Jurassic Park 3 is not a good movie. It feels like a made-for-TV movie. We sorely missed John Williams’s excellent scores. It stole an important plot point from the original movie instead of doing something new. The Mary-Sue’d Spinosaurus killed off a Tyrannosaurus just to show how very menacing it was.
Jurassic Park 3 (JP 3 from here on out) is generally accepted by the fandom to be the worst of Jurassic Park’s three sequels. Colin Trevorrow had Rexy, the original Tyrannosaurus, crash through a spinosaur skeleton for her entrance in Jurassic World’s climax to stick it to this film. Hell, the Indominus rex and “more teeth” logic are basically commentary on the scripting of the Spinosaurus. “Women of Jurassic Park” tumblr photosets leave out Amanda Kirby while including Zara Young. Zara, who had two lines before she was violently killed by Pterosaurs and a Mosasaurus, and then promptly forgotten about.
What about this movie could possibly be worth defending?
Before we go on, a quick summary of JP 3: 12 year old Eric Kirby and his chaperone Ben are hang gliding to see dinosaurs on Isla Sorna, Jurassic Park’s old breeding site. A dinosaur, most likely the Spinosaurus, attacks their boat, forcing them to make an emergency landing on the island.
About two months later, Amanda and Paul, Eric’s parents, approach Alan Grant and his student Billy Brennan. They con them into going to the island by saying that they are doing an aerial tour of Isla Sorna and promise to fund their current dig as payment. In reality they’re going to search for Eric and Ben, and have dragged Grant along because they thought he’d been there before, not realizing there were two islands. Their plane crashes when trying to avoid the Spinosaurus, and hilarity ensues as they try to search for Eric while also getting back to the coast.
Jurassic Park 3 makes sense
Pretty much everything that happens in this movie is internally consistent. That’s the most shocking thing about it. Everything was properly set up and seeded. People act the way you’d expect them to in these situations, given who they are. Both The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World have professional characters suddenly forget how to do their jobs to further the plot.
The Lost World is the biggest offender in that area. The entire back half of the movie (save the San Francisco sequences) is fueled by characters acting in ways they shouldn’t, given their jobs. Sarah Harding and Nick Van Owen both work with animals, yet constantly endanger their companions by doing things they should know not to do. They bring a baby Tyrannosaurus back to their camp, despite knowing that it would draw its parents there. Sarah wears a jacket stained with the baby’s blood, which allows the parents to track the group down. Roland Tembo, the great white hunter, doesn’t point out how dangerous this is. People die because of these mistakes. Multiple times.
In Jurassic World we see Claire Dearing panic when they think the Indominus rex has escaped its enclosure because its heat signature has disappeared. She leaves and calls the control room to find out where its tracking signal is. It’s promptly discovered that the Indominus is still inside the enclosure, and can mask its heat signature due to the DNA splicing. Because Owen Grady, the Velociraptor trainer, and a security guard went inside to see how it escaped, the Indominus is able to get out when the latter opens the gate to escape. This is event is the spark that sets the movie in motion. It could have been prevented by Claire calling the control room from the enclosure.
In JP 3, Billy steals some raptor eggs, which causes the raptors to hunt them across the island. He admits later that he stole them to sell on the black market to fund the dig. The desperation to fund the dig is seeded earlier in the film, as I mentioned above. He’s the one that convinced Alan to take the Kirbys’ offer in the first place – that’s why Grant dragged him along. What he does is wildly dangerous, but it makes sense. There’s also an entire scene devoted to Dr. Grant calling Billy out. The movie even justifies why they keep the eggs until the end (the raptors just want the eggs back, but they’ll definitely kill them if they’re are damaged in any way).
The rest of the plot makes sense too. Grant goes to the island because he needs the money. This is a rehash of the original film, but it’s also incredibly realistic if you know anything about how these things work. The raptors are ridiculously smart, but Grant discusses new discoveries in Velociraptor intelligence with both Billy and Ellie Sattler at the start of the film. Eric’s interest in survival and dinosaurs allows him to make it on the island for the 8 weeks he was missing. Amanda Kirby is annoying and makes silly mistakes, but she and her husband are doofy civilians. No one knew about the Spinosaurus, but that’s because InGen didn’t put it on their list. It all makes sense.
Jurassic Park 3 is not offensive
Amanda Kirby is annoying and incompetent, as I mentioned above, but that’s her character. She’s a former housewife from Oklahoma, not a survivalist. She also blames herself because her son and boyfriend have gone missing. Neither she nor Paul have any idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. The only difference between the two is that Paul can swim, which comes in handy during the last Spinosaurus encounter. Amanda’s greatest skill is screaming.
Amanda isn’t supposed to be hyper-competent like Ellie or Sarah. When we talk about “strong” depictions of women in media, we don’t mean physically strong. We want them to be well rounded and varied. Having carbon copy super survivalist women in every JP movie is no better than having them all be damsels. They need to show all types of women, not just one.
Claire should have averted the trend as well. She was a competent business woman, yet clearly out of her element when looking for her nephews in the park. Her job is negotiating deals and making the park run smoothly, not working with animals or guests, so she seems detached and cold. What we got instead was Claire being talked over and yelled at for not knowing things she,, feasibly, wouldn’t know. Her detachment is treated as a side effect of her not wanting to have kids. As if that makes any kind of sense.
Jurassic World is wildly sexist. To summarize: it endorses normative gender roles and expression, punishes Zara for the sin of being disinterested in dinosaurs when she works at a dinosaur park, and treats Owen sexually harassing Claire as a joke. It’s almost hard to believe that this movie came out in 2015, especially when held up to Jurassic Park and its depiction of Ellie and Lex.
The Lost World is better in this sense, but not by much. Sarah’s competence is an informed attribute at best, taken away from her so the plot can happen. In a movie where even Kelly Malcolm’s gymnastic skills end up helping the cause, she deserved more.
This is not even the full breadth of complaints about this movie. Ellie and Grant’s break up upset people, but that happens all the time, and they were still friends. The soundtrack is unoriginal, but the score for Jurassic World sounds like something from a Disney film. The graphics weren’t much better than The Lost World’s, but neither were Jurassic World’s, and that came out in 2015. 2015.
Jurassic Park 3 isn’t a great movie, but it is not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. No one has to carry the idiot ball to make it work. It doesn’t insult half the audience by implying that motherhood is inevitable and more important than things you actually care about. It fits into the post-Lost World universe really well. It brought back Dr. Grant. It had Stan Winston animatronics.
Is it the best sequel? That’s debatable. Jurassic World is the only one that works as a sequel without retconning plot holes into the original movie. The Lost World has the best soundtrack and acting, and looks as good as the original. Along with all I’ve said, JP 3 is also the first to acknowledge that the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park weren’t accurate due to the cloning techniques, and the only one to try to fix that. Jurassic World did an even better job of explaining why they didn’t update the designs, and made it part of the movie’s message.
I could go on. I think a more important point to make is that liking something isn’t necessarily an indication of quality. This is something we, as a people, need to accept. That’s why I prefaced this post by saying that JP 3 isn’t a good movie – it isn’t, even if it is my favorite of the sequels. JP 3’s bad rap exists purely because people like the other ones more, not because it’s genuinely horrible. If you can accept JW and TLW, you should give this one another chance. None of these movies are really that good, anyway.
Images courtesy of Universal Studios.