Six-pack of reviews makes the weekend cooler

Jurassic Park III

Directed by Joe Johnston

(Sam Neill, William H. Macy, Tèa

Leoni, Alessandro Nivola)

Rated: PG13

Jurassic Park III is a disaster of the worst breed: A promising film, eagerly awaited by fans of the first two Jurassic Parks, that fails to hold the attention of even these captive supporters.

Director Joe Johnston abandons Spielberg’s suspense tactics, barreling into the film with a panicked hysteria. Frantically, the plot is pushed along as Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) returns to The Lost World‘s Site 2, under the impression he is giving the Kirbys (William H. Macy and Tèa Leoni) an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. The Kirbys, however, land the plane, undertaking a rescue mission for their lost son.

15 minutes into the film, the group reaches the island. 20 minutes in, they’re marooned.

Hastily done, this opening chapter is clearly Johnston’s decision to abandon characterization and plot for action and intensity. When the film’s new bad boy, the Spinosaurus, battles the T-Rex minutes in, Johnston makes his greatest mistake: He unveils the grand finale before the audience knows the fireworks have begun. The remainder attempts to up the ante on this initial encounter.

One by one, the characters become transparent. The stranded group reacts merely to advance the plot. Any set piece or prop is shamelessly required for a ludicrous climax. Sam Neill is reduced to Schwarzenegger-like one-liners (The camera zooms in, Neill’s face tilts and he clues the audience in with a “This is bad.”), and most of the film’s dialogue resembles “Watch out,” “Run,” “Come look at this” and “Do you hear that?”

This could be sufficient if the promised payoff ever came. Except for a fascinating attack sequence by Pteranodons – new to the series – and engaging because it surprises, the characters are chased by the same old foes. The Velociraptors, supposedly more intelligent, are no bigger or badder than in previous chapters. The new Spinosauraus still succumbs to the brainless plot, as it breaks through reinforced fences in one scene only to be held at bay by locked doors in the next.

Yet Johnston pushes on, sure that if there’s enough running and screaming, the audience will follow suit. Interchangeable characters leave nothing for the viewer to fall back on. Incoherent direction and unoriginal action induce yawns while they aim for thrills. If only Johnston realized that one squinting T-Rex is worth a thousand chases…

-Steven Snyder

 

Jurassic Park III is currently open in theatres nationwide.