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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Jurassic Park III (2001)

Reporter: Dr. Grant, would you ever return to Isla Sorna?
Alan Grant: No force on Heaven or Earth could ever make me go back there.

- Sam Neill

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: November 28, 2001

Stars: Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tea Leoni
Other Stars: Alessandro Nivola, Trevor Morgan, Michael Jeter
Director: Joe Johnston

Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence
Run Time: 01h:32m:13s
Release Date: December 11, 2001
UPC: 025192110122
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-A-A- B+

DVD Review

With the first two Jurassic Park films generating over $1.5 billion in worldwide box-office, a third visit was never in question. Demand for such, however, was another matter. The first film was a genuine surprise, with great special effects, thrilling action scenes, and an elegant, streamlined plot. The Lost World: Jurassic Park was a problematic sequel at best, and though it was a hit, it soured many fans on the series with its labored environmentalist plot and cutesy self-aware characters and dialogue (despite some killer set pieces and even better special effects). Four years later comes the next film in the series, and it winds up perhaps the most enjoyable of all three, even if it isn't, technically, a well-made picture.

The impetus to go back to Isla Sorna this time is a rescue mission. Sam Neill returns from the first film as Dr. Alan Grant, still inexplicably interested in dinosaur skeletons despite nearly winding up inside one years earlier. He's approached by a couple, Paul (Macy) and Amanda (Leoni), and coerced by money into leading them, and a group of hired mercenaries, on a guided tour of Site B (from the second film) that turns into a hunt for the couple's missing son Erik (Morgan). But there's still quite a large dinosaur population on the island, including nifty new beasts like the tougher-than-T-Rex Spinosaurus, and getting home is always the hard part.

Any Jurassic Park film is only as good as its dino scenes, and JP III has some of the best in the series. There's a gag involving a cell phone that manages to be funny and thrilling at the same time. There's a fight between a T-Rex and a Spino that recalls the mythic battle between King Kong and the giant lizard. And, finally, there's the scene that was so unjustly excluded from the first film (though it appeared in Michael Crichton's novel): the attack of the flying dinosaurs (here played by the newly invented Pteronadon). I've been waiting for this payoff for years, and the scene delivers.

Joe Johnston isn't as strong a director as Spielberg—his action scenes never approach the style or suspense of those in the two previous pictures. But he also lacks Spielberg's sometimes bloated sense of self-importance. He feels no need to weigh the film down with a bunch of moral treatises on man's ability to destroy, even in the act of creation, the hubris of man playing god, blah, blah, blah. His goal is to do nothing more than entertain, to deliver a solid B-movie that is exciting and amusing. The film is a bit clunky and hodge-podge, with an abrupt, anti-climactic ending, but the screenplay moves quickly enough that it doesn't matter. And amidst the rather ludicrous exposition and forced dialogue, there's some good, sarcastic humor (the script was co-written by Election screenwriter Alexander Payne).

The cast is fine. Neill is always a kick, he's a B-actor who knows it. William H. Macy brings some everyman humor to an underwritten role, and Tea Leoni plays up her rather shrill role quite well. Trevor Morgan gives the first child's performance in a Jurassic Park movie that didn't make me strain myself, what with all the eye rolling. The rest of the cast exists as little more than lizard food, but features such character actors as Michael Jeter and Bruce Young.

Perhaps JP III works because it knows when to quit—without credits, the picture runs a scant 85 minutes, without a second of downtime. It's been boiled down to the essentials—see dino chase characters, run characters, run—and it's all the better for it.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a very nice looking disc, and the image quality is very good, even with all the supplements included. Edge enhancement isn't a problem, and aside from a few minor problems in one scene (the opening parasailing), neither is digital artifacting. Colors are very strong. Fine detail is good in some scenes, but in interior scenes, sometimes things look a bit hazy. The black level is fine, and shadow detail is fair. Really, there's nothing much to complain about.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: Both DD 5.1 and DTS tracks are included, but the differences between the two are negligible. Both feature great use of the surrounds in action scenes, along with plenty of LFE. In quieter moments, the surrounds quiet down a bit, but still add atmosphere. The front soundstage features excellent separation between the channels, with dialogue anchored in the center and always clear. The score makes good use of the front soundstage as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
6 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by the special effects team
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. A Visit to ILM: 20 different step-by-step effects featurettes
  2. Dinosaur Turntables
  3. Animated photo gallery with score
  4. Poster Gallery
Extras Review: There's a lot of extras on Jurassic Park III, but many of them are very short or very promotional (or both). There's still quite a few worth checking out, but don't be fooled by the extensive list on the back of the box.

The special effects team, including the legendary Stan Winston, contributes a commentary track (no sign of director Joe Johnston). The group was recorded together, which raises this one above most (very dry) technical tracks—they don't hesitate to joke with one another. The computer effects guys joke that the dinosaurs were all real, but that no one noticed the digital Laura Dern. Heh. There's also a lot of friendly banter between the on-set people from Winston's animatronics team and the CGI guys. You'd expect some animosity, seeing as computers are slowly putting practical effects houses out of business, but this group seems to have struck a nice balance. They spend a lot of time complimenting each other. Things break down a bit into pointing out what's digital and what's robotic, but otherwise, this is a very entertaining track.

Next up is a standard making-of, creatively entitled The Making of Jurassic Park III. It's exactly what you'd expect: superficial and overly promotional. It runs 22 minutes, but everything of interest in the piece is repeated later in the extras. The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III is a 7-minute look at the changes made to the dino cast in this installment of the trilogy. Most of the time is spent on the Spinosaurus, but there is also mention of the cosmetic changes to the Raptors. The Tour of Stan Winston Studio is one of the more interesting featurettes, and I wish it was longer. It runs 4 minutes, and provides a look at the construction of the animatronic dinosaur models. Behind the Scenes offers two 2-minute on-set montages of scenes in progress. These are sort of incoherently and erratically edited, and aren't very interesting. Montana: In Search of New Dinosaurs is another brief piece, around 5 minutes, that follows paleontologist Jack Horner to a dig in Montana. It's interesting enough, but the last thing I want, after watching a Jurassic Park movie, is to be reminded that dinosaurs aren't around anymore. Stupid extinction. There's also a fairly standard storyboard to final film comparison for three scenes, "The Lab," "The Aviary," and "The Boat Attack."

A Visit to ILM is the most extensive feature on the disc. Selecting it leads to four different categories: "Concepts," "Muscle Simulation," "The Process," and "Compositing." Each of these breaks down into further sub-menus. "Concepts" offers looks at the development of the look of the Spinosaurus, the Pteranodons, and the Raptors. "Muscle Simulation" offers a look at the complex new programs developed for JP III to give the dinos more realistic muscle movement. "The Process" is the most in-depth section. It gives a start to finish look at the elements of a scene, from blending with on-set effects to the CGI building process. Finally, "Compositing" explains the insertion of the dinosaurs, and digital effects like fog, into existing shots of the actors and sets. This whole section runs about 15 minutes, and is a quick but interesting look at the effects process. A "play all" option would've been nice.

That's it for the major extras. There's not much to the Dinosaur Turntables, which simply offer 30-second clips of the CGI dino models rotating, screen-saver style. "Play all" would've been nice here, too. The Jurassic Park III Archives section houses an animated photo gallery (with score) and a gallery of discarded poster ideas. Some have really goofy sub-heads and graphics (one substitutes a human skeleton for the dinosaur in the famous logo), and seem to have come from a different movie (judging from the rumors of constant script rewrites, they probably did). The Jurassic Park Special Offers are simply a collection of ads, one for the soundtrack, one for Universal Studios, and one for a dorky videogame involving scanning bar codes. I hate this new fad of clogging up DVDs with "promo offers," so I'll move on.

Rounding out the disc are the usual text extras, including fairly extensive production notes and cast and crew bios and filmographies. And finally, there's three trailers, one for Jurassic Park III, and one each for Jurassic Park and The Lost World (that Lost World spot fools me every time... it makes the movie look so cool!).

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

With a scant running time of 92 minutes (minus credits), and none of the ponderous moralizing of the bloated Steven Spielberg epic The Lost World, Jurassic Park III emerges as a flawed but perfectly enjoyable little B-movie. It apes the structure of the old King Kong movies (a pun—intentional or not? You decide!), and is a lot of fun. The DVD is likewise entertaining, and features great video and audio quality, and some decent features. Plus? Dinosaurs. Recommended.


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