Jurassic Park III (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD FEATURES: Commentary from SFX guru Stan Winston and Jurassic Park veterans; a five-minute tour of Winston's studio as well as a tour of ILM, which showcases the process from initial design to screen integration (featuring 20 different effects stages); Dinosaur turn-table, allowing a 3-D look at the film's 12 new dinosaurs; a tour of paleontologist Jack Horner's current Montana dig; the making of documentary; storyboards; stills; trailers; DVD-Rom material.

THEY'RE back! Having wreaked bloody havoc on two islands in two separate movies, laid waste to a large portion of San Diego and hungrily devoured a bucket-load of Box Office records in the process, Steven Spielberg's dinosaurs return for a third installment in Jurassic Park III.

Only this time, the man with the golden touch, Mr Spielberg himself, is not behind the camera, passing on the directing duties to Joe (Honey I Shrunk The Kids) Johnston and, with them, possibly a large slice of the franchise's eventual takings.

Yet the biggest problem with the third movie in the series does not so much lie in the absence of its acclaimed director, (he is executive producer), but rather in the feeling of over-familiarity inherent with the proceedings, thus prompting the question of whether this was really necessary? Plot-wise, the screenwriters didn't seem too bothered, pegging the whole movie on a fairly flimsy starting point and letting the dinosaurs do the rest.

For the record, Sam Neill returns as Dr Alan Grant, one of the few survivors of the first film, who is lured back to the second island by William H Macy's wealthy adventurer, Paul Kirby, and his wife, Amanda (played by Tea Leoni) in the hope that they might find their lost son, Eric (Trevor Morgan).

Helping them (or hindering, depending on which way you look at things) is a motley trio of mercenaries, while along for the ride is Alessandro (Face Off) Nivola's wide-eyed Billy Brennan, Grant's protege, who soon lands the group in all sorts of trouble in his bid to secure funding for Grant's excavations.

But, storyline and narrative are largely redundant here, for as Neill himself points out in the production notes, this is a film "that moves like an express train driven by some very alarming dinosaurs''. "It is more extreme, a full on thing from the time we get on to the island, which is almost immediately, to the time we get off.'' And he is not exaggerating.

Jurassic Park III is fully aware of what its audience is seeking - more dinosaurs - and delivers them in spades (aided, in no small part, by the considerable advances in special effects since Spielberg's original adventure). As a result, past favourites such as the T-Rex are back, as are those nasty velociraptors (now even more dangerous thanks to the ability to communicate with each other and set up traps), while two new additions have been introduced to heighten the excitement and reduce that inevitable seen-it-all-before feeling.

Principal among the new guys is the towering spinosaurus, a larger and altogether more vicious foe than the T-Rex which, in one terrifying moment, easily dispatches of the former king of the island. And then there are the flying Pteranodons, whose introduction (emerging from the mist) rates among the high points of the movie.

But impressive as this introduction is, you can't help but feel that Johnston is merely the apprentice attempting to imitate the master who is far more at ease with out and out action, rather than suspense. Gone is the patient, damn near nerve-shredding build up associated with the introduction of the T-Rex in the original, or even that windscreen shattering scene in the sequel, replaced instead with an in-yer-face thrill ride that, while entertaining enough in itself, may have Spielberg fans pining for a little respite or a moment to genuinely savour.

It is little wonder, therefore, that the actors have little chance to shine, particularly given that the movie is only a 96 minutes in length. Of the performances worth noting, Neill manages to expand on his Dr Grant, making him far more cynical this time; while the ever-excellent Macy and the emerging Nivola manage to rise above their material. But Leoni is merely annoying (and screams a lot!), while the trio of mercenaries are gobbled up too quickly by the insatiable beasts.

On the whole, however, Jurassic Park III succeeds on energy alone. It's loud, fast and exciting and it is, after all, the third film in the series. Anyone who buys a ticket should really know what to expect by now and has no right being in the cinema if they have a problem with it.

For pure entertainment value alone, this delivers in spades. And it even dares to leave things open for yet another entry into the series...