Jurassic Park III


Notes: Universal / Amblin Entertainment. 1 hours 35 minutes.
Dr. Alan Grant: Sam Neill
Amanda: Téa Leoni
Paul Kirby: William H. Macy
Billy: Alessandro Nivola
Ellie Satler: Laura Dern
Udowski: Michael Jeter
Eric: Trevor Morgan

Screenplay: Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg
Produced: Kathleen Kennedy and Larry Franco
Directed: Joe Johnston
Live Action Dinosaurs: Stan Winston

Summary: Near Isla Sorna, 207 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, some jackass takes his stepson parasailing. He wants to get close to the island, but the boatman jokes, “not too close. You don’t want to be eaten.” They enter fog, and when it clears, the men in the boat are gone and only some blood remains. The boat crashes and the two sail onto the island.

Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant appears with a three-year-old moron who is making toy herbivores fight; the brat is one of Ellie Satler’s. She’s gotten the wish fobbed upon her by Spielberg and the writers of the first Jurassic Park and is a breeder. When Grant meets the father, the brat interrupts adult conversation with some babbled dinosaur factoid, and his obnoxiousness is not discouraged. After dinner, Grant cannot get a parrot to offer basic communication, and he asks Ellie about dinosaurs: “Do you remember the sounds they make?” “I try not to,” she says. “They were smarter than dolphins or whales, … smarter than primates.” As Grant will continue his research on raptor vocalization, she guarantees him that he can call her for any reason. Grant, “the last of my breed,” returns to work with his new assistant, semi-entity Billy, who has reconstructed the “resonating chamber of a velociraptor.”

Grant gives a lecture on raptors being “smarter than we thought” and “Fierce, intelligent, and socially sophisticated.” Everyone is bored, and he asks for questions. Everyone raises a hand, so he disqualifies questions havng to do with Jurassic Park. Almost all hands go down. When finally forced to comment, he distinguishes paleontology from matters of “genetically engineered theme park monsters.” “No force on earth or heaven could get me on that island.”

Grant and Billy have dinner with a couple presenting themselves as the Kirbys, Paul and Amanda, who want to hire Grant as a guide for their flight over Isla Sorna — an anniversary thrill. As CEO of Kirby Enterprises, Paul is prepared to write any amount on a check to help fund Grant’s real research.

Grant mostly sleeps on the plane and has a dinosaur nightmare. When he objects to the Kirbys’ plan to land, a goon conks him out. He wakes up to the noise of Amanda calling “Eric” and “Ben” with a bullhorn — which Grant thinks is a real bad idea. They hear a dinosaur and Grant thinks it “sounds bigger” than a tyrannosaur. Other men run terrified out of the jungle and into the plane. A further one places himself in the runway as the plane with everyone else makes an emergency take-off. Just as the plane nearly rips into him, a gigantic dinosaur snatches him. The blood-spattered plane crashes among the trees, “the radio’s gone,” and soon a Spinosaurus aegyptiacus snatches one of the pilots and is bashing around the airplane fuselage with the remaining people inside. Eventually they flee but run into a tyrannosaur. The two dinos fight.

The Kirbys reveal that they are divorced but that no one would send in a search team for their 12-year-old son Eric and step-father Ben; they’ve been missing for eight weeks. Kirby is no magnate — he runs a paint and tile store in Oklahoma. Grant insists on grabbing what they can from the plane wreckage and heading for the coast. Tromping around the jungle, they soon discover Ben’s camera and watch the final footage. Then they find the skeleton of Ben tangled in the parasail. Amanda is upset, and she clarifies: not at the death of her husband but rather that her brat is “out there.” Boo F. Hoo.

They find a raptor nesting ground, and Billy (as we find out later but is obvious now anyway) steals some eggs. They then find the InGen research facility and suspect Eric could be there. The place is in a shambles. They steal some candy bars and observe the hatchery. “This is how you make dinosaurs?” remarks Amanda. “No, this is how you play God,” snarks Grant. A raptor attacks. They are able to trap it temporarily and flee, but “My God, it’s calling for help.” It signals other raptors and the humans join a group of dinosaurs and create a stampede to escape, but get separated in the woods.

A raptor punctures the last remaining member of the Kirbys’ hired crew, Udwoski, in a clearing, and when he moves, the others announce that he’s alive and begin to leave the tree, but Billy declares this a trap and indeed some raptors appear and almost bite Amanda. Grant is meanwhile surrounded by raptors and is saved only by gas-bombs, chucked, it turns out, by Eric, who takes Grant to his makeshift home inside steel wreckage in a swamp. Eric recognizes Grant: “I read both of your books; I like the first one more” (before the island experience, when Grant still liked dinosaurs). Grant explains that that was written before dinosaurs had been trying to eat him. Eric lives on candybars and he protects himself from some carnivores with a beaker of T-Rex urine. How did he get this? “You don’t want to know.” (Uh, yes, we do.) Eric has read Malcolm’s work too, which he declares “preachy” and too riddled with chaos theory; Malcolm is too “high on himself.”

The Kirbys have a deep moment at night. Grant and Eric emerge the next day and spot a boat. Recognizing the sound of his father’s satellite phone, brat and dorks are reunited. But the sound really has come from inside the Spinosaurus, who attacks, forcing the group into another InGen building. Grant has a fit when he discovers Billy has stolen eggs. Grant almost dumps them in the river but stops himself. Kirby asks, “What if they catch us with them?” Grant retorts, “What if they catch us without them?” They try another escape route but end up in a battered pteranodon aviary and attacked again. One carries off Eric to its aerie, and the little pteranodons jump with excitement at the coming fatty meal (the brat is not gaunt for his eight weeks of survivalism). Disappointingly, Billy parasails to save Eric and all end up attacked by pterodons. The others collapse with a portion of the cage into the river. Eric crawls to safety but Billy is attacked in the river and, assuming he’s a goner, bids the others to escape.

The others find the boat and sail down the river, observing serene brachiosaurs along the banks. Grant comes to realize that taking the next step beyond study makes sense, culminating in the would-be deep line: “Billy was right.” At night they hear Kirby’s satellite phone again, and it turns up in an enormous steaming pile of dino-dung. A carnivore doesn’t eat them when they are covered in poo, and you’d think they’d do something with this realization. The boat is attacked by the Spinosaurus, and after numerous mishaps with the satellite phone, a drowning Grant manages to call Ellie, but her brat answers and cannot cope with a simple chore. He gets sidelined watching Barney. Ellie *-6-9s to hear the chaos as the group sinks underwater.

Kirby attracts the dinosaur’s attention away from the others, but doesn’t die when Grant fires flares and creates an enormous industrial fire that drives the dino off. The four survivors reunite.

Making their way to the coast again, they are surrounded by raptors, and one sniffs Amanda, but they offer the stolen eggs and Grant eventually blows a dino-help-signal on the reconstructed resonating chamber he was given early in the film. The raptors take the eggs and run off. The group finally comes to the beach where a man with a bullhorn calls to them. Now they all realize that’s not a good idea, but Ellie has managed to get the Navy and Marines to invade the island to save them all. They fly out, with a wounded Billy already having been recovered, watching pteranodons flying who-knows-where to nest next — maybe Poughkeepsie.

Commentary: Everyone during the summer of 2001 seemed to have been pre-jaded about this film, which I don’t get. Like it couldn’t possibly live up to the glories of Lara Crap: Tomb Raper? That it didn’t have Jeff Goldblum was the first thing going for it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it futilely to the bitter end: Spielberg needs to kill kids. The presumptions about breeding in this film, and the dismissiveness of Amanda’s husband in light of her missing brat, and the obnoxiousness of Ellie’s most featured kid, and the projection of family values onto the dinosaurs — all this made me scream in horror. I think it was supposed to be the dinosaurs that did that.

On a similar note, fecal matter seemed to be a new theme. It seems Eric’s magical T-pee and the phone-crap incident should have bought the gang a clue about how to walk safely through a jungle of dinosaurs, but no. The other theme was communication, registered by the silent parrot at the beginning, the assurances of Ellie, the business of the phone, and of course the vocalizing raptors themselves.

For a review that tries to make a case for director Johnston supposedly undermining Spielberg, see:
Anthony Lane. “Claws.” The New Yorker 23 July 2001: 86-87.