What I'm Watching: Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III (2001): Oh sweet Raptor Jesus this starts out with the worst green-screened "para-sailing" fake I've ever seen. Lovely helicopter shots of the island, tho. A couple scenes of Laura Dern with appallingly bad hair/wig and lame new husband, but she does no science. No trace of Goldblum, alas. Sam Neill back as Dr Grant is great, and William Macy as the idiot plot hook patron. Every time I see Téa Leoni I think I've seen her in something good before, and I haven't; she's lovely but she's an awful actress, a walking meatstick who rarely hits her mark and mumbles out lines; in one scene the director apparently tied her to a tree so she'd stay in shot, and even then she flails around looking everywhere but who she's talking to. Sidekick Billy and the other disposable characters are unremittingly incompetent, and it's a mercy when they die.

Massive improvement in up-close dinosaurs and bloody action. Spinosaurus as the primary antagonist is interesting, tho I always thought it more likely to be an aquatic predator than on land, the fin is useful in swimming and it has an elongated jaw like crocodilians for snatching fish; and lo, it does some swimming in this film, so the writer knew this, too. Tyrannosaurus ought to kick its ass on land with much stronger legs and jaws.

One thing that annoys me about the writing in these films, everyone either has a gun or runs away from dinos. Nobody ever picks up a melee weapon. Theropods had lighter bones than reptiles, not quite at bird fragility, but a good hard hit from a club should shatter them. A spear would work fine. Fire, like on a torch, should terrify them like it does all other animals. Humans are the dominant species because we're tool-users, and our simplest tools would kill anything except the apex predators. But no, only guns allow you to fight in these films.

So in this one, the "Raptors" which are fantasyland variations on Utahraptor, but we never see them use their switchblade claws, can caw like crows, and are as smart as primates or wolves, able to set traps, work around novel obstacles, and negotiate hostages. I don't buy this. I don't think their environment was complex enough to evolve intelligence, and they didn't have the brain case for it.

Pterosaurs! Vicious and beautiful Quetzalcoatlus northropi swooping down and carrying away annoying characters! And they sorta fly like a condor and not an airship! This makes me so very happy. I forgive a lot just to have some competent Pterosaurs; it'd be nice to also have little Pterodactyls pecking your face off, but I know when to say "thank you".

Gratuitous shot of peaceful riverside/plain full of Ankylosaurs, Apatosaurs, and Duckbills with the first movie's theme.

Alas, the down side as always: Annoying children. Lost boy scout is not the worst, but I could do with him being eaten. It would be good. The other one subjects me to a minute of Barney the "dinosaur", which is infuriating. The literal Deus Ex Machina: One phone call (and how they get that phone is so stupid… whatever) brings a carrier group to rescue everyone from the sky. But my beloved pterosaurs get to fly free and terrorize the Holocene, so I'm fine with it.

There's a lot to bitch about here, but this film works as a dinosaur island adventure, which the second one sure didn't. ★★★★½

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