by Rob DiCristino
Last time on The Purge, you voted to send Away We Go off into that good night, and I couldn’t agree more. But our noble work continues. We must rid our DVD shelves of the middling and the unworthy, the stuff your roommate left behind and the disappointing Blind Buys. When the movie gods judge your collection, how will they find you? Will you stare into the Face of Rahn with confidence or beg forgiveness from the Pope of Film? Now, the one-off middlebrow stuff is easy enough to compare in a vacuum, but how do we handle franchises? Let’s switch it up this week and look at second sequels to beloved action/adventure films:
Jurassic Park III - 2001, Dir. Joe Johnston
“Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”
Jurassic Park III has all the classic trappings of a second sequel: the production values are low, elements are safely rehashed from the original, and the lead actors who refused to show up for Part 2 return to cash a paycheck. That being said, the film works hard to present a Dr. Grant whose experiences in Jurassic Park have left him in a different place in his life than when we first met him. While he still argues for slow and meticulous science in the face of quick and easy genetic manipulation, he’s now more hardened and cynical, which is decent enough character work for our purposes. The Kirbys’ search for their son works, too. If we have to return to the “rescue someone from the island” plot, we might as well do it through the eyes of some middle-class normal types who just got caught up in the chaos John Hammond hath wrought. Jurassic Park III’s premise isn’t to blame, here. Neither is the acting: Neil, Macy, and Leoni are all capital-F Fine and play what they’re given absolutely straight. Hell, even the “talking raptor” plot line isn’t the worst thing ever. It gives Grant something to investigate during his time on the island and creates an evolutionary through-line with the series overall. The longer the dinosaurs are left alone, the more they learn and grow. Science!
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - 2003, Dir. Jonathan Mostow
“Our destiny was never to stop Judgment Day. It was merely to survive it together.”
Rise of the Machines is essentially Judgment Day updated for the millennium: the Cold War is over, Skynet lives in the internet, and the new Terminator is a progressive-yet-test-audience-approved white lady. She’s the kind of super weapon that kids designed in crayon after seeing T2 in 1991, a mix of the T-800 and the T-1000 with a little sexy thrown in for good measure. Arnold is old, but still spry enough to deliver robotic exposition and fire large-caliber weaponry. The film itself is fast-paced and tightly-edited; there’s almost no time for bullshit or breathing room. Stahl and Danes do the pouty-eyed dramatic thing that pretty actors do, shouting and pointing with concern at things offscreen. While their chemistry isn’t exactly the best, their relationship does add a wrinkle to the Terminator mythology that pushes the canon forward without compromising the integrity of anything that came before. Exploring how and why John Connor dies is genuinely interesting and provides a decent enough excuse to corrupt the original film’s stable time loop for the second time. Things end on a dour and bittersweet note that resets the franchise for future installments.