Jurassic Park III (Blu-ray)

JURASSIC PARK III was the first movie of the series not written specifically by Michael Crichton. The movie suffers for it and while the effects and print used for the transfer for this Blu-ray are hands down the best in the series, the story is the worst. The third movie in a trilogy (until another movie comes out, at least) is a tricky proposition. You want to cover all of your bases and tie up as many loose ends as possible. The story should be more complex and the better funding (from the successes of the first two movies) should result in better production values. In very general terms these things were done but still the script fails.

Jurassic Park 3

Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill, the paleontologist from the first movie) is approached by a strange couple (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) who say that they want to go to an island, Isla Sorna (the second island, the one from THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK). They say that they will pay him whatever he wants to be their guide during a fly over the island since he has experience with the dinosaurs. What they don’t say is that their son went missing near the island, and they don’t intend to fly by the island, they want to land to look for him. They have recruited a ragtag bunch of mercenaries to help them, and they come loaded for bear. In these first few moments on the island we meet the new big bad, the Spinosaurus; he’s big and fast and he quickly takes care of the first member of the flight crew while also wrecking the plane and ensuring that the family cannot escape from the island.

Jurassic Park 3

Since they’re stuck, Dr. Grant agrees to help them search the island for their son, and they begin working their way across the island. When Dr. Grant is separated from the rest of the group during a raptor attack, he discovers the teenager who has been hiding and has somehow survived for eight weeks on his own. As they search for each other we get to see a lot more dinosaur action but that’s about as deep as the story gets. As the family tries to escape the island we get a lot of the “security isn’t working” thriller moments from the first movie along with the action/shoot-em-up feel of the second movie.

Jurassic Park 3

Despite its failings, with the release of the third movie in the Jurassic Park trilogy there was an up-tick in the franchise’s popularity. Following the disappointment of THE LOST WORLD, expectations were lower and I think JURASSIC PARK III benefited significantly from this. Surprisingly, though, this is the movie that doesn’t hold up over time. The story is easily the weakest of the series with the plot line essentially a re-hash or re-order of the best beats from the first two movies. While I was happy to see the return of Dr. Grant, in general the acting in the movie is just plain cartoony. Only Alessandro Nivola (as Grant’s assistant, a young up-and-comer paleontologist) and William H. Macy provide some credibility to the cast, but even they come off as caricatures rather than real people for the majority of the film.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) Easily the best transfer from the cleanest print, this one looks great from beginning to end. The dinosaurs look phenomenal and you will feel like you are right there on the island, again, in mortal danger, again…

Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio track here sounds superb, easily the best of the three movies, though whether that owes to the time lapse between movies or to anything that was done differently would be up for debate.

Return to Jurassic Park: The Third Adventure (25:20) Strangely, this feature opens with a discussion about the Universal Studios Jurassic Park RIDE… okay… Relatively quickly we move into discussion of the third movie in this franchise. This is a nice bookend to the Return to Jurassic Park set of features, and discusses in depth the making of the third movie, writing and relating the story. In retrospect, it is easy to see how much this movie was driven by the effects instead of a great story… and that’s why it doesn’t hold up as well as the others.

Archival Featurettes:

The Making of JURASSIC PARK III (22:43)  Pretty similar, once again, to the new feature but in standard definition. Not worth the view if you’re not a HUGE fan.

The Dinosaurs of JURASSIC PARK III (07:52) A featurette focusing solely on the dinosaurs featured in the film, specifically the Spinosaurus (replacing T-Rex as the new bully on the block) and the flying dinosaurs featured in the movie.

Jurassic Park 3

The Special Effects of JURASSIC PARK III (10:31) This quick footage shows how ILM and Stan Winston Studios work has evolved. Once again, the inclusion of BOTH puppets and CGI effects has the effect of added credibility.

The Industrial Light & Magic Press Reel (10:14) Promotional video on ILM’s work on this film.

The Sounds of JURASSIC PARK III (13:35) If you are interested in how the sound work is done (sound design, mixing, foley work, etc), this is a really interesting look at this creative process.

The Art of JURASSIC PARK III (07:55) A look at how storyboards and concept art lead to the location shooting and sets.

Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs (04:21) A quick look at the paleontologist who worked with the crew on this film, Jack Horner.

Behind the Scenes:

Tour of Stan Wintston’s Studio (03:14) A very quick feature on Winston’s studio and their contribution. Pretty cool.

Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane (01:48) A montage mixing making-of footage with the complete shot.

Raptors Attack Udesky (00:59) A similar montage of the raptor attack scene.

The Lake (01:38) Another montage, this of one of the seminal scenes from the film.

A Visit to ILM: Concepts (05:35) 4 part featurette talking about ILM work developing the special effects from concepts. Very technical but interesting. The Process (04:23) describes how they built the computer animated dinosaurs based on the actual physical models constructed by Winston’s team. Muscle Simulation (02:32) is a quick technical look at how the animators created the illusion of bone and skin moving over the musculature of the dinosaurs. Finally Compositing (01:59) covers putting all of the elements together – polish. Very cool.

Dinosaur Turntables (06:23) is a quick feature that allows you to see the full 3D renders of each of the dinosaurs or characters created digitally to include in the movie (a total of 12 are included). (Thankfully there is sound behind this.) Title cards before each one give an idea to the scale of each.

Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison (06:08) This feature offers a split screen view of three scenes so that we can see how the storyboards directed the final shots used in the film. Very interesting but also very technical.

Production Photographs (02:50) A much nicer slide-show featuring background music (!!!) and other production values sorely missed on the previous discs.

Feature Commentary by Special Effects Artists Stan Winston, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor, Michael Lantieri If you are interested in knowing more about the creative process from a special effects standpoint, this is for you. Otherwise, this is pretty technical (too technical, even). Only for hardcore fans. Sadly, the inclusion of this commentary track serves only to draw out the LACK of a commentary from the director.

Once again, the special features are rounded out with the Theatrical Trailer (01:16), which is presented in standard definition on the disc.

OVERALL 3.5
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