You might be thinking, he must mean Jurassic Park 4, right? The one that Steven Spielberg recently mentioned might be happening, but he would not be directing. But NO! I speak of the 2001 epic (fail) film, Jurassic Park III.
Now let’s talk a bit about why this film COMPLETELY missed the mark.
As usual with any sequel, there is a precedent of greatness from the movie before it. The original Jurassic Park was based on the bestselling Michael Crichton book of the same name. It was a pretty awesome movie and a technical triumph at the time. The film’s CG moments still hold up against present-day efforts. The story was a bit haphazard, and took away plenty of depth that the book provided, but how many people actually want to hear people talk about a tiny chicken-sized dinosaur called “procompsognathus”Procompsognathus: An animal mentioned about 1,000 times in Jurassic Park the book. They were later adorably referred to simply as “compys” (such a long name!) or go into detail on how exactly the parks Cray supercomputers decode DNA? As a side note, my wife and I made a conscious effort recently to try talking about procompsognathus in an every day conversation to see how people would react. We were met with mixed/confused results.
Even the the 1997 follow up film The Lost World: Jurassic Park was a fairly solid effort. It strayed even farther from the Michael Crichton book than its predecessor, but still contained all the elements necessary to be entertaining while developing the key characters.
By the second film it became clear that there were a few “checklist items” that seemed to apply to making a good Jurassic Park film.
- Make sure there is at least one child throughout the whole film.
- Make sure the child incredibly useless the majority of the film.
- Have raptors! LOTS OF RAPTORS! ROAR!
- Be sure to have everyone running from dinosaurs a lot!
Unfortunately, the above checklist was NOT the end-all solution to building a great Jurassic Park film. Which lead to this:
Jurassic Park III: Keep Running!
The first two films had all the things in the above checklist, but they had something else that the third film must have forgotten about: a script.
I’m sure someone copy and pasted a few chase sequences into a document and tried calling it a script. So I guess we can say they at least “tried”…
So how did Jurassic Park III miss the mark?
Visually it was a pretty film, filled with plenty of big crazy dinosaurs, but it was missing all the character depth from the first two films. All the characters could have died at the end and we still would have been left thinking “Oh did someone die? I couldn’t tell in between each scene of vague characters blindly running from dinosaurs.
The film even goes as far as to take Alan Grant, (the main character of the first film) and take all the depth from his character in the first film and flatten it out into a bland 2-dimensional character.
Apparently Grant didn’t learn his lesson in the first film. Jurassic Park starts by showing Grant at a dig site in Montana. John Hammond comes and says “Come see my park! It’s great!”
At this point Grant says, “No way, I can’t! I have a dig here!” to which Hammond replies, “I’ll fund your dig site!” And there off to the island!
Grant then goes to Jurassic Park and nearly dies and barely escapes with the other people. You would think that if anyone ever came to one of his dig sites in the future offering to go to an island filled with dinosaurs, he would probably just say no.
Unfortunately, Grant must have gotten partial amnesia between the first and second film, because what happens next is almost an exact copy of the first film.
Grant is at his dig site when an annoying looking rich couple walks up to him. They “just want to fly over one of the dinosaur islands” because…well..they’re big fancy rich people! And that’s what rich people do!
This should have set off about 15 different red flags in Grant’s head. And it seemed like it did until the rich couple pulls out his ONE weakness: “I’ll fund your dig site!”
Grant: “Well hell! Where do I sign??”
This pretty much negates anything smart the guy did in the first film. He has essentially rebooted to original Grant, with no memories of everything that happened in the first film.
Oh did I mention that he totally communicates with the raptors at one point too? He uses a replica “resonating chamber” from a raptor skeleton to tell the raptors “It’s ok fellas, nothing to worry about with us! Here’s your dino-eggs back, we cool, G?”
In the end, how did Jurassic Park III miss the mark?
- Lack of script depth
- Lack of any logic in the main character
- Humans should never “communicate” with dinosaurs. They are big scary eating machines and thats all they ever should be.
Here’s hoping that Jurassic Park: IV does NOT go the way they originally intended:
Jurassic Park IV: Raptor Assassins