Retro Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Short Attention Span Review™

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

3.0

The Lost World Jurassic Park PosterThe Lost World is a pretty average movie with a few flaws.  The odd thing is, the more I see it, the more it grows on me.  And I know it shouldn't because it's derivative of the original Jurassic Park and predictable. The formula is familiar, and maybe that's what appeals to the masses as evident in Jurassic World's recent $2 billion haul.

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The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on November 29th, 2000.

Here are some updated thoughts:  I dug this old review up because I recently watched Jurassic World on Blu-ray.  One thought that kept crossing my mind was “Don’t these people ever learn!!!”  It goes all the way back to The Lost World when humans first re-opened Pandora’s genetic box and tried to control natural mutation.  The Lost World is a pretty average movie, just like Jurassic World is.  Yet World made an ungodly amount of money on the EXACT SAME FORMULA.  A formula that hasn’t changed in 23 years!  I still don’t get it.  To this day the only Jurassic Park movie that is still original, magical, and worth watching is . . . the original Jurassic Park!  Which I believe I have an old review for kicking around somewhere . . .

The Lost World: Jurassic Park opens with a British family apparently vacationing off the coast of an island. Having left their yacht, they set up on the beach while their little girl wanders off to explore and play. Unfortunately, the girl wanders a bit too far and gets into an accident with some of the island’s more unsavory denizens. Actually, the denizens find her quite savory, but I digress. Anyway, turns out there are 2 islands: Site A and Site B. The island in the first movie was Site A, the theme park island. Site B (the island that the British family stumbles upon at the beginning of this movie) is the island where the dinos were apparently engineered and bred before being transported to the theme park island. Since the dinos were bred to be Lyzine deficient, it was thought that they would die out shortly after the events of the first movie.

However, the exact opposite is happening; they’re thriving and Hammond would like to know how? Now convinced that he should leave the dinos alone and not exploit them in any way, Hammond puts together a team of people to go in, study the dinos, document them in their natural habitat and pull out without disturbing them. Meanwhile, forces within Hammond’s company, InGen, have made their own plans about what to do with the dinos in Site B. Do the words King Kong ring any bells?

While the The Lost World continues the story that began in Jurassic Park, it has a different feel to it this time around. While it shares Jurassic Park‘s main theme regarding the chaotic results of man tampering with the most powerful force on Earth (genetics), it also does what most sequels attempt to do . . . give you more of what made the first movie so enjoyable.  There’s more violence, more dinos, more people at risk and, believe it or not, more of a soul than the first movie.  For example, I found the characters in this movie a bit more likable.  While Malcolm essentially is the same (This is not necessarily a bad thing), I think more thought went into the characters of the second film.  This is probably an effort at eliciting more of a reaction from the audience as they watch the events unfold on the screen.  For example, take the character of Eddie Carr.  If you haven’t seen The Lost World, scroll down to the next paragraph because I’m about to recount an event in the movie.  Anyway, when Eddie is introduced, he seems like a nice-enough guy with a talent for technological “toys.”  Some of his comments even reminded me of myself during times when I’ve tried to explain a certain piece of technology to others less techno-savvy.  His banter back and forth with Malcolm regarding the satellite phone and the radio for example, definitely struck a chord with me.  Then later, when Malcolm, Sarah and Nick are trapped on the side of a cliff, about to plunge to certain doom on the rocks below, Eddie fights to save them with everything he has at his disposal.  His reward?  He gets treated like a chicken wing between two T-Rexes.  Even the most cold-hearted person in the world just has to say, “That kinda sucked. He was only trying to save them and look what happened.”  Maybe not the most cold-hearted person in the world would think this, but you should be able to see my point.  In the first movie, just about everyone knew going in that the “blood-sucking lawyer” was going to meet an early demise.  Here, it’s a guy who goes out of his way to save his comrades.  Even while being attacked by the T-Rexes, he still makes the effort to save them.  While some may argue that Muldoon (from the first movie) died during a similar attempt, I would counter with the fact that the character of Muldoon wasn’t as likable as Eddie.  In the first movie, it seemed he did things only because Hammond ordered him to, not through his own volition, which was the case with Eddie.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that The Lost World is an invaluable teaching tool in the lessons of humanity.  I just found it interesting that Spielberg, who is noted for his family-friendly films, would opt for a scene where a nice guy who does something incredibly heroic, meets an unjust and mildly graphic demise.  So ends my foray into the weeds concerning characterization.

The Lost World Jurassic Park PosterIt’s been four years since the disaster at John Hammond’s “Jurassic Park.”

The dinosaurs have since survived on the secret “Site B” and been allowed to roam free, but now there is a more ominous threat . . . Hammond’s nephew, who has taken control of InGen, leads a team to the island to capture the dinosaurs and bring them back to the U.S. in order to become attractions at another “park” in San Diego.  John Hammond now sees a chance to redeem himself for his past mistakes and sends and expedition  led by Dr. Ian Malcolm to reach the island before a mercenary team gets there.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Director:  Steven Spielberg
Starring:  Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn
Genre:  Science Fiction / Thriller
Media:  Film, 129 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Budget: $73 million
Box Office: $619 million, worldwide
Year: May 23, 1997
3 out of 5 stars

Which brings me to my next point about Spielberg.  He has put together a more gritty film than the first one.  Spielberg has always been one for accuracy, even if that accuracy includes the coverage of extreme acts of violence.  Compare earlier films like E.T., Hook and the Indiana Jones Trilogy to more recent fare such as Saving Private Ryan.  While The Lost World isn’t of the same ilk as the last two mentioned, it is a more gritty film than Jurassic Park.  It’s almost sadistic in some places.  One scene has a guy getting stomped on by a T-Rex, only to be stuck to the bottom of the Rex’s foot for a few steps like a dead roach before finally coming undone to lay lifeless in a pool of water.  While there really isn’t any blood or gore, parents may still want to be careful about letting their VERY young children watch this.  I’m no pantywaist, mind you.  I just wonder sometimes what audience Spielberg is aiming for.  The Indiana Jones Trilogy is considered family fare just like most of his other movies. But when you think about it, the end of Raiders had guys melting into nothing upon opening the Ark of the Covenant and in Temple of Doom you’ve got Mola Rom digging through a guy’s chest to get to his heart.  Not exactly family friendly if you know what I mean.

One can never deny that Spielberg knows how to construct some pretty awesome shots.  One scene in particular that stood out to me was the aforementioned one where Sarah is trapped over the edge of a cliff and the glass partition she is laying on begins to crack, threatening to shatter under her weight at any moment.  Shots like these are what Spielberg does almost flawlessly and are well worth the price of admission.  However, you can’t help feeling that the film just doesn’t impress as much as the first one did.  Or should I say, it doesn’t impress in the same way the first one did.  You still get taken on a roller coaster ride, it’s just the coaster isn’t quite as fun the second time around.  As mentioned earlier, it’s a bit more dark and somber, with some pieces almost feeling like a social commentary about the cruelty of man and his tendency to defile and pillage whatever he lays his eyes on.  Far be it from me to even think of contesting this notion.  However, I really think that when the film was released in theaters, movie audiences were looking for a lighter romp similar to the first film.  When they didn’t get it, the negative word-of-mouth began.  I, for one, wasn’t looking for a movie that closely followed it’s predecessor and was therefore able to enjoy it more.  This doesn’t mean the movie is without it’s plot holes or devoid of a few silly and improbable scenes.

Once again, nitpickers will want to leave a portion of their brain at the door.  There are also instances where style wins over substance.  In fact, probably the biggest offender of this is the movie’s climax.  This has to be one of the most cliched climaxes I’ve seen in a very long time.  I like to call it “The T-Rex goes to town” sequence.  I kept waiting for it to climb a skyscraper or take on some military aircraft, a la King Kong.  Oh wait, they did that with Godzilla.  Silly me.  I’m still waiting for someone to tell me how the T-Rex is able to sneak up on people without making a sound.  It’s now happened in both films toward the end with no explanation given whatsoever.

Bottomline:

The Lost World is a pretty decent movie with a few flaws.  The odd thing is, the more I see it, the more it grows on me.  And I know it shouldn’t because it’s derivative of the original Jurassic Park and predictable.  I even found the music just as impressive as the first film.  While Jurassic Park‘s underscore was sweeping and majestic, The Lost World‘s is more focused, a bit more intense.  It’s different, yet still very enjoyable with it’s own identity. That last sentence applies to the two movies as well.  I found the acting, however, to be a touch better.  Despite the fact that most of the characters are still pretty generic, they seem a bit more fleshed out and less one-dimensional than the ones from the first film.

Note:   I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

About Neal Ulen

Neal Ulen

Editor/Webmaster – Neal is a writer and recovering engineer who likes pizza, the insidious power of sarcasm (and pizza), and debating science fiction (and pizza). You can also find his writing on Omni, Geeks, and other media platforms.