May 9, 2015

Review: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Kind of like what Ian Fleming went through for James Bond, Michael Crichton was put under a lot of pressure to write a follow-up to the massive success that was Jurassic Park. It was more than a success, more like an instant icon if you will. The thing is, Crichton had never done a sequel for any of his novels before. But then again, you had Steven Spielberg himself asking for a sequel, not to mention Universal Studios having 914 ($) reasons to want another sequel out of Crichton. Talk about pressure right?

The Lost World was finally published in September of 1995, but production of the movie had already begun in the spring. That's how big this was. Ultimately, The Lost World: Jurassic Park didn't gross as much as Jurassic Park did, nor was it received as positively. Spielberg has even commented on not being that satisfied with the finished product either and it's quite possibly his worst film. Matching Jurassic Park was a near impossibility anyway, especially with all the hype The Lost World: Jurassic Park was getting before production had even begun. Matching that kind of hype is difficult to say the least.


At a Glance

Genre: action, adventure, sci-fi
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Gerald R. Molen, Colin Wilson, Kathleen Kennedy, etc.
Written by: David Koepp
Music by: John Williams
Running time: 129 minutes
Production company: Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by: Universal Pictures, United International Pictures, Filmes Lusomundo, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $73,000,000
Box office: $618,638,999 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Schiff, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Thomas F. Duffy, Harvey Jason, Ariana Richards, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Thomas Rosales Jr., Camilla Belle, Cyd Strittmatter, Robin Sachs



Four years after the incident on Isla Nublar, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has lost control of InGen to his nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard). It turns out that InGen has another island of dinosaurs called Isla Sorna which acted as the engineering grounds for the dinosaurs. Running wild after a hurricane destroyed the facilities, Ludlow plans on capturing these dinosaurs and bringing them to LA for a zoo attraction. Hammond would rather the island remain a preserve, so he sends Dr. Ian Malcolm and his team to document the dinosaurs in their natural habitat to sway public opinion.



Right off the bat, one thing that The Lost World: Jurassic Park did very right was making Ian Malcolm the main character. Not that there's anything wrong with Sam Neil's Alan Grant, but he's quite a bit less interesting than the wise-cracking Malcolm. Who doesn't love Jeff Goldblum anyway right? In terms of character development for him, The Lost World is an opportunity for him to reconnect with his daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) after being far too absent because of his work. It's not an incredibly original storyline since it's not all that different from Jurassic Park, but it is what it is.

Kelly seems to be a bit of a lightning rod for criticism, but I personally think she more or less avoids being unbearably annoying as some kid characters are able to be. (Spoilers) Her climactic scene of using her gymnastic talents is definitely a sore point though, but that's on David Koepp and not Vanessa Lee Chester. (End Spoilers) I actually think she stands out quite well in comparison to a lot of the other characters who are disappointingly unmemorable.

Besides hunting expert Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), I had pretty much forgotten all the other characters since my last watch of The Lost World. Julianne Moore? Vince Vaughn? Richard Schiff? "Oh yeah!" I said to myself when their names popped up in the credits. I had forgotten that they were there at all which goes to show how much of an impact they had had on me. Not much. Sure they might all have some witty dialogue to bandy about from time to time, but they all play characters that are easily forgettable.

That's probably one of The Lost World's biggest problems. The dinosaurs can be quite memorable when given the chance, but the human characters are mostly one dimensional. They run and scream when being chased down by Tyrannosaurus Rex or Velociraptors. The dinosaurs don't just kill them, they outshine them as well. That's great from a special effects point of view, but not from a story point of view. 

Unfortunately, the first time you see dinosaurs in The Lost World, it's just not as magical. Obviously that first scene in Jurassic Park owes a lot to John Williams and his score, but it's like he purposefully held back this time which is a shame. The score just isn't as good this time and that pretty much reflects on the movie as a whole. There's more chaos, more explosions and more fodder for the dinosaurs than ever before, but somehow it's not nearly enough. Spielberg goes for a bigger is better approach here, but it's a strategy that rarely works. The Lost World is a good example of that.

Some scenes with the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Velociraptors are tense and definitely memorable, but you can't help but feel detached from the majority of the action as characters are flat for the most part and the action set pieces feel so much like action set pieces. (Spoilers) There's also the extremely frustrating plot hole of the ship transporting the Tyrannosaurus Rex being crew-less on account of them all being somehow killed by the T-Rex despite it still being inside the cargo hold. (End Spoilers) The Lost World: Jurassic Park has its moments, but this is a mostly tepid affair that is nowhere near as rousing as its predecessor.



Related Reviews:

Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park III (2001)

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