wild with two kids while Sattler and others try to keep things going back in the main compound. World and III have no such divergent tales, though the former’s semi-preachy environmental take at least gives us human characters who oppose each other; all work toward survival, but a distinct air of menace and distrust remains between the two camps.

III totally omits these kinds of elements. The story has been whittled down to the bare minimum, and character complexities depart the scene. Because III assembles a strong cast, the different roles seem deeper than they actually are, but they never threaten to come across as full-blooded people. Paul and Amanda represent a certain archetype but they don’t develop as personalities in their own right. The same goes for Billy, who feels like a stereotypical ambitious and naïve student. Erik’s a scrappy kid who clearly is based on Newt from Aliens, and he gets no real definition of his own.

Of course, we don’t need to learn much of anything about Grant, for we already know him from the first film. Actually, one cool thing about III and World stems from the fact they both give us some updated information about the characters from Park, and they both acknowledge the effect that flick’s events had on their lives and on society in general. Too often movies depict life and world altering experiences, but their sequels show far too little fallout from those actions.

While the Jurassic spin-offs don’t exactly dwell on the issue, they give us a nice look at the attitudes and reactions engendered by the original events, and III also makes some note of the experiences from World. The movies don’t get into the subject as much as I’d like, but I still enjoy this real-world response to some fantasy events.

I also like the extra life the actors give to their roles. As I noted, none of the parts have any depth or dimension; even Grant, who was already known to the audience, seems to present little extra personality as the writers just coast on our foreknowledge. Nonetheless, Neill continues to make him a fairly winning and endearing (unlikely) hero; he never was a willing participant in these adventures, and Neill brings out this reluctance alongside Grant’s undeniable fascination with the dinos who’ve come to life. Actually, Neill neatly creates a more weary tone to Grant in III; the miraculous charms of the creatures have less effect on him, as he feels more battle-hardened.

Both Leoni and Macy seem perfectly acceptable as the Kirbys, though neither really stands out from the crowd. I like them very much as actors, and I feel a little disappointed they can’t bring out much substance to the roles, but the fault mainly resides with the script; there’s only so much they can do with the underdeveloped parts. They remain likable and interesting, but they don’t do anything terribly special.

On the other hand, the final two leads add some nice spark to their parts. During his short career up to 2001, Nivola proved to be quite versatile and seems like something of a chameleon; I find it hard to recognize him from film to film. He makes Billy something a little more complicated than the usual grad student, and I think he adds an intriguing presence. Morgan is also quite good as young Erik. He gives the part some spirit and spunk but doesn’t allow him to become a silly stereotypical kid.

Some will argue that the actors don’t really matter, and to a certain degree, they are correct. The Jurassic Park flicks are more about dinosaurs and action than characters and acting, and III proves that point in spades. Because character development is so minimal, the film depends on its critters and action escapades, and for the most part, it does well in that regard. The new dinos are compelling, as the Spinosaurus finally offer a diversion from the T-Rex, and the Pteranodons allow the film to take to the air, albeit briefly.

As always, the effects seem excellent, as both practical mechanical dinos mix cleanly with computer generated ones as well as the actors and settings. Although I’ve found much fault with the CG work in other flicks from the same period like The Mummy Returns, Cats & Dogs and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the material for III remains solid.

But it’s no surprise that the action scenes are fun and fairly exciting, and the dinosaurs look realistic. The more important question is whether JPIII brings anything new to the table. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Jurassic Park III is certainly a fun ride, and it had a lot of good moments, but it stands as the weakest of the trilogy. Greater depth to the characters and more inspiration for the scenarios would have improved the tale. While I like JPIII and recommend it heartily for fans of the series, I must acknowledge it isn’t a genuinely strong film.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Jurassic Park III appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a pretty good SD-DVD presentation.

Sharpness provided a strong aspect of the image. A little softness crept into a few wider shots, but those instances remained minor. The transfer provided no problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes were minor. In terms of print flaws, I saw a few small specks but nothing big.

Colors varied depending on the setting. Early in the movie, it used a nicely naturalistic and warm palette, but the tones became much colder and starker once the characters were in the thick of dino-madness. In any case, the DVD consistently represented the colors well, as they seemed vivid and bright when necessary, and they came across as clear and drained of intensity when appropriate.

Black levels also seemed nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail usually appeared accurate without excessive heaviness. A few low-light shots on the island were somewhat thick, but these instances were rare. As a whole, Jurassic Park III offered a slightly flawed but generally very positive visual experience.

Even better were the soundtracks of Jurassic Park III. The original Jurassic Park was the first theatrical release to feature DTS audio, and both it and its sequel can be found in DTS and Dolby Digital configurations on separate DVDs. However, III is the first of the series to provide both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 sound on the same disc. Although each of the mixes seemed solid, I gave the definite edge to the DTS track. Initially I’ll discuss it, and then I’ll summarize the ways in which I felt it differed from the Dolby Digital mix.

The soundfield for JPIII consistently came across as engrossing and lively. The music displayed an excellent presence with solid stereo imaging, while effects created a terrific show. Ambient elements cropped up all throughout the movie to provide a realistic and involving setting.

Of course, the louder action sequences gave us very active audio action. From the front, effects were appropriately localized, and they moved across channels and blended cleanly. The surrounds kicked in with strong reinforcement of the score and they allowed the effects segments to really breathe. From the early battle between the T-Rex and the Spinosaurus to virtually every other action scene, the soundtrack forced all five channels to work overtime, and it all made for a fantastic listening experience.

Audio quality also appeared to be excellent. Despite the fact that much of the dialogue needed to be looped, speech always came across as natural and distinct, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Music boasted fine fidelity, as the score sounded bright and vibrant throughout the film. Highs seemed clear and bass response was deep and smooth.

Again, the effects contributed the finest aspects of the soundtrack. All variety of elements - from the quiet ambience to the loudest roars and explosions - appeared accurate and distinct. The mix displayed fine clarity, and the low-end really kicked into overdrive much of the time. JPIII provided a serious bass-fest, and the DTS track reproduced these elements with solid depth and warmth. Overall, I thought JPIII featured the kind of amazing sonic experience that we expect from the series.

When I compared the DTS track to the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, I thought the latter showed slightly less strength. The Dolby edition seemed to pack less of a punch in regard to low-end; while it still seemed positive, it lacked the amazing force of the DTS version. In addition, the Dolby track appeared to blend together a little less smoothly, as the elements seemed somewhat “speaker-specific” at times. On its own, the Dolby version still offered a fine soundtrack, but I simply preferred the DTS edition and thought that it provided a superior piece of work.

This “Collector’s Edition” release of Jurassic Park III contains a fair number of supplements. First up we find an audio commentary from live dinosaur creator Stan Winston, effects supervisor John Rosengrant, animation supervisor Dan Taylor, and mechanical effects coordinator Michael Lantieri. All four were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track.

I was happy to finally get an audio commentary for a Jurassic Park flick, and this one included some decent information. Not surprisingly, the emphasis was on technical aspects of making the movie, but the participants helped ensure that it didn’t become a dry and tedious discussion. Yes, I heard a lot of statements that told us what was practical and what was computer animated, and the piece seemed somewhat self-congratulatory at times; they offered a lot of praise for all involved.

Still, the movie was very effects intensive, and this track told us how the filmmakers worked their magic. The information was related in an easily understandable manner and it revealed a fair amount of depth about the topic. I especially liked the parts that covered the ways in which the dinosaurs have “evolved” over the years from their original Jurassic Park counterparts. Ultimately, this was a good but unspectacular commentary that should be reasonably enjoyable for big fans of the series.

Next we find a program called Making Jurassic Park III. This 22-minute and 42-second piece offers the standard mix of movie snippets, shots from the set, and interviews. In the latter category, we have comments from producer Kathleen Kennedy, actors Sam Neill, Michael Jeter, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Trevor Morgan, and Alessandro Nivola, director Joe Johnston, production designer Ed Verreaux, paleontologist/advisor Jack Horner, creature creator Stan Winston, effects supervisor John Rosengrant, visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell, animation director Dan Taylor, and effects coordinator Michael Lantieri.

Overall, this is a fluffy but decent overview of the production. Most of it seems pretty basic, and it runs through the topics at a rapid pace. However, it gives us a reasonable synopsis of the issues faced during the making of the film, and it comes across as entertaining and compelling. Best of the bunch are the clips from the set, which provide a nice look behind the scenes.

The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III appears like an extension of the prior show. This seven-minute and 53-second piece offers interview snippets from earlier participants Johnston, Horner, Macy, Kennedy, Winston, Neill, and Taylor plus it adds ILM CG modeler Ken Bryant. Essentially it just gives us a quick look at some of the new critters and the modifications made to the old ones such as the raptors. It’s interesting and breezy but somewhat insubstantial; the material should have simply been included in the “Making of…” program.

Another short piece offers a Tour of Stan Winston Studios. While we don’t actually get ushered around the place, we do see the process via which the practical creatures are created. Most of the three-minute and 14-second featurette is silent except for musical score as we watch the workers make their magic. At the end, we get some nice shots of the critters on the set. It’s too short to offer any real value, but it’s a good presentation of some basics nonetheless.

A Visit to ILM packs in a slew of small snippets. Under “Concepts” we find an “Intro” from visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell and then watch material that covers “The Spinosaurus”, “The Pteranodons”, and “The Raptors”. All three of those pieces provide comments from animation director Dan Taylor; all in all, the clips last a total of five minutes and 33 seconds. The give us a decent overview of what the folks at ILM wanted to do with the characters, and they show some good behind the scenes material.

This “Visit” then moves to “The Process”. After a 95-second “Intro” from Dan Taylor, we go to additional subdomains. “Models” gives us a 40-second “Interview” with digital model supervisor Ken Bryan, and we then watch “View Models”, which shows some basic computer work along with more commentary from Bryan.

“T-Rex Vs. Spinosaurus” opens with an “Interview” from lead animator Glen McIntosh and then shows us the 13-second “Production Plate”; that piece depicts the film before the CG creatures appear. Lastly, we see the 10-second “Final Shot”.

After a 59-second “Interview” with lead animator John Zdankiewicz, “Pteranodon Air Attack” launches into a two-second (!) animatic and than gives us the five-second “Final Shot”. “The Process” ends with “Raptors: Returning the Eggs”. A 72-second “Interview” with McIntosh starts the section, and we then see an eight-second “Production Plate” and the five-second “Final Shot”.

That finishes “The Process”, and we move to “Muscle Simulation”. The “Intro” includes 49 seconds of comments from creature supervisor Tim McLaughlin, and we then witness a 103 second “Demonstration” of the computer techniques with technical animation supervisor Dennis Turner.

The “Visit” ends in the “Compositing” domain. In “Definition”, compositing supervisor Eddie Pasquarello tells us what the term means in 32 seconds or less, and the “Demonstration” shows 88 seconds of these techniques in action.

All in all, “A Visit to ILM” requires a lot of clicking for marginal payoff. Actually, that’s not fair, for the section offers some interesting material. Nonetheless, the presentation is less than cohesive. Anytime I have to access a separate segment for five - or two - seconds of material, something’s wrong. “Visit” should have been compiled into one neat running program that would have made the piece much more user friendly.

Additional clicking is required during the Dinosaur Turntables, though the technique is much less frustrating there. The “Turntables” show the computer-animated critters in basic configurations - without coloring or detail - and in final form as they spin for the virtual camera. Some of the segments add running or other interaction as well. Most of the clips last for 23 seconds apiece, but another is 34 seconds, two more are 37 seconds, and the longest - for T-Rex - goes 43 seconds. These are reasonably interesting studies but they don’t seem special and terribly fascinating.

Behind the Scenes continues the clickfest as it splits into three smaller areas. We find brief examinations of “Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane” (108 seconds), “Raptors Attack Udesky” (59 seconds), and “The Lake” (99 seconds). These all have some cool shots from the set, and they’re interesting as a whole, but unfortunately they show too many clips from the movie itself, and they also cut too quickly from image to image. As such, it could be tough to get a good look at the material.

The Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison shows the boards in the top half of the TV frame with the finished movie in the bottom segment. We see three scenes: “The Lab” (69 seconds), “The Aviary” (two minutes, 57 seconds), and “The Boat Attack” (121 seconds). I’ve never been terribly interested in storyboards, but this presentation seems pretty solid.

In the Jurassic Park III Archives, we locate “Production Photos” and a “Poster Gallery”. The former shows the images as a running program accompanied by the movie’s score. Sometimes this method works well, but here it makes the pictures fly by in too dynamic a manner; it could be tough to really see them. The “Poster Gallery” uses the normal stillframe format to show the 44 stills, and it’s very interesting, especially since we see some alternate titles contemplated for the movie.

“Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs” provides a good four minute and 20 second look at some dino digging. We hear from Jack Horner as he discusses his attempts to locate more skeletons, and we watch the diggers at work. It’s a nice view of the real-life research.

A mess of smaller extras finishes the DVD. We find theatrical trailers for all three JP flicks; these offer non-anamorphic images with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Production Notes includes some rather lengthy and detailed text about the movie, while Cast and Filmmakers offers basic biographies of actors Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Téa Leoni, Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter, John Diehl, Bruce A. Young, and Laura Dern (whose character is mistakenly called Ellie “Sadler”). In addition, we get listings for executive producer Steven Spielberg, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Larry Franco, and director Joe Johnston.

Lastly, we see a mention of the “Jurassic Park Institute” and also find “Jurassic Park III Special Offers. Just like similar features on The Mummy Returns and The Grinch, there’s nothing special here; it’s just a collection of ads. We get promos for Universal Studios Theme Parks, the flick’s soundtrack, and a “preview movie” for the Scan Command JP III game. Yawn.

As a fan of the Jurassic Park movies, I enjoyed Jurassic Park III and I thought that it was a fun and entertaining piece of fluff. However, I must acknowledge that it didn’t live up to the standards of the first two movies; those flicks had their flaws, but JP III included even more problems.

Nonetheless, it remained fairly exciting and compelling for the most part. The DVD provided a good picture with excellent sound and a decent roster of extras. Though only a pretty good movie, Jurassic Park III seems interesting enough to merit your attention, and JP fans will definitely want to grab this DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7777 Stars Number of Votes: 207
10 3:
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main