My fandom for the franchise Jurassic Park needs no introduction, explanation or any further attention to you because if you're reading this, you probably know how I pretty much all but worship the air this franchise farts out and will no doubt take sharp instruments to your genitalia in lieu of any further elaboration on my part. However, what stops me from being one of those Jurassic zombies, as it were, are the comic Jurassic Park: Redemption, the toy-line Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect, and finally, why we're here today, the film Jurassic Park III.
Surprisingly, fandom appears to be hereditary as my now two year old son, Roland (partially named after Pete Postlethwaite's character from The Lost World: Jurassic Park), loves dinosaurs and actually calls them "kas" because he's trying to say the "K" sounds in Jurassic Park, what he immediately associates dinosaurs with. While he enjoys watching the kas in the entire series, he seems to have taken a liking to the third film for a reason I'll never quite understand (maybe because of the "bird kas"). Since it has those two practically magic words in the title, I find myself parking my ass down next to him and watching it too. However, lately Jurassic Park III hasn't sit quite well with me. In fact, the more I watch it, the less I like it, and considering how much young children like repetition, I now like Jurassic Park III far, far, FAR less than I did when I first saw it on July 18th, 2001. Why? Let's dig in and find out.
The Running Time
At a measly 90 minutes or so, Jurassic Park III feels like a member of the ADD generation, sacrificing build up, suspense & character development to show off the "goods" sooner. One of the great things about Jurassic Park and its sequel, The Lost World, was that it took its time before shit hit the fan. It established the characters, it showed off some of the wondrous animals and majesty of the island(s) before putting the characters you should root for in the way of a giant theropod's gaping maw. Here, give it ten or 15 minutes and the cast is already down two mercenaries and a way off the island. Um, okay, fine but why should we give a crap about Tea Leoni or Alessandro Nivola? Or even the two currently digested mercs at this point? Those two probably had a combined, what, 5 minutes of screen time and ten lines? Boo fucking hoo. If you want us to have a reaction, good or bad, to characters dying, you need to get us invested in them. Fail on this department.
Excuse me, sir. Have we met?
Now, I'm not harping on Tea Leoni because she's a bad actress or anything because to be honest, I'm not entirely familiar with her work for the most part, just this film and Deep Impact. The problem isn't so much in her acting, but her character. My other half, Picky Momma Scholar, finds Tea Leoni's character Amanda Kirby more annoying than Willie from Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom. I think Scholar shouldn't say things she can't take back (as annoying as Amanda can be, she has nothing on Willie or even Short Round). That not withstanding, Amanda is a fairly annoying character and probably the only grown woman from the Jurassic Park franchise that I wouldn't be bothered by seeing her not make it (I wasn't entirely sold on The Lost World's Kelly Malcolm). All she does is bicker with her ex-husband Paul (played by William H. Macy, who I like), scream and break away from the herd, calling unwanted attention to herself and her associates. After seeing wonderful leading ladies in the franchise thanks to Laura Dern & Julianne Moore, this just seems like a let down.
"Hi, Dr. Grant? S. Aegypticus here. Can you please tell that annoying thing you're scurrying around on my island with to shut the fuck UP?! Thanks to her, I now have to abandon a GREAT meal so I can get a head start to reach you bastards before the Velociraptors do. Congratulations."
Sometimes, change is good. There are those who encourage, embrace and welcome it, but not all changes are good. Such is the case here. Spinosaurus is by no means a no name dinosaur, but not nearly as recognizable as the iconic and first two film's main attraction, Tyrannosaurus Rex. So much in fact, that I, no word of a lie, had people come up and ask me if Spinosaurus was actually a real dinosaur or something they just made up for Jurassic Park III. Spinosaurus is a real species of dinosaur, but the thing was that given its crocodilian snout and light frame compared other predators of similar size, Spinosaurus was designed more for catching fish and herbivorous dinosaurs in the area, NOT for delivering cheap kill shots to Tyrannosaurus and being some unstoppable bulletproof behemoth that this movie makes it out to be. Then again, the series' paleontological adviser, Dr. Jack Horner, just has it out for T-Rex, suggesting that it was a limping scavenger (you see it in this movie) and that Torosaurus & Triceratops were actually the same dinosaur, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Changing the main dinosaur at this point was like changing the lineup in Transformers back in the 80s: nobody cared about Rodimus Prime vs. Galvatron, and nobody cared about Spinosaurus either.
"Hiddy ho, kids! I'm Spinosaurus aegypticus! Even though I'm not nearly as recognized as my old buddy T-Rex and I have no right to rob him of all but 60 seconds of screen time in this movie, that doesn't mean we can't have fun, right? Right? Does anyone out there like me yet?"
After the first Jurassic Park film came out, the word "Velociraptor" became a household word. Rightfully so, seeing as they were the park's most terrifying animal (gave me nightmares for a year, not a word of a lie), even though they were more like Deinonychus or Utahraptor, but we can chalk that up to a miscalculation in the cloning. The screen time they got in Jurassic Park III makes up for their screen time, or lack there of, in The Lost World, but JP3 makes them out to be some kind of messiah that'll start a Dromaeosaur uprising that we'll see in Rise Of The Planet Of The Raptors hitting theatres soon. Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) even says in the movie that they were smarter than dolphins, whales and primates. Sure, if those three species in question are dumber than a housecat (I know some primates who are, in all fairness). Most research that I've found has concluded that Velociraptors were probably about as smart as your common feline, which by reptilian standards, is still pretty impressive, but this movie makes them seem like McGuyveraptor (setting a trap in the tree? Seriously?). Another thing that pissed me off about the Raptors is their look. Why ditch the great tiger stripe thing from The Lost World and give them this acid trip coloration? It's like someone spilled some paint and primer on the male and female maquettes (respectively) while having an acid trip cranking some Pink Floyd and said, "Good enough." I'm fine with the males having feathers, but everything else just sucks.
"Whoa! The jungle's on fire, man!"
"Honey, put down the ecstasy."
Dr. Grant's Change Of Attitude
In Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant says to Lex (Ariana Richards) that the dinosaurs are not monsters, but animals. Here, Grant flat-out says, "Now what John Hammond and InGen did at Jurassic Park was create genetically engineered theme park monsters, nothing more and nothing less." What the fuck, man? You study these things all your life and you get pissy after a few years because they just follow their nature? If you took such personal offense to them trying to feed themselves, why not switch professions? Did nearly a decade of sitting on the thought of them sour your opinion of it all? Actually...this is starting to sound a little familiar. In all seriousness though, this just goes to show you that the writers of Jurassic Park III forgot the whole point behind Jurassic Park.
"Your cousins tried to eat me. You're all a bunch of savage Judases."
Which brings me to my last point, and what I hate the most about Jurassic Park III...
Dinosaurs Are Animals, Not Fucking Monsters.
Dinosaurs fascinate so many people because like Steven Spielberg described them, they possess many of the aspects that make mythology so alluring...only its not mythology, its real. Therefore, his goal in the first Jurassic Park, and even the second if you think about it, was to show the dinosaurs more as the animals that may have existed all those millions of years ago rather than creatures ravenous for human flesh. Jurassic Park III took that philosophy, said "To Hell with this noise," and took a huge dump on it. I say this because of a few key scenes:
1. When the group first encounters the Tyrannosaur, they find him chewing on a dead dinosaur. He roars to scare them off, they split, and then he chases after them. The Tyrannosaur gives up tons, TONS of flesh already at his disposal for a couple of running bitesizers? That's like giving up a freshly cooked steak for some stray Skittles. What a crock.
2. When Udesky (Michael Jeter) gets killed, the Velociraptors claw him down his back and when they are called away, the male takes the time to reach down and break his neck, snarling back at Paul, Amanda and Billy (Alessandro Nivola), as if to mock them. You'd think that they'd just slash him again and put him out of his misery or you know, drag him back to their nesting site to feed their young. Just a thought.
3. The one that pisses me off the most, when Billy is thought to be killed by the Pteranodons and the one perched on the rocks nearby looks back and gives that "You're next" look to Grant and Paul. A real Pteranodon would probably screech at the intruders and take off to realign itself and dive at them, if anything. Sorry folks, this was creepy in the first Resident Evil game, but it just looks stupid here.
This movie can officially go fuck itself.
Okay, I think I've gone on about this for awhile now. I've been typing this for a couple hours now and I have other things to attend to. On top of all the things I mentioned, Jurassic Park III also had the lamest CGI (computer generated imagery) and toys in the entire franchise. In the first two films, the CGI looked damn real and still holds up pretty well, all things considered, but with JP3 anytime a CGI dinosaur was on I was well aware that I was looking at a rendered CGI model. This movie rushes into things, not giving us anything to wonder and marvel at with people we don't give a damn about thrown into the fray and is just a frustrating experience. With Steven Spielberg announcing that Jurassic Park IV is apparently a go, we can only hope that they learn their lessons from Jurassic Park III and take their time, both production and final length time-wise, to give us a quality film that will have us invest in the...what's that? Universal wants it out by 2013?