Ben Hildebrand and 12-year-old Eric Kirby go parasailing around the waters of Isla Sorna. An unknown creature attacks and kills the boat crew, forcing Ben to detach the line; he and Eric drift towards the island. On the mainland, Dr. Alan Grant has become famous after his involvement at Jurassic Park, while Ellie Sattler is married and has two children. Grant discusses with Sattler how raptors are far more intelligent than they had previously believed. At a dig site, Grant's assistant, Billy Brennan, demonstrates how he can use a 3D printer to replicate a Velociraptor larynx.
Paul and Amanda Kirby, a seemingly wealthy couple, offer Grant funding for his research if he will give them an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. Although initially suspicious of their true intentions, Grant is desperate for research support and thus reluctantly agrees. He flies there along with Paul, Amanda, Billy, and the Kirbys' mercenary associates, Udesky, Cooper, and their pilot Nash. On the plane, Grant learns that the Kirbys actually plan to land on the island. When Grant opposes, he is knocked out by Cooper and wakes to the sound of Amanda using a megaphone. This attracts a Spinosaurus, which devours Cooper and Nash. The creature's obstructing of the runway causes the plane to crash into the forest. Fleeing, the survivors briefly lose the Spinosaurus, only to encounter a Tyrannosaurus. The Spinosaurus returns, but the group escapes while the two predators fight each other. The Spinosaurus bites the T. rex's neck and kills it.
Grant, demanding the truth from the Kirbys, learns they are actually a middle-class divorced couple, who are looking for their son Eric, and Amanda's boyfriend Ben, who have been missing on the island for eight weeks. Later, the group finds the parasail with Ben's corpse attached. The group takes the parasail, and then encounter raptor nests. They find an abandoned InGen compound, where Amanda is ambushed by a raptor. The group manages to trap it, but it escapes and contacts the rest of its pack. The group flees into a herd of Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus, causing a stampede, separating Grant and Udesky from the others. Grant retrieves Billy's satchel, while Udesky is left on the ground barely alive by the raptors, who set a trap in an attempt to lure the others out of the tree they had climbed into. Amanda is nearly killed by the raptors when she tries to descend to help Udesky, and upon the failure of their trap, the raptors kill Udesky before departing.
Grant suspects that the raptors are searching for something while observing two of them communicating. He becomes ambushed and cornered by the raptors, but is rescued by Eric, who managed to survive in an overturned water truck. The next day, Grant and Eric hear Paul's satellite phone ringing and are reunited with the Kirbys and Billy. Paul explains that he gave the phone to Nash before he was devoured, before the group is attacked by the Spinosaurus. After the group escapes, Grant discovers Billy took two raptor eggs to use for funding, which provoked the raptor attacks. He decides to keep the eggs to ensure the group's survival. The group unknowingly enters a large aviary used to house Pteranodons, which attack the group and fly away with Eric. Billy rescues Eric by using Ben's parasail, but is then attacked and seemingly killed by the Pteranodons. The rest of the group escapes the aviary, unintentionally leaving the door unlocked. They make their way downriver using a boat.
That night, the group hears the phone ringing buried in the feces of the Spinosaurus and retrieves it. As rain falls, Grant tries to contact Sattler, but the Spinosaurus attacks the boat. Grant sets the boat's fuel on fire and burns the Spinosaurus, causing it to flee. The next day, the group makes their way towards the shoreline, but are surrounded by the raptors once again. The eggs are surrendered to the raptors, while Grant uses the replicated raptor larynx to confuse the pack, who run off with the eggs. The group flees to the coast and find that Sattler had called in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to rescue them. They discover that Billy, while seriously injured, is still alive. As they leave the island, they see the Pteranodons flying free, and Grant muses they are "looking for new nesting grounds."Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant
William H. Macy as Paul Kirby
Téa Leoni as Amanda Kirby
Alessandro Nivola as Billy Brennan
Trevor Morgan as Eric Kirby
Michael Jeter as Udesky
John Diehl as Cooper
Bruce A. Young as Nash
Laura Dern as Ellie
Taylor Nichols as Mark
Mark Harelik as Ben Hildebrand
Julio Oscar Mechoso as Enrique Cardoso
In a deviation from the previous films, the Spinosaurus is considered the primary antagonist: Johnston stated, "A lot of dinosaurs have a very similar silhouette to the T-Rex ... and we wanted the audience to instantly recognize this as something else." The silhouette of the Spinosaurus is also on the poster behind the Pteranodon, taking the place of the Tyrannosaurus which had been used in the previous films' posters. Baryonyx was originally considered to be the "big bad" before Spinosaurus was chosen, and early concept posters reflected this. Within film dialogue, Billy interprets the animal encountered as a Baryonyx or Suchomimus, but Dr. Grant corrects his analysis based on its size and its sail.
Due to new discoveries and theories in the field of paleontology, the portrayal of several dinosaurs differed from that of the previous films. Discoveries suggesting that Velociraptor were feathered prompted the addition of quill-like structures on the head and neck of the males in the film. "We've found evidence that Velociraptors had feathers, or feather-like structures, and we've incorporated that into the new look of the raptor", said paleontologist Jack Horner, the film's technical adviser.
Spielberg insisted to Johnston that he include Pteranodons in the film, after they had ultimately been cut from the previous films for budget reasons. An aquatic reptile was also featured in the first draft, but was ultimately removed from the final script. The special effects used for the creatures were a mixture of animatronics and CGI. The following creatures appear in the film:Ankylosaurus
Joe Johnston had been interested in directing the sequel to Jurassic Park and approached Spielberg, a friend of his, about the project. While Spielberg wanted to direct the first sequel, he agreed that if there was ever a third film, Johnston could direct. The second film, entitled The Lost World: Jurassic Park, included the scene of the Tyrannosaurus rampaging through San Diego. Spielberg had initially wanted the scene to be saved for a third film, but later decided to add it into the second film after realizing that he would probably not direct another film in the series. After the release of the second film in May 1997, Spielberg was busy with other projects and was asked about the possibility of a third Jurassic Park film; he responded, "It would give me a tremendous Advil headache just to think about it."
Universal Pictures announced the film on June 29, 1998, with Spielberg acting as a producer. Michael Crichton was reportedly going to collaborate with Spielberg to create a storyline and write a script. The film was set for release in summer 2000. Spielberg initially devised a story idea that involved Dr. Alan Grant, who was discovered to have been living on one of InGen's islands. According to Johnston, "He'd snuck in, after not being allowed in to research the dinosaurs, and was living in a tree like Robinson Crusoe. But I couldn't imagine this guy wanting to get back on any island that had dinosaurs in it after the first movie."
In June 1999, Craig Rosenberg began writing the first draft of the script, which involved teenagers who get marooned on Isla Sorna. Johnston was announced as the film's director in August 1999, with Rosenberg still attached. Production was expected to begin in early 2000. Rosenberg's draft about teenagers on Isla Sorna was rejected in September 1999. Although Johnston felt that it was "not a badly written script," he also said, "It read like a bad episode of Friends". By December 1999, new writers had been hired to devise a better story for the film.
The film's second script involved Pteranodon escaping from Isla Sorna and causing a spate of mysterious killings on the mainland, which was to be investigated by Alan Grant and a number of other characters including Billy Brennan, a naturalist named Simone, a tough military attaché, wealthy Paul Roby, and Roby's teenage son Miles. Grant's group crash-lands on the island, while a parallel investigation is being carried out on the mainland. The aviary sequence and laboratory set piece were initially much longer and more complex, including Velociraptor stealthily entering the hatchery as the team spends the night there. Sets, costumes, and props were built for this version.
In February 2000, filming was reportedly set to begin in Fiordland, New Zealand around the end of the month. Scenes were originally planned to be filmed there for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In March 2000, Maui, Hawaii was reportedly chosen instead of New Zealand. Sam Neill signed on to the project in June 2000, with 18 weeks of filming expected to begin by August 2000, for a release in July 2001. Macy originally turned down his role due to scheduling conflicts. Trevor Morgan and Téa Leoni were cast in August 2000, with Utah's Dinosaur National Monument and an Oahu military base being considered as possible filming locations. During the pre-production phase, concept artists created advertising for the film using a number of working titles including Jurassic Park: Extinction and Jurassic Park: Breakout.
Five weeks before filming began, Johnston and Spielberg rejected the entire script as they were dissatisfied with it; $18 million had already been spent on the film at that time. Johnston felt that the script's story was too complicated. The simpler "rescue mission" plot, which had been suggested by David Koepp, was used for the film instead. Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor began rewriting the script in July 2000.
Johnston said that the script was never finished during production: "We shot pages that eventually went into the final script but we didn't have a document". Principal photography began on August 30, 2000, at Dillingham Airfield in Mokulēia, Hawaii. Macy, commenting on the slow pace of filming the script, said "we would do a quarter-page--some days, an eighth of a page. And that would be a full 12-hour day."
Filming continued on Oahu until September 9. Aerial footage of Molokai's North Shore cliffs was then shot over the next two days, followed by a week of filming in Kauai. Filming concluded in Hawaii on September 20, 2000. Production then moved to California. John August was hired to do uncredited work on the script in September 2000. Scenes were filmed at Occidental College in Los Angeles on October 10, 2000.
Scenes were filmed at Center Bay Studios in Los Angeles at the end of October. Other filming locations in California included South Pasadena and a rock quarry in Irwindale. Filming also took place at Universal Studios' backlot in Los Angeles. Production returned to Hawaii in January 2001, to film the movie's ending, which had yet to be written during the previous Hawaiian shoot. The ending was filmed on Kauai's Pila'a Beach.
The storyline contains minor scenes from Crichton's Jurassic Park and The Lost World novels that were ultimately not featured in the film versions, such as the Pteranodon aviary and the use of the boat. Laura Dern's cameo was shot in a day. In an earlier draft, Neill and Dern's characters were a couple in the process of splitting up. Johnston said, "I didn't want to see them as a couple anymore. For one thing, I don't think they look like a couple. It would be uncomfortable to still see them together. And Laura Dern doesn't look like she's aged for the past fifteen years!" The film's longest rough cut was approximately 96 minutes, without credits. According to Johnston, "We lost maybe 8 minutes, so it was never really that long."
Given John Williams was busy writing the music for Spielberg's own A.I. Artificial Intelligence, he recommended Don Davis to write the Jurassic Park III score. Williams' original themes were integrated into the score as well as several new ones, such as one for the Spinosaurus that focused on low sounds, with tubas, trombones and timpani. The fight between the Spinosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus, compared by Davis to King Kong fighting a dinosaur in the 1933 film, had a juxtaposition of the Spinosaurus theme with the one Williams wrote for the T. rex. In addition, "Big Hat, No Cattle", a song by Randy Newman, was used in a restaurant scene.
Jurassic Park III premiered at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, California, on July 16, 2001, followed two days later by a release in the United States and other countries. The film earned $181,171,875 in the United States and $368,780,809 worldwide, making it the eighth-highest-grossing film of the year worldwide but it is the lowest grossing Jurassic Park film in the entire series. The film was released on VHS and DVD on December 11, 2001. It was re-released with both sequels in December 2001 as the Jurassic Park Trilogy, and as the Jurassic Park Adventure Pack in November 2005. The film has also been released as a two-disc DVD set alongside Hulk. In 2011, the film was released on Blu-ray as part of the Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy. The soundtrack was released in July 2001.
Jurassic Park III has received a mostly mixed response from critics and fans alike. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 50% rating based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The site's consensus states: "Jurassic Park III is darker and faster than its predecessors, but that doesn't quite compensate for the franchise's continuing creative decline." It also has a 42 out of 100 on Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On both sites, it is the lowest rated film out of the Jurassic Park franchise.
Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, who praised both the previous Jurassic Park films, awarded the third film only a C grade, writing "Jurassic Park III has no pretensions to be anything more than a goose-bumpy fantasy theme-park ride for kids, but it's such a routine ride. Spielberg's wizardry is gone, and his balletic light touch as well, and that gives too much of this 90-minute movie over to the duller-than-dull characters." Derek Elley of Variety Reviews felt likewise, calling the film "an all-action, helter-skelter, don't-forget-to-buy-the-computer-game ride that makes the two previous installments look like models of classic filmmaking". Ben Varkontine of PopMatters called it "not as good a ride as the first", but "better than the second." Much of the criticism was leveled at the plot as simply a chase movie with no character development; Apollo Movie Guide panned the film as being "almost the same as the first movie" with "no need for new ideas or even a script". Empire magazine gave the film 3 stars out of 5, commenting that it was "Short, scrappy and intermittently scary" and that the film ultimately "skews young".
On Ebert and Roeper, Richard Roeper gave it a Thumbs Down, while Roger Ebert awarded a Thumbs Up. In a subsequent review, Ebert called it "the best blockbuster of the Summer". In his written review, Ebert gave the film three stars and wrote that while the film was not as awe-inspiring as the first film or as elaborate as the second, "it's a nice little thrill machine. [...] I can't praise it for its art, but I must not neglect its craft..."
Early pioneer of the dinosaur-bird connection Robert T. Bakker has quipped that the feathery quills added to the Velociraptor for Jurassic Park III "looked like a roadrunner's toupee." However, he conceded that feathers are difficult subjects for computer animation and speculated that Jurassic Park IV's raptors would have more realistic thorough plumage. As of 2002, Crichton said he had not seen the film.
A teaser trailer was released online in September 2000. Universal avoided excessive early marketing to prevent possible backlash, as it believed that awareness of the film was high enough. Marketing began in April 2001, three months before the film's release. The first footage from the film was aired during the second-season finale of Survivor in May 2001. Promotional partners included Kodak and The Coca-Cola Company. No fast-food promotions took place in the United States, although kids' meal toys based on the film were offered in Canadian Burger Kings.
Seven video games were released to coincide with the film, as well as a novelization by Scott Ciencin that was aimed at young children. Ciencin also wrote three children's books to tie in with the film's events: Jurassic Park Adventures: Survivor, the first book, detailed the eight weeks Eric spent alone on Isla Sorna; Jurassic Park Adventures: Prey had Eric and Alan returning to Isla Sorna to rescue a group of teenage filmmakers; Jurassic Park Adventures: Flyers involved Eric and Alan leading the Pteranodon home after they nest in a Universal Studios theme park.
Hasbro released a line of 3.75" action figures in the spring of 2001 to coincide with the release, including electronic dinosaurs, humans, and vehicles. The figures were scaled down from the original Kenner action figures from the pre-Jurassic Park III toy lines. A line of toys were also released through the Lego Studios brand. Playskool released a line of toys aimed at younger children, called Jurassic Park Junior. A smaller die-cast line of toys was also produced, along with clothes. In November 2001, to promote the film's upcoming home media release, Universal launched a viral marketing website for Isla Travel, a fictional Isla Sorna travel agency.
For the film's home media release, Universal and cell-phone company Hop-On partnered to produce "the world's first-disposable cell phone", available through an in-package offer upon purchase of the film. The phones were to be delivered for free to customers who responded to a winning promotional card that came with select copies of the film. Approximately 5,000 copies of the film contained a winning promotional card; approximately 1,000 of them were redeemed.
However, the promotion was cancelled when the cell phones could not be finished on time. An investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle revealed that sample versions of Hop-On's cell phones were actually modified Nokia cell phones, as Hop-On was having problems with its own design. Customers who were to receive the cell phones instead received a $30 check and a free DVD.