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Steven Spielberg is one of the biggest directors today in Hollywood. So big in fact that DreamWorks is looking for a way to insure his life for over 1 billion dollars. From his first big hit "Jaws" in 1975 through to 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" the list of box office hits he has been involved with is amazing. Even more impressive is that he has created two of the most successful movie franchises in history in "Indiana Jones" and "Jurassic Park" not to mention the critically acclaimed holocaust drama "Schindler's List" which was shot entirely in black and white. He has been involved with so many great films it's hard to pick a favorite.

Jurassic Park 3
In 1993, Spielberg undertook a project with a huge scope. Author Michael Crichton had written a novel about dinosaurs being brought to life by a huge corporation in order to populate an amusement park. The novel was "Jurassic Park" and soon under Spielberg's guide JP would become a monster hit both financially and technically. Spielberg with the help of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) truly brought the dinosaurs to life in one of the single greatest moments in SFX history. If not for the help from ILM and the sheer genius of three of the best in their respective effects areas Stan Winston, Denis Muran and Phil Tippet, Jurassic Park may have been a huge failure. The effects team held a huge burden on the project because they had to try and make the dinosaurs look real. Luckily they succeeded as there work was truly ground breaking causing people to take notice including Stanley Kubrick who started talking to Spielberg about doing the effects for Supertoys which later became "A.I." However that was not the end of the technical advances made with "Jurassic Park" as it also became the first film to feature DTS Digital Sound. Jurassic Park would go on to earn over 900 million dollars worldwide and spawn a sequel "The Lost World" that also went on to earn over 300 million worldwide. Money talks and plans for a 3rd sequel were made but with Spielberg busy working on "A.I." another director would have to take the helm. That man would be Joe Johnston who had previously directed the special effects film "Jumanji". Would he be as successful as Spielberg find out as we go back to Jurassic Park.

In the beginning Millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenbourgh) set out to bring the world a new type of amusement park. One where the kids and their parents could have fun in addition to learning all sorts of educational information. His idea was Jurassic Park, a park with real living dinosaurs. However he lacked the complete financing so in order to get approval from parent company InGen communications he had to invite various experts to the park to get their approval. Among these professionals were Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neil), Dr Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) and Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Grant and Sadler were fascinated by the science aspect of it all while Dr Malcolm a so-called chaos theorist believed that everything that could go wrong would. Malcolm was right and the dinosaurs started taking matter in their own hands almost killing the humans on the island.

In the second instalment it was learned that InGen had set up a site "B" on Isla Sorna another remote Costa Rican island. Two teams of people were sent to the Island, one to kill and hunt them and one to study them. Where things once again went horribly wrong as people start dying and worse yet the dinosaurs found a way to flee the island on a boat headed for downtown San Francisco. They manage to get off and create carnage throughout the streets eventually being stopped but only after typical amounts of movie destruction. In this second instalment only Dr Ian Malcolm and John Hammond returned from the first one.

As the 3rd instalment of this ongoing saga opens we see young Eric (Trevor Morgan) and his father Ben suiting up on a boat to go parasailing. The boat is just off the Costa Rican coast around the area of Isla Sorna. Armed with a video camera, the young boy and his father begin to parasail unaware of the danger of their surroundings. Suddenly the boat towing them is hit hard by a mysterious force and they find themselves headed directly into a cliff. Meanwhile elsewhere Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neil) a professor of Paleontology at a university is looking for funding for his latest project. Dr Grant has a theory that the deadly Raptors are able to communicate with one another using a series of high pitch screeches. Unable to secure funding he tells his crew that they will have to shut down their dig in three weeks. Just minutes after this he is approached by a man who invites him out to dinner. At dinner we find out that the man is millionaire Paul Kirby (William H. Macy) who wants to hire Grant to give him and his wife Amanda (Tea Leoni) a guided tour of Isla Sorna. Grant doesn't want to give the tour but Paul offers him any amount of money he wants showing a desperation in getting Grant on board. Since the sum is so large and the money can be used to fund Grant's research for many years to come he accepts and invites his lead student Billy (Alesandro Nivola) to come along. So off to Isla Sorna they go and before you know it Grant finds out the Kirby's have lied and they intend to land on the island. It soon becomes clear that they are doing more just a taking a tour. Instead of being a sightseeing adventure it's in actuality a rescue mission as young Eric is the Kirby's son. Hoping to find Eric and leave the island in their plane the Kirby's soon realize just exactly what their up against when the latest dinosaur creation comes and destroys it. A chase is on through the woods of the island both to find Eric and escape to the coast where they would have a better chance at being rescued. In addition to this Dr Grant's theory about intelligence comes through and the Raptors can indeed contact either other making it that much harder for them to escape alive.

Jurassic Park 3 is a departure from the first two in that there is little to no character development. In the first two Spielberg spent time setting up a back story for the characters and made them more loveable so that you were routing for them. Johnston does the exact opposite here providing little more then a name and an occupation. Instead Johnston goes for a no-holds barred thrill ride consisting of multiple action scenes in which our heroes nearly die with short breaks so that the audience can digest the last one. At just over 90 minutes JP3 is the shortest in the series while still containing the same number of thrills as it's longer predecessors.

I don't go into a movie like Jurassic Park 3 looking for Oscar calibre performances. Doing so wouldn't make much sense. Returning from the original is Sam Neil as Dr Alan Grant who brings back all the qualities that made him one of my favorite characters in the first. Grant doesn't like kids in general yet he tries to be as nice to them as possible when he encounters them. His dry sense of observational humor resonates well with me. It may have been 7 years since he's played Grant but he still has him down pat. William H. Macy is one of my favorite comedic actors but he seems out of place in this role. Macy is better suited to a strongly written smart comedy along the lines of his role in "State and Main". Tea Leoni who was last seen in the Nicolas Cage dramadey "The Family Man" is just down right annoying here. All she does throughout the entire 90 minute running time is yell and scream. On top of this she looks fairly unattractive here even before her arrival on the island. Alessandro Nivola who I hadn't seen much of before this is fine as Grant's young protégé who just wants to help Grant and feels responsible for the getting Grant to go to the island. Trevor Morgan who has appeared on ER is excellent as Eric and as far as kid actors go wasn't as annoying as I was expecting him to be.

JP3 is not without it's share of problems though there was one that annoyed the heck out of me and that would be the sudden ending. The film is going along and then all out of nowhere it ends. Just as the viewer is getting into it the writers seemed to have run out of ideas and just tacked on the ending. What's even more unbelievable is the ending itself. The writing here reminds me of the short stories I used to write in elementary school where I'd build up a killer narrative then at the last minute become unsure of myself and end it. While this is fine for a kid growing up I prefer my movies to come to a natural conclusion. Handling the writing duties for this film were three guys two of which were responsible for he excellently written 1999 movie "Election". It's clear that all the comedy in the movie was written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor III while the tacked on ending must have been the product of newcomer Peter Buchman. It's like for whatever reason Alexander and Jim were unable to finish the script and Peter was some intern who happened to be getting Joe Johnston his coffee at the right time.

Jurassic Park 3
JP3 isn't the best movie I've seen this summer but it isn't the worst. At a tad over 90 minutes the pacing for this one was great. Adequate writing for a summer blockbuster, big budget effects and a killer sound mix make JP3 a summer blockbuster in the truest sense of the word. The tacked on ending shows that they are trying to keep doors open for a 4th film which I think is a big mistake. There are only so many ways you can have a dinosaur chase and attack humans on an island. Lacking any real ties to the first film aside from Grant's character JP3 is a sequel made to make some money. As a summer blockbuster one could do much worse. Still let's hope this is our last trip to Jurassic Park.

Video
Jurassic Park 3 is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and like the majority of Universal's top tier titles it looks pretty darn good. Considering the amount of content Universal crammed onto this one disc there is a surprisingly low number of problems with the transfer. Although this isn't a reference quality transfer it's still very strong work.  The image is well defined and aside from a few moments of softness it has a nice sharp look to it. Colors remain fairly subdued with the palette consisting of mostly greens and blues. Flesh tones are accurate with the imperfections of the young males character skin appearing very natural.  The black level is a deep rich black and one of the deepest I've seen of late on disc.  Edge enhancement is absent from the transfer as are those annoying dust specks that tend to show up on transfers. The only minor distractor is some slight pixelation on the sides of buildings and planes. All in all this a very strong effort from Universal who bounce back nicely after a disappointing transfer on their recent "A List" title "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".

Audio
Big summer movie sound equals big DVD sound on Universal's Jurassic Park 3. Unlike the first two JP movies which were offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS versions Universal has given fans what they want and included both formats on this disc. Given that this is the third installment in the series that first unleased DTS sound on the world it comes as no surprise that this disc provides a first rate audio experience. Things start off nicely and slowly like the film itself but when things heat up so does the audio. Plane crashes, dinosaur attacks and dinosaur fights are just a few of the demo worthy scenes that can be found on this disc.  Surround use is at it's best during the more action oriented but does offer nice ambience during some of the quite scenes. There is also some truly cool surround work with a scene involving Velociraptors. The bass level is nice and low but is not as overpowering as the previous films in the series. The score by Don Davis is no doubt a departure from the John Williams material of the earlier films but fits in well with this different film. Atleast the famous "Welcome to Jurassic Park" cue remains intact here and is used in a couple of places in the film.  Dialogue is clear and easily understood but is recorded a tad low in the mix for my liking.  

Now for everyone's favorite part of the audio review on a disc with both format soundtracks. The DD vs DTS discussion. There was some controversy surrounding the first pressing of the original "Jurassic Park" DTS disc as people complained that the disc was lacking some of the LFE information that was present on the Laserdisc. Universal never confirmed this but did make a replacement  available. Others still complained that the sequel "Lost World" was also defective although nothing came out of that. Now here we are on the third film and for once there should be no complaints as the DTS on this disc is top notch clearly beating out the Dolby Digital track in terms of quality. While both tracks provide excellent listening experiences, The DTS track takes things to the next level with improved imaging, better definition and clarity not to mention an improved LFE channel. Still regardless of the mix you choose you will not be disappointed with the audio options on this disc. Also included for non English speaking viewers is a French DD 5.1 track.

Extras
The release of the first two films in this monumental series met with some disappointment when two separate editions of the disc were released. The Dolby Digital release contained a number of extras that were left off the DTS edition because of space reasons.  So collectors had to choose between the added benefit of DTS sound or more bonus features. Everything considered neither disc really contained an impressive list of extras even when compared to the bigger special editions of the time. There was no audio commentary, a minimal number of featurettes, no deleted scenes etc. Compared to the special editions of the time and today things in the extra features department were more then a tad disappointing. Universal hasn't made the same mistake twice as they go all for the collectors edition of this third installment.

This disc unlike it's predecessors does feature an audio commentary but it's not with who you might think. Even though this film was helmed by Joe Johnston and not Spielberg we are still not treated to a directors audio commentary track. Johnston seems to be taking after Speilberg in more ways then one as was the case on the "Jumanji" Special edition he is missing from this track. Spielberg who only executive produced this film was also unavailable to sit down to talk about this film. However that's enough talk about people who aren't around let's discuss who was. Sitting down to discuss the film are special effects artists Dan Taylor,  John Rosengrant, Michael Lantieri and Stan Winston. Given the job titles held by the participants one might get the impression that this would be a tech heavy affair containing all sorts of highly technical words that would be difficult to comprehend. That isn't the case here as the participants manage to explain the concepts in simple every day language. Some of the time the track does get a bit congratulatory in nature but those moments soon pass and the informative discussion continues. As an added bonus these effects artists show they have a sense of humor too as they crack a few mildly amusing jokes.  Generally this is a pretty good listen that really gives you a sense of the highly complex effects that were made possible by this team. Add to all this the fact that Stan Winston who is a legend in his field has taken the time to sit down and discuss his craft and you have a track that's well worth a listen.

Jurassic Park 3
Second to only the commentary track is size and length is the nearly 25 minute long "Making of Jurassic Park 3". This is the third film and as such this is the third making of featurette in the series. Sadly there isn't much to this one as it barely scrapes the surface sticking more to promotional interviews and movie footage then to behind the scenes clips or interesting interviews. Interviews with the director Joe Johnston, the producer Katheleen Kennedy, actors Sam Neil, William H. Macy and the visual effects artists tend to add some information but not as much as one would hope. This is a big letdown when you consider the first film had an excellent 50 minute documentary hosted by James Earl Jones that really went above and beyond the movie in it's scope. It's worth watching once but I doubt it will earn much repeatability value, it certainly hasn't in my home.

The menu item labelled "New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III" is exactly what it claims to be.  A nearly 8 minute featurette looking at the dinosaurs that make their first appearance in this third installment. It also talks briefly about the research that went into the production and inclusions of these dinosaurs. The highlight of the piece however is a breif interview with noted Paleontologist Jack Horner whose name is dropped a few times throughout the film series.

Not content to just contribute to the commentary track Stan Winston takes viewers on a 3.5 minute tour of his studio in "A Tour of Stan Winston's Studio"  where we see the master at work on his anamatronic dino's. Short and sweet this is one case where I would have loved to see more.

"A Visit to I.L.M" is split into four subsections each featuring an introduction from an I.L.M employee. From here things branch out even further with each sub-section containing one or two short featurettes.

Dinosaur Turnable is an interestingly titled feature where you the viewer can see a computer 3d model of all the various dinosaurs in the film. Each model rotates a full 360 degrees which is pretty damn cool.  Also included is a computer model of human character "Billy". I'm not sure why they'd include a human character in these computer renderings other then for gag purposes.

"Behind the Scenes " contains three featurettes each focusing on a different scene in the film. Your choices are "Spinosaurus Attacks the Plane", "Raptor Attacks" and "The Lake". These are short nicely edited segments that show the clip as it's being filmed as well as the final result.

Taking the hint from New Line and their "Beyond the Movie" features Universal presents a brief featurette dealing with a real dinosaur dig in Montana. This is pretty interesting and a real nice addition though it's far too short.

Also included are the theatrical trailers for all three films with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. This is a step up from the earlier discs as the trailers were included with only DD 2.0 sound.

Rounding out the disc we have a "Storyboard to feature" comparisons, a "Jurassic Park Archive" containing production art and poster concepts as well as the standard cast/crew biographies, Universal Recommendations (sadly lacking any trailers) and some DVD-Rom weblinks

Universal really goes all out with the bonus features on this disc. But if that isn't enough for you then there's more. Included in the case is a mail-in coupon for a disc entitled "Beyond Jurassic Park" which contains even more bonus features covering all three films. If you've bought the "Jurassic Park Collection" containing all three films then the disc is already included. Otherwise it can be had for under $10 bucks and you also get a bonus cardboard case to hold all 4 discs. Pretty cool huh.

Final Thoughts
While it does not compare to the legendary original "Jurassic Park" or share any real link to either of it's predecessors Jurassic Park 3 is an exciting summer thrill ride that's non stop fun for the duration. Although the ending could use some work and there is basically no character development Joe Johnston is successful at creating what he aimed to do and that is a fun summer film. Universal's DVD offers excellent audio/video quality with some interesting supplemental features in a disc that truly earns it's Collectors Edition moniker. Whether you pick it up solely to finish off your collection or because you liked the film, there is no doubt in my mind that Jurassic Park 3 is a must purchase.


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