Ever since Jurassic Park debuted in 1993, the Jurassic franchise has offered awe the likes of which we have rarely seen, its exceptional blockbuster filmmaking creating a staple of modern Hollywood, one of the most iconic film franchises in history.
Universal’s crown jewel, which includes three Jurassic Park movies and a further three Jurassic World films, has left an indelible imprint on cinema and has become a box office and merchandising phenomenon, earning around $10billion in revenue to date. Perhaps more impressively, it has forever changed our culture, its visual representations of dinosaurs coming to define their very image for the past thirty years (whether that image is factually correct or not).
Initially released as a Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of respected author Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, the Jurassic franchise has mixed themes of environmentalism, the ethics of cloning, and astute commentary on conglomerated big business, with the blockbuster tropes of thrilling action, sharp comedy and wondrous special effects – the work of visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic has redefined visual effects techniques forever, ensuring the franchise’s indelible mark on the industry as a whole.
In this edition of Ranked, we at The Film Magazine are revisiting every film from the Jurassic franchise – all three Jurassic Park films and the further three Jurassic World releases – in order to decipher which of the Jurassic Park / World movies is the worst and which is the best in terms of artistic merit, enjoyability, purpose, meaning and message. These are the Jurassic Park / World Movies Ranked.
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6. Jurassic Park III (2001)
When Joe Johnston took over from Steven Spielberg at the helm of the Jurassic Park franchise following success with his mid-90s family hit Jumanji, he seemed like the most natural fit to continue the franchise’s legacy. The director, who would go on to helm Captain America: The First Avenger among other notable films, was a long-term understudy to Spielberg throughout the 1980s (even acting as director of visual effects on Raiders of the Lost Ark) and was stepping into the franchise just as Spielberg had seemed to lose his passion for it. Unfortunately, Jurassic Park III turned out to be a cursed production, its spot at the bottom of this list due in no small part to the shoot beginning before a script was ever even finished.
Jurassic Park star Sam Neill returned to his role as Alan Grant from the 1993 release 8 years prior, his character a continual reminder of the better film many at the time could catch on TV or home video. Here, his respected palaeontologist is conned into heading to the island of the 2nd movie, The Lost World, to rescue a teenager stranded there as the result of a holiday mishap. Tonally, Jurassic Park III is all over the place – supporting characters as annoying as they are stereotypical, inappropriate jokes made to cover cracks in the narrative, inspired horror elements side-by-side with poop jokes – and it never really gets going like every other Jurassic film does, the pace picking up just once beyond the threshold of the narrative’s inciting incident.
Of all the Jurassic movies, Jurassic Park III is simply the most forgettable. And, while there are moments of genuine inspiration (most notably the bird cage sequence) and points of tension here and there, the film’s lack of awareness as regards its own cheesiness and silliness (both massive steps away from the more earnest Spielberg outings), made this the only franchise entry worthy of being mocked on the internet: a Velociraptor talking directly to Alan Grant is cheesy, cheap and not even played for laughs.
Jurassic Park III is likely the result of “too many chefs in the kitchen”, a situation in which the director, screenwriters, producers and studio all had distinctly different visions of what should have been another mega-hit franchise entry. The result is poor to mediocre, and certainly more boring and unpleasant than the other franchise entries. Jurassic Park III is the film that would end the franchise for some 14 years, and that should be proof enough that it is deserving of the number 6 spot on this list.
5. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Thrusting Jeff Goldblum into the lead role of The Lost World: Jurassic Park after a film-stealing performance in the original film seemed about as logical as Dr Ian Malcolm himself, but tacking on familial interests and a strange romantic angle seemed to remove the mystery surrounding him, watering down his cool-factor in the process. In revisiting his role as the prophet of doom, The Lost World: Jurassic Park became eternally bonded to the character’s cynicism through focusing so much of its narrative on his journey, the movie losing touch of the awe and majesty of the 1993 original as seen through Richard Attenborough’s wide-eyed John Hammond and Sam Neill’s more pure and (reluctantly) kind-hearted Dr. Alan Grant.
Not only was The Lost World: Jurassic Park missing that cool character we’d all come to love as a part of the original’s ensemble of strong, instantly recognisable icons of the screen, but Ian Malcolm was now a father having an existential crisis about his girlfriend going missing while navigating issues of divorce; The Lost World was simply more cynical than any other Jurassic movie.
In the decades since the release of this Jurassic Park sequel, many have placed The Lost World in the lower echelons of Steven Spielberg’s filmography, this 1997 movie marking a point at the height of Spielberg’s fame in which the director seemed much less interested in money-making ventures than he was by passion projects such as Amistad (released the same year) and Saving Private Ryan (released the year following, 1998).
While Spielberg’s legendary blockbuster-leading trademarks are still present in The Lost World (elevating a relatively mediocre script), the bedrock of this Jurassic Park sequel seems to reverse the original film’s stance on armed intervention and mass governmental control by film’s end, and this weak structural base simply fails to provide enough of a springboard for a less-than fully motivated director (even one as great as Spielberg) to overcome. There are glimpses of greatness here – the cracking glass over the edge of the cliff being one particular highlight – but The Lost World is missing the intention and politics of the four films to come, its on-the-nose efforts futile in the face of the deeper realisations of the Jurassic World movies and the original Jurassic Park.
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