“With the best intentions? Some of the worst things imaginable were done with the best intentions.” – Dr. Alan Grant
After years of panning from critics and fans, there are many who would argue that the above quote best sums up the entirety of Jurassic Park III.
I am not one of them.
Personally, I have always found Jurassic Park III to be an enjoyable sequel that seeks earnestly to recapture the thrills and wonder of the original film.
With Spielberg relegated to the executive producer’s chair, Jurassic Park III was directed by Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) and sees the return of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). Having put the events of the first film behind him, Alan happily declares that nothing could ever get him to return. Nothing, that is, until he is tricked into leading a guided tour of Isla Sorna—the second island—by Paul and Amanda Kirby. Soon after they land, Alan realizes that he is not leading an exotic expedition but rather a search-and-rescue operation on an island that he has never seen before.
In a lot of ways, Jurassic Park III feels like the movie that should have been made instead of The Lost World. Within it, there’s little question that every effort was made to reclaim the magic of the first film. Relegated to brief predators in The Lost World, the raptors are relevant again. They manage to create a new menace in the Spinosaurus. Alan’s return gives the film a much-needed balance between professionalism and protector that (bless his heart) is missing from Goldblum’s erratic chaos theorist. Even the pterodactyls finally make an appearance, after their tease at the end of Jurassic Park. Yes, it’s hardly the perfect film. Still, JPIII does seem to undo some of the damage done by the first sequel and at least rekindles some of the magic that was missing from the franchise.
However, my primary issue with the film isn’t with the special effects, the plot, or the sense of adventure that it offers. JPIII does bring what’s necessary to give you a fun ride. I feel the film is lacking in its lack of soul. While the first film grappled with what happens when man tries to play God and the second film attempted (ultimately failing… but attempted) to examine some issues of oppression, Jurassic Park III lacks any real effort to bring us something more. While it does manage to link the theme of parenting between the Kirbys and the raptors themselves, there isn’t much further exploration into any specific idea or theme.
How interesting would it have been to really explore and compare the idea of relationships amongst humans and their similarities to other species? Or what about the sacrifices that one is willing to do as a parent in the name of love? These themes, amongst many others, were ripe for exploring and would have invited some fascinating spiritual conversation… yet JPIII falls short in this area. (Incidentally, this is also the only film in the series to include a number in the title, something that I believe is significant by revealing that it may not be much more than a sequel.)
With this in mind, though I do have a special place in my heart for Jurassic Park III, it did signify that Universal really didn’t know where else to take this franchise at the time. While still a fun ride that doesn’t deserve the flack that it often gets, the film doesn’t really offer much more that sits with you after the credits have rolled.
Even if it was made with the best of intentions.