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review added: 2/21/02



Jurassic Park III
Collector's Edition (Widescreen) - 2001 (2001) - Amblin/Universal (Universal)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Jurassic Park III: Collector's Edition (Widescreen) Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/B-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A

Specs and Features

93 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:18:00, in chapter 17), keep case packaging, audio commentary track with special effects team members (including Stan Winston, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Michael Lanteri), The Making of Jurassic Park III featurette, The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III featurette, Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs featurette, A Visit to ILM vignettes (including Concepts, The Process, Muscle Simulation and Compositing), behind-the-scenes vignettes (including A Visit to Stan Winston Studios, Spinosaurs Attack the Plane, Raptors Attack Udesky and The Lake), 3 storyboard-to-feature comparisons, dinosaur turntables, production photos, poster gallery, cast and crew bios, production notes, Jurassic Park III soundtrack promo, Universal Studios Theme Parks promo, Scan Command: Jurassic Park III game promo, JP Institute promo, DVD recommendations, Universal newsletter promo, theatrical trailers (for Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III), PCFriendly DVD-ROM material (including Universal web links, screensavers and game demos), animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & DTS 5.1), French (DD 5.1), subtitles: Spanish, Closed Captioned


In 1993 Jurassic Park was one of the most visceral film-going experiences of my life. It was just as exciting as it was mesmerizing, and I hadn't had that much fun in a filled-to-capacity 1,000-seat auditorium since... well, probably Ghostbusters in 1984. It didn't hurt any that I saw JP in one of the first DTS-equipped theaters, and I had never heard anything quite like it before. Fast forward to 1997. After viewing the rehash of a disaster that was The Lost World, my enthusiasm waned, and I hoped that the franchise would just be put to rest. When I caught wind that Hollywood would be visiting Isles Nublar and Sorna for a third time, I seriously felt nauseated - but I wasn't surprised. Being the film buff that I am, I still journeyed to the theater - barf bag in-hand - but with, admittedly, low expectations.

Surprise! Those low expectations (and the fact that Spielberg mercifully turned over the directing duties to Joe Johnston) allowed me to enjoy JP3 to a greater extent than The Lost World, and I actually was interested in what was happening on-screen… even if it was merely a derivative plot being propped on the back of the mighty dinos. For you see, the story of JP3 is about as thin as you can get. Our fearless hero from the first JP, Dr. Alan Grant (once again played by the deliciously wry Sam Neill), is suckered into going back to the land of the dinos - which at this point in the JP "universe" is common knowledge to everyone on the planet - to rescue the son of a divorced couple played by Tea Leoni and William H. Macy. Of course, the couple brings along a few other tough guys to help them "negotiate" with the hungry locals, but any viewer who has seen more than three action movies knows full well that these peripheral characters serve no more a purpose than mozzarella stick appetizers. Oh, did I mention that the kid ended up stranded on the island because he went parasailing over very hostile, abstruse territory with the lame-brained boyfriend of his mother? I have two words for you: "dumb" and "asses."

And that's about it. In between a few meaningless lines of dialog, and some rather flimsy attempts at building characters and relationships, we get the latest and greatest dino action ILM and Stan Winston Studios has to offer. But before you say, "Been there, done that," know that this is exactly why JP3 is superior in every way to The Lost World. The first JP film succeeded (at least with me) because not only did Spielberg dazzle us with an orgy of sights and sounds we only dreamed of as little kids, but the underlying moral lessons of the potential dangers of playing God with genetics made for a complete experience. With The Lost World, what fans were offered was an overly long, 2+ hour rehash of the original, whose only saving grace was the all too brief ending in the streets of San Diego. There wasn't any great lesson to learn, necause we had seen it all before. Spielberg really had nothing to say with the film. Okay, so JP3 might seem to have fallen into the same trap, but what Johnston realized was that the opportunity to preach any kind of meaningful lesson was exhausted in the first film, so learn from the disastrous sequel and just make a kick-ass popcorn film. And he made it so. JP3 works because it knows what it is, and it's perfectly content with being a simple dino extravaganza/action-fest - no more, no less. This time, the raptors are more wicked (although suspiciously more intelligent than many of the film's human characters), the T-Rex is no longer the baddest dude in the whole damn jungle (that honor now belongs to the super huge Spinosaur). And, ladies and gentlemen, we finally have Pteredons. And the absolute best part? The film is only 88 minutes without closing credits! A merciful 88 minutes! Johnston wasted no time in showing us the new dinos, putting the characters into exciting action sequences, and wrapping the whole thing up right before it became tedious. But despite these improvements, it's still a Jurassic Park film, so the "been there, done that" stigma applies to a certain extent. Spielberg has expressed interest in a fourth installment, and if anyone were to ask me, I'd say expand on the idea of dinos in the big city, as expressed by the San Diego sequence in the second film. The big city is a fresh setting for the franchise and would do a lot to reinvigorate the series. No more jungles please!

As is to be expected of a recent high-budget action/adventure film, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD looks great. Despite being packed with enough extra features and sound options to warrant a 2-disc set, the transfer remains solid with very minor compression artifacting and, thankfully, very minimal edge enhancement. Colors are nicely rendered with good saturation, and black levels are deep and pure. No complaints here.

Not to expect anything less than the best in the audio department, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is grand and exciting. The entire soundstage is utilized to present an aggressive, immersive mix. Low frequencies are robust, while the subtle sounds of the distant jungle wildlife float in the air. Expect plenty of directional panning during the heavier moments, and clearly intelligible dialog during the occasional quieter passages. The alternate DTS 5.1 track betters its Dolby roommate a tiny bit with more transparent subtleties in the ambiance, and slightly tighter low frequencies. If you have a DTS set-up, this is the preferred choice, but don't fret if you're only Dolby-equipped, because both are first-rate experiences.

I'll tell you, Universal could have made life a lot easier by consolidating the innumerable little featurettes found scattered throughout the special features section of this disc into one, continuous documentary. This is a trend I've been noticing over the last year or so that absolutely drives me up the wall, and Universal is one of the main offenders. The supplemental features on this disc are largely informative, and worth the time to look at (DVD special edition producer extraordinaire Laurent Bouzereau is responsible for most of the disc's content), but the featurettes prove very tedious to work through. There are legal (and in turn monetary) issues studios must contend with if a DVD documentary is over 30 minutes in length, but for marquee special edition discs (like a Jurassic Park film, or The Mummy Returns for instance), I would think that it's worth the extra money it takes to put something of that length together. But anyway, let's get to it, shall we?

First up is a commentary track with the key special effects team members (including Stan Winston, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Michael Lanteri). The track is wholly technical, yet informative. It doesn't cover much about plot and character development, but… (cough) The Making of Jurassic Park III is a 25-minute featurette containing interviews with the cast, crew and producer Kathleen Kennedy. It's quite amusing to watch the participants tout the merits of the film's story and characters, but the piece offers some interesting technical behind-the-scenes snippets. The New Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park III featurette is a 5-minute look at the new and improved dinos in the film. Notable to this featurette are interview segments with renowned paleontologist Jack Horner. The Montana: Finding New Dinosaurs featurette runs another 5 minutes and again features Horner, but this time on location at a dino dig in Montana.

A Visit to ILM is the point in the supplements where I start getting frustrated. This is basically a series of vignettes (including Concepts, The Process, Muscle Simulation and Compositing) that run approximately 15 minutes when combined. They are all very neat, informative little pieces, that are fairly self-explanatory for the purposes here, but Universal failed to include a "Play All" function to make the overall series come together seamlessly. A second series of behind-the-scenes vignettes (including A Visit to Stan Winston Studios, Spinosaurs Attack the Plane, Raptors Attack Udesky and The Lake) come next, and run approximately 13 minutes when put together. But again, keep that remote handy because the segments lack a "Play All" feature. Each vignette is a repository of behind-the-scenes peeks at how the technology came together and integrated with the practical effects to create the finished product. Three storyboard-to-feature comparisons are included, as well as dinosaur turntables that highlight several of the film's dino species in a 360-degree view, along with the animals' physical specs. A gallery of production photos, posters, cast and crew bios and production notes are also included. And then we have the requisite Universal Studios promotional blather including promos for the Jurassic Park III soundtrack, Universal Studios Theme Parks, an amazingly dopey Scan Command: Jurassic Park III game promo, JP Institute promo, DVD recommendations and a promo for Universal's newsletter. Theatrical trailers for all three Jurassic films can be found too, as well as disappointing PCFriendly DVD-ROM material (including Universal web links, screensavers and game demos). All in all, the supplements on this disc are good despite the vignette structures and the usual Universal promo fluff. If you're fascinated with the world of cinema special effects, you'll have a blast, but you'll have to work for it.

Jurassic Park III is something of a double-edged sword. There's not much of a plot and you really don't give a damn about the characters (unlike the original film). But at least JP3 is well aware of that fact, and instead provides new dinos and a much brisker pace (which is what the second installment sorely lacked). For a mindless action/adventure effects-fest, there are worse examples out there, but just keep in mind that JP3 is not the film that will redefine or reinvigorate this series.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com


Jurassic Park III: Collector's Edition (Widescreen)


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