At one point the Jurassic Park franchise was a series that was always based off books, always adapted by Steven Spielberg, and pretty much always seen as being great films. But then Jurassic Park III came out and people began to look at the franchise a little differently. It wasn’t just books being made into films by a respected director, now it had become a monster movie franchise. And whilst the third film would be the last entry in the series for a decade and a half, it would be a film that forever changed how the franchise was seen.
Originally announced for a 2000 release date in 1998 (before a script had even been made) the project went through a number of directors and plots, including concepts where teenagers would become trapped on the dinosaur infested island, and where pteranodons terrorise Costa Rica. The story was only locked into place a month before filming was scheduled to begin.
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The final plot revolves around a divorced couple, Paul (William H. Macy) and Amanda (Tea Leoni), whose son goes missing when parasailing over the ocean near Isla Sorna, the Jurassic Park Site B. The two of them approach famous paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to give them an aerial tour of the island and the dinosaurs, posing as wealthy adventurers. Despite being reluctant, Grant agrees to do it to secure funding for his latest research.
When they arrive at the island, however, Grant discovers that he’s been lied to when they attempt to land their plane. After being knocked out he wakes up on the island as the search for the missing boy begins; a search that’s cut short when a massive predator attacks and destroys the plane. Separated on the dangerous island, the survivors have to find a way to escape, and find the missing kid before one of the island’s deadly predators gets them first.
Despite the troubled pre-production, Jurassic Park III ended up being a pretty decent and entertaining movie. It may not have had as complex or engaging a plot as the first two films, but it managed to recapture a lot of what audiences enjoyed about the series: people running away from dinosaurs. One of the things they did that helped with this was the inclusion of the deadly new predator, the spinosaurus. Bigger, faster, and more cunning than the iconic t-rex, this new threat would become the iconic creature of this entry in the series.
Whilst some people complained that the film lacked the narrative depth and engagement of the previous entries, many enjoyed the faster paced story, where the characters were quickly moved from one dangerous set piece to another. As well as having the human protagonists having to deal with returning favourites such as the velociraptor (now featuring feathers) the audience were treated to some long awaited moments; such as the inclusion of the pteranodons and their giant aviary.
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For a lot of people Jurassic Park III has become the black sheep of the franchise, a film that you’re told isn’t good because it’s not as clever as the first two, because the cast isn’t as impressive, because it’s not based on the books, and because Spielberg isn’t directing. However, the film has some of the most impressive set pieces of the original trilogy, like the aforementioned aviary sequence, is able to balance the terror and gore with some genuinely funny moments, and never really lets the viewer have enough time to get bored with proceedings as it makes sure that the real stars of the film, the dinosaurs, are always the focus of the drama. It’s easy to overlook this entry in the franchise, but it still remains a film that will always bring a smile to my face when I watch it.
Jurassic Park III was released in the UK on 20th July 2001.