By EW Staff
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:55 AM EDT
Credit: ILM
  • Movie

”I didn’t realize how things had progressed — the creatures are so much more sophisticated,” marvels Neill. ”I think I can safely say this will be the best ‘Jurassic Park.”’ While Steven Spielberg — his exec producer and the director of the first two ”Jurassic”s — might disagree, Neill is in a position to know. The actor reprises his role from 1993’s first dinofest, which launched the most lucrative franchise in Universal history (total worldwide box office: $1.5 billion). This time, Neill’s paleontologist finds himself staring down the monstrous reptiles after his plane — chartered by a curious couple (Macy and Leoni) and their son — crash lands on the mysterious island.

The sequel was a serious priority for the studio, which desperately needed a summer tent-pole and kick-started shooting last fall in Hawaii without a finished script. ”We had to go back to Hawaii in January. It wasn’t planned,” admits Johnston (”October Sky”), who adds that the third installment is much darker than the previous films. ”We didn’t have an ending that we liked the first time we were there.” Well, that’s one story. ”We just had the ending missing? Joe is being graceful,” Leoni says. ”We started in Hawaii with no ending, the middle a little up in the air, and the beginning, uh, pretty solid.”

Which led to a lot of on the fly rewriting. ”Go”’s John August and, reportedly, ”Election”’s Alexander Payne did uncredited polishes, and even Macy took a crack at scripting a scene. But, hey, the first two films were more about stomp than Stoppardian wordplay. So any new creatures in that blue screen bag o’ tricks? ”There was a dinosaur discovered around the turn of the century then [destroyed] during the bombing of Germany in World War II: spinosaurus. It was bigger than T. rex,” the director says. ”So you know we have to have those two gigantic dinosaurs do battle, right?”

Naturally. And if the promise of a scaly mama bad enough to take on the ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin of prehistory isn’t enough to have audiences salivating for thirds, Leoni is already working on damage control. ”If the thing bombs, I’m going to blame it on the dinosaurs,” she laughs. ”I’ve got plausible deniability, man.”

Jurassic Park III

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 92 minutes
  • Joe Johnston