As the gates of Jurassic World prepare to open to moviegoers in a few weeks, the time is ripe to look back at the original trilogy of films that birthed a million misperceptions about velociraptors. And while Jurassic Park III is no one’s pick for the best of the trio—anything other than the 1993 original should be no one’s pick—the little-loved second sequel has attained the coveted mantle of “underrated” in the 14 years since its release. After effectively torpedoing the Jurassic Park franchise, for a while at least, with a relatively disappointing box-office return—about half of what the original pulled in—JPIII became a staple of lazy-afternoon cable programming. Stripped of blockbuster expectations and placed in a context more suitable to its B-movie DNA, Joe Johnston’s movie can be better appreciated for what it is: a lean, mean dino-action machine. More than a half-hour shorter than either of its Spielberg-directed predecessors, JPIII makes up for a fairly nonsensical plot with some crackerjack action sequences—which Johnston stages with the aplomb he previously displayed in The Rocketeer, and would go on to do again in Captain America: The First Avenger—and a more pronounced comedic flair that makes the movie’s sillier moments go down smoother. The latter element can be attributed in part to the screenplay—Alexander Payne contributed the first draft—as well as the addition of William H. Macy as a fumbling goof not that far removed from Jerry Lundegaard (but with more noble intentions), which plays in interesting ways off of Sam Neill’s beleaguered Dr. Alan Grant, returning to the series after disappearing for The Lost World. But the film’s real standout is the legitimately chilling aviary sequence, where Johnston makes up for the not-that-scary presence of winged pteranodons with some good old fashioned monster-movie tricks. (All that mist!) The movie ends with a whimper—a victim of budgetary constraints—which may account for the sour taste JPIII left in the mouths of disappointed audiences, but there’s plenty before that to merit a second look. Jurassic Park III screens back-to-back tonight on Sundance, at 8 p.m. Eastern then again at 10.
May 21, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day