Top 5 Criminally Overlooked Third Instalments

In accordance with the much touted law of diminishing returns, there exists a glut of Hollywood franchises slowly milking themselves into the ground, or worse, straight onto DVD. With most sequels dismissed as unimaginitive rehashes of the original, by episode three the series has usually lost every vestige of what made the original worth revisiting in the first place. There have been a number of exceptions, of course, and while some trilogies have ended with celebrated final instalments – Return of the Jedi, The Bourne Ultimatum and Return of the King did more than simply buck a trend – there are a few more that have been sadly overlooked.

Jurassic Park 3

Following Steven Spielberg’s departure upon completion of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, directorial duties fell to Joe Johnston for audience’s third lap of the tyrannosaur paddock. With Sam Neill returning as Dr. Alan Grant, the film saw a warring couple unite in a desperate bid to save their missing son. Having spent two films causing ripples as the film’s principle antagonist, the franchise’s figurehead T-Rex was this time sidelined as a new predator entered the fray, the larger Spinosaurus proving a slightly less iconic but by no means less capable substitute. The film, often described as the worst in the series, is arguably a tighter, lighter and decidedly more streamlined thriller that nevertheless does the franchise proud.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

Wes Craven’s original (and, to a slightly lesser extent, New) Nightmare is widely considered a horror classic. From that point on, however, the franchise slowly lost its way, becoming a poor, witless parody of itself by the time Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) was finally forced to auction his razor glove off to Platinum Dunes. While the rest of the series might be a largely uninspired mix of ripe dialogue, cheesy effects and characterless cyphers, Dream Warriors – also co-written by Craven – showed a healthy dose of invention as Kruger’s latest batch of burgeoning cadavers adopt a number of dream-based super-personae with which to battle the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Released 12 years on from James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, T3 never enjoyed the same cultural significance or critical acclaim of its predecessors. Adopting a lighter tone and a more relaxed certificate, however, Rise of the Machines is a joyous alchemy of game performances and glorious set pieces. With Sarah Connor dead and John (Nick Stahl) off the grid, a new model of terminator is sent mack in time to take out his future resistance officers in his absence. Pushing the dead-pan humour and focusing on the relationship between Stahl and Clare Danes’ Kate Brewster, Jonathan Mostow’s movie is a pure popcorn pleasure with one of the most starkly audacious endings to any summer blockbuster. After all, the duff instalment was yet to come.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Unlike the previous entries on this list, Eclipse is not the butt-end of a once great franchise, but the second part of a series that has – somewhat deservedly – never enjoyed mainstream recognition. A Mormon parable wrapped unconvincingly in sparkly vampires and werepuppies, the series to date had eschewed the Gothic potential of its supernatural heavyweights in favour of twee nomance, brow-furrowing miserablism and pouty vampire baseball. While Eclipse is still plagued by angst and rife with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), 30 Days of Night director David Slade finally breathes some watchability into the franchise with an atmospheric opening chase sequence and a script that finally introduces a little personality and healthy competition into Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).

Spider-man 3

2007 was not kind to the threequel, with landmark franchises Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean and Spider-man failing to connect with audiences and, in the case of Spider-man 3, bringing the series to a premature close. But while it is a far cry from the quality of Sam Raimi’s acclaimed original, Spider-man 3 is not quite the emo-fringed travesty you might remember it to be. Treat Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire)’s rebellious phase as an intermission, put the kettle on and take a toilet break, and you’re left with a perfectly acceptable superhero film with some nice touches. Sandman’s genesis is wonderfully poignant, Venom’s realisation – while brief – is startlingly effective and the Green Goblin’s character arc is brought to a satisfying close in one of the most engaging finales of the year. Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) even smiles at one point.

 

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Jurassic Park (1993)

When John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) investors become jittery following a fatality, they request that the theme park be signed off by a series of experts. Recruiting dysfunctional palaeontologists Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), along with chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Hammond and lawyer Donald Gennaro (Donald Gennaro) initiate an all-expenses-paid tour of the island in the hope of clearing Jurassic Park for visitors. When head computer programmer Dennis Nedry(Wayne Knight) betrays his employer and attempts to smuggle dinosaur embryos off of the island, he shuts down the park’s defences and inadvertently unleashes Hammonds’ star attractions on the tour group – which now includes the entrpeneurs own grandchildren, Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards).

It’s easy to be cynical about the studio’s motives for re-releasing Jurassic Park on a non-adversarial, really rather arbitraty date, eighteen years after it was initially released. With a new trilogy touted, this is the perfect opportunity for Universal to kick-start brand awareness in time for the next instalment, 65 and a bit million years in the making. On taking my seat in the cinema, however, two things quickly become clear: I had completely forgotten Samuel L. Jackson was in it, and, if the price to pay for a fourth film is a return ticket to 1993’s original on the big screen, I for one am all eyes.

But what is it that makes Jurassic Park so resiliently timeless? While there are those who might feel propelled to point out that it is far from Steven Spielberg’s best work, it is certainly his most accessible and entertaining. Boasting a winsome John Williams soundtrack and creature effects from the late Stan Winston which – largely – stand the test of time (the scene in which the ceiling patterns are reflected onto the Veloceraptors – to this day – fills me with joy), Jurassic Park is a veritable melting pot of talent. For me, however, it is the sound design that flabbers my gast; when that Tyrannosaurus opens its mouth, you just know that that’s what it must have sounded like all those years ago.

Jurassic Park is everything you could possibly want from a summer blockbuster: it’s action-packed, funny, scary and in the grandest possible sense, awesome. From the aerial approach to Isla Nublar to the first glimpse of the Park’s prized T-Rex, Jurassic Park is awash with cult moments, remastered for your ongoing enjoyment. While the newfangled cosmetic work fluctuates throughout, bringing a sharpness to some scenes and exactly nothing to others, it is nevertheless nice to know that such a momentous film is being taken care of. Just like artists maintain and restore prized paintings, so is it necessary to tend to the imperfections of important movies so that they continue to have the same impact on successive generations.

The truth is, however, that Jurassic Park manages this on its own, quite despite the studio’s tinkering. The moment in which our heroes catch their first glimpse of a grazing Brachiosaurus is every bit as mind-blowing as it was in 1993, overcoming the clearly dated effects thanks to a indelibly Spielbergian sense of wonder and delight. The performances may waver, the plot may wander (that ending. Really?) but this is why we go to the cinema: to be entertained. With dinosaurs.