You may have notice a slacking off of reviews this summer for me the past 2-3 weeks. The reason... I have slightly re-injured my back, not as radically as I did all those years where I wound up paralyzed for 6 months, but to the point where I'm laid up recovering. I'm about 60% to my usual graceful gazalle like speed, but it is slow going and I don't want to risk further injury by getting over confident and head for a disaster. Better to be 100%. Unless there's a new movie with dinosaur action at a theater near me....
Ok… So I just got in from seeing JURASSIC PARK 3.
I’ve been disappointed in each of the JP movies up until this point. With the first film, I disliked the way Attenborough’s Hammond, Ariana Richards’ Lex, Wayne Knight’s Nedry, Martin Ferrero’s Gennaro along with the softballing and erratic pacing issues of the action. I loved seeing dinosaurs as real as I have ever seen them on screen. And I’ll always love JURASSIC PARK for that, but loathe it for the lace of character in the dinos… something that Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien dinos had in spades over ILMs. And I was always disappointed that my 3 favorite scenes in the book were absent from the film. I couldn’t believe they cut the Aviary and the River chase/attack and T-Rex and the Waterfall. Those three moments were the key moments in the book where I just went a-nuts crazy in love. I wanted to see that stuff given life beyond the electrical currents in my brain.
Then in LOST WORLD, I had fun because they veered so far off adaptation that it became it’s own film, but even there… especially there… I felt the characters were completely fraudulent. Pete Postlethwaite was transparent and a Mighty Mouse character, Goldblum completely phoned it in, Julianne Moore while lovely and one of my faves… just did nothing as Harding. Vince Vaughn seemed to be bored. And then there is that freaking gymnastics girl. HOWEVER… Dinosaurs… and Dinosaurs rule. I love Dinosaurs. I have a major Dinosaur fetish. Love them to death, I really really do.
And so, while I had disappointments galore with those first two films… I wanted more dinos, less people and more Dino vs Dino action or Dino eating or trying to eat people action.
Now here was the JURASSIC PARK 3. Spielberg comes up with the concept apparently borrowing heavily from the key elements from Crichton’s books that he never got to. Now what is interesting as hell to me is that in this, we had the most human humans of any of the 3 other films. Also for the first time, there was not a HUMAN BAD GUY. This is truly a man against ancient nature story. More in the vein of KING KONG. Finally… finally someone somewhere realized that in a movie like this, you don’t have to make a bad guy, the bad thing was the mistake of coming here. That’s the focal point. So there was no need to do stupid stuff like build up someone as something they are not so you can instantly reverse the character when you feel you NEED a twist. I HATE THAT.
In both of the JURASSIC PARK films they’ve made human bad guys working against the humans. Or operating so completely out of blind greed that they become cartoonish to an extreme.
Here… you had a couple with a very valid reason to be on the island. Very valid motivation. Then when we get to spend time with Macy and Leoni… they are very much exactly what their characters need to be. And Macy is by far the best performance out of any of the Dino-pics to date. Leoni, while feeling completely out of place and lost… well, that describes her character’s place in the film, so that works for me too. Sure, she isn’t a strong dynamic Female lead…. BUT THEN not all women are strong dynamic leads… some panic and scream… some would just piss their pants. And she’s that girl. The girl that screams and covers her eyes during a horror movie… or in all likelihood the girl that does that during JURASSIC PARK 3 at the scary parts.
And… we also have Michael Jeter, who I adore quite passionately. He’s always good, and for what his character is here for… he’s perfect.
Alessandro Nivola, the good intentioned college boy was done perfect. I really fell for Alessandro in Kenneth Branagh’s LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST… he was fantastic in that film… and as Cage’s brother in FACE/OFF I really really first noticed and dug what he was doing on screen. Here… he’s different from both of those characters. There isn’t anything really deep that we hear him say or do, but the way Sam Neill’s character talks of him, adds quite a bit of depth and character and essence to him for me.
The Kid… Trevor Morgan. He is the Timmy from the first JURASSIC PARK book. He isn’t a weakling nerd boy, he’s smart and pro-active. His PRINCESS MONONOKE debut filled me with delight. While I don’t necessarily believe we need a KID in all dinosaur films… believe it or not, kids associate with the Dinosaurs most in these flicks… not the other kids… and the average kid’s imagination easily projects them riding on the backs of these beasts and hunting down grownups and eating them up. Ok… Maybe it’s just my imagination about riding on dinosaurs eating all the grumps (aka grown ups)…
Sam Neill. The heart of the first film and this third film. It is his observations and guide advice that easily makes him the best guide for us the audience member through the realm of Jurassic Park. Neill is fantastic as Alan Grant. I love his character in this. He’s very much like many of the writers I know that refuse to touch computers, but when forced to… enjoy it while they are there, only to refute the evils of the beast upon returning to their manual or electric typewriter. I loved the frustration that the advent of JURASSIC PARK has done to the financing world of paleontology. How all anyone wants to study in the field are the two islands off Costa Rica and the Live Dinosaurs there.
At 88 minutes this film is a ride, an adrenaline filled A-list Dinosaur attraction. I want to be able to watch this sucker on command… over and over and over and over again. This time, the film isn’t overly filled with crackpot hokey moral lessons, and heavy handed messages. Here it is all about surviving in a dinosaur infested environments.
Oh.. the Dactyls kick so much freakin ass. When Sam Neill kicks that one in the beak… when that guy does that thing for that kid with them all over the place. FREAKIN A! That’s what I want in my dino movie.
The Spino/T-Rex battle. That’s what I’m talking about. The Raptor trap thing. Uh huh, right on. The river thing… the aviary… ABOUT FREAKING TIME!
Oh… and the dinosaurs have so much more character than in either of the previous films. We still don’t have the cool nose itch or tail wave of Gwangi… of the stegosaur tail flutter of Kong… But I loved the Look in the faces of the Raptors and Dactyls. I love that rather non-Spinosaur sound coming from that baby. I loved the plane scene… easily as intense as original Jeep scene of JP.
This is the leanest and quickest of the three. There is nothing wrong with the 88 minute movie. I love a film that gets to the point… The ending was too cute, but hey… all the endings were too cute for the JP films… personally I’d blame Spielberg for that… he has a penchant for cuteness.
And for my money Joe Johnston made the film I wanted to see when I first saw JURASSIC PARK. He made the film closer to James Cameron’s aesthetic, than Spielberg.
Now to clarify… I love my dinosaur action and this movie is DINOSAUR ACTION. And that’s why I pay to see JURASSIC PARK movies. No freakin talking monkey creatures in this one either. THANK GOD!
Joe Johnston, way to go… you clocked Spielberg fiercely for Dino fun! Way to go!
P.S. -- To the people belly aching about Character Development. Let me hit you folks with a reality button. These characters were as developed as they needed to be to serve the plotline of being DINOSAUR FOOD.
William H Macy's character was wonderful. Here's this Oklahoma, never left the state, working class divorced man trying to rescue his son from Reptillian Hell (yes I know they aren't reptiles, but he probably doesn't know that). He's a simple good natured guy striving to do one thing with his life... FISH. That's all he wants. He doesn't want gold, to clone these dinosaurs and make a fortune. He doesn't want to make a name for himself. He want to rescue his son and return to Oklahoma to FISH. He misses Fishing. He misses his wife, who divorced him and shacked up with some crazy thrill seeking boob... But he loves her. Wishes that she and his son were back in his home. Hoping now to just get all three of them out of this decidedly non-Oklahoma world and back to the Plumbing Shop where the most dangerous thing you have to worry about is not wrapping your pipes in winter.
What, is that not more developed than a showy mathmatician with overly cute dialogue scenes? Fuck dialogue scenes in my Dinosaur film. I'd rather spend that time with Sam Neill blowing through that thingee making them Raptor noises to screw with their heads. That's a great dialogue scene.
Tea's character. What? Did you want to know why she left William? Did you need to see weeping pathetic confessions about being dissatisfied with Macy's penis or lack of libido? Did you want to see her as a PHD in Dinosaur Behavior, so that she could remain level headed at every friggin moment? How about the fact that her character is a ditzy dumbass that never thinks before she acts. That has had multiple car wrecks because she doesn't pay attention. However, there is one thing that defines her... She is a Mother. A mother first and foremost. Sure it isn't a strong female character in the politically correct format, but I'll be damned if I didn't believe that Tea was a ditzy idiot that should have remained at home weeping instead of being in the midst of this situation.
Sam Neill's character? Well, we learned the basics in the first film. This time out we see how though he professes a love for the science and hard study... he does love the adventure and the thrills of this new medium in his field. To be the first Dinosaur Whisperer... hehehe... He's been on an island like this before. He wants to live, therefore his character's primary motivation is to get off the damn island. His relationship with the Macy couple is that they are guided by their emotions and will most likely get everyone killed... that they lied and deceived him. And that no matter what, he's still without further funding to take care of his dig.
This movie is about getting off the island after an ill-advised, but understandable action by the Macy couple. Do you really want bad guys, guns, evil corporate intrigue, competition, green peace bullshit, heavy handed mathmatical hocus pocus? SCREW THAT!
Seriously. This movie did what it set out to do. Thrill and Entertain me. IF... if after that film you can honestly feel like you saw nothing worthwhile or entertaining, then please... by all means, Go Straight To MADE which is the other fantastic film in theaters this weekend. It is all character and sharp dialogue... But ya know what? There ain't no friggin Dactyls... and I loves me Dactyls.
Dear lord.. did you see the aviary sequence? What is good in life Conan? THAT WHOLE SEQUENCE.