Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence.
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: David Koepp
Staring: Jeff Goldblum, Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Vanessa Lee Chester, and Richard Shiff
Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming. -Dr. Ian Malcolm
Can anyone blame Spielberg or Hollywood for wanting to capitalize on the glory of Jurassic Park with a sequel? After a second novel was written by Michael Crichton that surpassed even Jurassic Park’s quality, it seemed rightfully necessary in the world of cinema to bring back Malcolm, the Raptors, and the ever terrifying T-Rex. Even with Crichton’s absence in the screenplay department, David Koepp, who worked on Jurassic Park with Spielberg and Crichton has his own impressive resume including: Jurassic Park, Mission: Impossible, Carlito’s Way, and Panic Room. Currently he has worked on Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, so he is no small commodity in the action department. Nonetheless, The Lost World lost the magic and momentum that was so captivating in Jurassic Park.
Isla Nublar has been destroyed and all the dinosaurs on the island with it. There is a discovery that John Hammond had a second island where he did the majority of InGen’s genetic testing on. It has been deserted for years, with the exception of one very special species: dinosaurs. They have managed to exist in their own ecological preserve that Hammond kept to himself, but now that he has grown ill, the other shareholders of InGen have gathered a plan to collect the dinosaurs and put them in a zoo in San Francisco. Dr. Sarah Harding, also the ex-girlfriend of Ian Malcolm has been on Isla Sorna for weeks studying the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, and Hammond has sent Malcolm and a well equipped crew to get Sarah before the team arrives to take the dinosaurs. Of course man and beast never seem to mix well and things suddenly go not entirely as planned.
Once on the new island there was no time spent to focus on anything new or interesting about the dinosaurs, where Jurassic Park really engaged the viewer in the mystery of the creatures as real animals and really stimulated the childlike curiosity about their elusive existence in way that was tangible and frightening to an adult audience. The Lost World portrayed them as monsters that worked as a very one dimensional antagonist throughout the film, and while pretty impressive visually, the buck stopped there.
The screenplay integrated virtually none of the story Crichton created about the dark side of Jurassic Park and the amazing aspect of the dinosaurs creating their own world and perplexing questions about their evolution on the island was never even touched on. These would have been great motivators and subjects of intelligent conflict between the dinosaurs and humans. But it, along with the brilliant character Levine, was left alone. Instead, Spielberg opted for more action, more action, and more chasing, and the unforgettable attack of San Francisco by the T-Rex, which he claims was his homage to Godzilla. That’s fine and dandy Steven, but it had absolutely no place in the movie, and turned it into a freak show instead of a mediocre sequel to a genius original.
Outside of Malcolm’s character our protagonists don’t give us much to root for. Julianne Moore does the best she can to balance the obsessed and driven Sarah Harding, but mostly comes off as a scarier than the dinosaurs. The low key tenacity of Dr. Ellie Sadler was not implemented in Sarah at all. While Vince Vaughn as Nick Van Owen offered a few laughs his character really didn’t fit in the film or the story. Even Malcolm wasn’t really given the opportunity to shine. Jeff Goldblum made the best of the scenes and lines he had, but the brilliance of Ian Malcolm was heavily replaced by his cynicism instead. His daughter, played by Vanessa Lee Chester was the biggest sore thumb of the film. She was awkward, her line delivery constantly off, and often I found myself hoping she would be eaten by one of the dinosaurs. It was her inevitable use of her gymnastics skill that reached a point almost as low as the T-Rex strolling through SanFran.
In spite of the obvious decline in film quality from Jurassic Park to The Lost World, it still was a fun movie to watch the second or third time around. However, after my first viewing opening day in the theatre I was mortified. If you can detach from the brilliance of the novel and Jurassic Park itself and look at it on it’s own and then end the film when the T-Rex is captured, it’s not a horrible movie, but it still isn’t great. If not for Goldblum, I would never have even given it a second chance. It’s worth a rental, or even a purchase, just for the sake of owning all three, if you find them on sale somewhere, but The Lost World just doesn’t touch Jurassic Park in good movie making.