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Jurassic Park III (***)
Directed by Joe Johnston
Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (based upon the characters of Michael Crichton)
Principal Cast
Sam Neill -- Dr. Alan Grant
William H. Macy -- Paul Kirby
Téa Leoni -- Amanda Kirby
Alessandro Nivola -- Billy Brennan
Trevor Morgan -- Eric Kirby
Michael Jeter -- Udesky
John Diehl -- Cooper
Bruce A. Young -- Nash
Laura Dern -- Dr. Ellie Sattler
Taylor Nichols -- Mark Degler
Mark Harelik -- Ben
Julio Oscar Mechoso -- Enrique
Sarah Danielle Madison -- Cheryl Logan
Linda Park -- Hannah
Sonia Jackson -- Symposium Leader
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Jurassic Park III Joe Johnson is a yeoman director whose work is solidly in the middle ranks. I enjoyed Jumanji and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and I liked The Rocketeer a lot. But, oh, what Stephen Spielberg could have done with this material!

There is one scene in the film where the characters are on a boat floating down a river in a fog, and a humongosaurus lumbers out into the river looking for a snack. On the deck of the boat is a large cage, in which everyone takes refuge, except for one guy who swims for it. Then, the boat begins to sink.

If Spielberg had been directing, imagine how gripping that scene would have been. The deck tilts. The cage slides to the low end of the boat. The characters are up to their waists in water. They try to open the door and get out. The door is jammed against the side of the boat. The dinosaur sniffs at the cage. The boat settles in the water. The water is up to their necks. The guy who swam for shore tries to distract the dinosaur. The characters in the cage are panic stricken. The water rises to the top of the cage. The characters try to keep their noses above the water. Now the cage is completely under water. Somebody grabs a stick, and tries to push the cage away from the side of the boat. The stick breaks.

In my mind's eye, I can almost see that great Spielberg scene. It has me on the edge of my seat. Johnson practically throws the bit away. All of the detail I've added just isn't there. Dino roars, people hide in cage, boat sinks, man distracts dino, people escape from cage, end of scene. There is nothing really wrong with Johnson's direction, but oh, Stephen! Why didn't you happen onto the set that day?

In an interview, Johnson mentioned that he had to begin shooting without a finished script. It shows. There are scenes from earlier layers of the story that don't quite fit in the story we are watching. For example, there was clearly a time when the people who go to Dinosaur Island were actually very rich, and then a later script in which they weren't. (To make them more sympathetic? Didn't work.) But they still have some of the accouterments from the very rich stage of the script.

And how come the humongosaurus footsteps go THOOM! THOOM! like a Jack Kirby sound effect -- except when the characters aren't looking, in which case humongosaurus can tiptoe up behind them and JUMP OUT AT THEM!

See the movie. See it at a theatre with a really LOUD sound system and good air conditioning. Buy a very salty oily popcorn and a cherry coke. It's a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It's hard to go too far wrong with dinosaurs.

Copyright © 2001 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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