The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
The sequel to the masterful Jurassic Park is an insane joke. It was based on the 1995 novel The Lost World by Michael Crichton, a book that director Steven Spielberg pressured the author into. The Lost World: Jurassic Park comes off like a parody of Jurassic Park in just about every way, with none of the magnificence and uncertainty of the first picture.
Spielberg can be a terrific storyteller, but he is also responsible for more than a few clunkers. This 1997 flick is certainly one of his weakest. It features rickety characters, appalling special effects, mystifying action sequences, a boneheaded plot, poorly-framed shots, and a petrifying lack of dinosaurs. Despite the fact that special effects had advanced since the release of the 1993 classic, The Lost World: Jurassic Park makes no advances in the dinosaur department – and in fact regresses.
The film opens four years after the events of Jurassic Park with Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the “chaos theory” guy, seeing his academic career in tatters because he publicized what happened with the dinosaurs. He is called in by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who tells him about an island where dinosaurs had been engineered and nurtured before being moved to the park.
The trouble is that Hammond’s evil nephew (Arliss Howard) now wields control of the old man’s company. Hammond sends Malcolm and a team, including the mathematician’s girlfriend (Julianne Moore), to the island to document the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the nephew is also poking around in hopes of constructing his own Jurassic Park. There are also some hunters looking to bag a T-Rex.
The plot is gratuitously elaborate and stuffed with supplementary characters that come and go arbitrarily. It’s hard to get a read on where Spielberg’s picture is going and David Koepp’s vague, mindless script doesn’t help. There’s no build to the revisiting of the dinosaur world and the magic of seeing these creatures is replaced by a strange set of circumstances and a convoluted mass of chase sequences and dinosaur-lean scenes.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park suggests that it will display dinosaurs in their natural habitats, but we see so little of the dinosaurs that it doesn’t seem to matter where they are. Key sequences involve scant shots of the dinosaurs – until the climax – and much of the tension is generated from a problem the dinosaurs started and sharply abandoned.
One example of this approach is found in the lengthy sequence involving the protagonists and the plunging trailer. Set upon by a pair of Tyrannosaurus Rexes, the crew is put through the paces as the animals try to push their trailer off a cliff. Of course, we see most of the action from the inside – save for a couple shots of the dinosaurs’ heads. What’s more, the dinosaurs seem to erratically vanish and resurface. When at least two dozen people arrive by clunking raucously through the woods with flashlights, the Tyrannosauruses (who see by movement) are nowhere to be found despite having just stood in the same spot seconds earlier.
There are a lot of peculiar missteps in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Some are silly, like Malcolm’s daughter’s (Vanessa Lee Chester) spontaneous gymnastics demonstration or the fact that his girlfriend, a “behavioural paleontologist,” seems to know so little about her subject. Other moments are just dumb, like the suggestion that a T-Rex would be hard to spot in the city or the completely irrational chase involving the raptors and the film’s heroes.
Where Jurassic Park gave us majesty and an interesting plot, The Lost World: Jurassic Park gives us Plan 9-style baloney. This really is a ludicrous picture from start to finish and it’s hard to think of redeeming qualities. Perhaps the bar was set too high with Spielberg’s first foray into the dinosaur world, but this isn’t good by any standards. What was a science fiction story with heart has become a poor monster movie with plenty of unintended giggles. A shame.