Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III (2001)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Sam Neill, Tea Leoni, William H. Macy
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Dinosaur Turntables, Storyboards, Trail;ers, Photo Gallery and more

"Jurassic Park" was and still is landmark achievement and the single best dinosaur film ever banned on celluloid to date. Sadly the film was followed up by a poor sequel with "The Lost World, " a movie in which nothing really felt right and I began to have my doubts about the future of this franchise. Now, with "Jurassic Park III" we have the latest incarnation of the dinosaur story on DVD and as it turns out the film is fortunately much better than "The Lost World," although also not without its flaws.

When a boy and his stepfather are missing from a vacation trip to a remote Costa Rica island, the boy’s father sets up a recovery expedition to Isla Sorna – also known as Site B. Cloaking the venture as an aerial tour, they manages to bring Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) with him, but after a serious of misjudgments, they crash on the island and find themselves among another breed of dinosaurs – leftovers of Hammond’s "Jurassic Park" project. Equipped with nothing but their bare hands and some food, they need to find a way to get off the island before the dinosaurs track them down and have them for supper, but from the first minute, they are threatened by dinosaurs, bigger and badder than ever before.

"Jurassic Park III" could have been a killer movie, were it not for some of the gaping plot holes and logical errors that make you shake your head ever so often. It seems to be infectious as basically all of this summer’s movies were plagued by this very same problem. Have you ever heard of a camcorder that runs on AA-batteries? Well, neither have I, but the writers of "Jurassic Park III" thought it would be a nice plot-twist to power a just recovered camcorder with flashlight batteries. Come on! And what’s with the carcass dangling in the trees? While the island is bustling with carnivores none of them takes any interest or notice in the body, not even its reek? Oh, right, fresh meat is much better.

Once you get over these distractions, the film reveals itself as an energetic adventure and thrill-ride, filled with great scenes and menacing dinos in a scenario that does indeed have a different feel than the previous films, never giving us the impression of delivering something we had seen before – which was essentially the problem with "The Lost World.". The addition of the Spinosaurus as the main threat, as well as the Pteranodons certainly add to that impression of awe and newfound wonder, and combined with the many other animals, beautifully choreographed in a hauntingly mesmerizing shots, "Jurassic Park III" always feels fresh. The story is moving along at a brisk pace, and although it is predictable, the means by which the accidental "tourists" get off the island is what makes the film so thrilling. Around every corner lurks another dinosaur, out to eat them, and (un)fortunately, this time it’s not only raptors stalking them!

"Jurassic Park III" is presented in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The source print is very clear and shows not a speckle, giving the presentation a beautifully clean and stable look. The image reveals an incredibly high definition and every bit of information is properly maintained in the image. Colors are beautifully rendered, perfectly bringing to life the lush green vegetation of the island, as well as the meticulously created shades of the dinosaurs’ skin colors. Flesh tones are natural looking and the image provides deep blacks that firmly root the image. The contrast of the picture is very good, giving the image a wide range of shades and gradients to work with. The compression has been done carefully and no compression artifacts are evident anywhere, even in the many highly kinetic shots the movie provides.

The release contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track, as well as a <$DTS,DTS> track. Both are extremely aggressive in their use of the surround channels and create a very active sound field throughout the movie. The frequency response is immense, ranging from the most earth-shaking sub-bass to high frequencies, always clear and without distortion. Both tracks are equally impressive and are almost indistinguishable in their reproduction of the audio. The dynamic range of both is also very good, making good room for the softer notes and scenes of the film, while having all the punch in the world to give you a full blast when necessary.

This Collector’s Edition release of "Jurassic Park III" also contains a good number of supplements, such as an <$commentary,audio commentary>, featuring the special effects team – namely Stan Winston, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor, and Michael Lanteri. The four of them deliver a very insightful <$commentary,commentary track> that is brimming with technical information. Almost shot by shot, the team dissect the movie, explaining exactly how each one of them was achieved. You will be surprised just how much of the illusion is created with effects these days, even in the most seemingly mundane shots. All in all it’s a very informative and interesting commentary, although clearly targeted at technical minded viewers with a basic understanding of the technologies employed.

You will also find a 20-minute "Making Of" featurette on this disc that takes you behind the scenes and gives yo ua good look at the set of the movie. Here, up close and personal, you get to witness how many of the breathtaking scenes from the movie have been shot and how the dinosaurs were operated. Spiced up with interview segments, this featurette is a delight for all Jurassic Park fans.
A shorter featurette covers the various dinosaurs of the movie itself, giving viewers a better understanding about these animals, which is especially interesting for the new dinosaurs that have only been introduced in this film, since we all know our T-Rex’s and Raptors by now.

The check out the video tour through Stan Winston Studios that is also on the disc. Shot during the production of the movie, you get to see the workshop in full gear as artists and sculptors create the dinosaurs right before your eyes. It is an exciting piece that offers a rare glimpse at the people behind the magic that is very well worth checking out.

"A Visit To ILM" is a comparable video tour, taking us inside the infamous special effects studio. Here you get to see how the computer-generated effects were created, complete with introductions, explanations and almost step-by-step comparisons with the film. Arranged in four sections the featurette covers the different aspects of ILM’s involvement, and focuses on these areas in more detail.

"Dinosaur Turntables" is the name of an interesting feature, which basically takes the 3D dinosaur models from the movie and rotates them 360 degrees in front of your eyes – once without texture mapping, and once as the final rendering with a background plate. Some of the also contain some rough animation sequences for you to view.

A number of short, but very specific clips then takes a look at the making of certain scenes from the movie, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of those scenes in question. Storyboard to film comparisons for three scenes from the movie are also supplied on this disc, as well as a gallery of production still images and posters.

Another cool addition is the featurette "Montana" which takes you to an excavation site in Montana with paleontologist Jack Horner – who also served as a consultant on all Jurassic Park movies. Running 4-minutes, the clip gives viewers a good idea about the problems of dinosaur excavations and their interpretation.

The DVD is rounded out with trailers, production notes, cast & crew biographies, and other small extras.

"Jurassic Park III" may not be perfect but it is definitely much better than the poor second entry in the series, "The Lost World." Although some of the awe and amazement of the original movie has gone, the filmmakers have managed to create a new menagerie of dinosaurs for this film that are thrilling and menacing. It offers many moments of newfound wonder and combined with the riveting storyline, "Jurassic Park III" is definitely worth checking out. With all the cool and exciting extras on this incredible disc, it is clear that this release should go on everyone’s shopping list.