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"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997): A Retrospective Review

Cameron's an avid comic book collector, has been watching geeky tv since the early 90s, and for a brief period, ran a comic book shop.

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The Lost World: Book vs Movie

After the enormous success of Jurassic Park ($1 billion at the box office), fans were clamoring for a sequel. Due to the lack of source material, Michael Crichton began work on his first and only sequel novel, The Lost World. For the novel, Crichton opted to have Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) return as the lead, and stole a page out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book of tricks in bringing back a character presumed dead. Perhaps not coincidentally, Crichton used the same title for his novel Doyle used for his 1912 novel, The Lost World.

Aside from Dr. Malcolm returning to a dinosaur-inhabited island, a few characters, and the same name, Steven Speilberg's film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, has very little in common with Crichton's novel. Once the characters arrive on Isla Sorna, the storylines go in two separate directions. The outcomes of nearly every character are drastically different, as well. For a fun compare and contrast between book and movie, watch the video below: "The Lost World: Jurassic Park - What's the Difference?"

Synopsis of The Lost World: Jurassic Park

With the understanding that dinosaurs are a reality, the film opens with a young girl being attacked by a pack of small dinosaurs (Compsognathus) while on a vacation to Isla Sorna. Then, in perhaps the most hilarious transition ever, the camera shifts from a screaming mother on a tropical island to Dr. Malcolm yawning in front of a mural of a tropical paradise.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the billionaire who built the original Jurassic Park, calls Dr. Malcolm in to help him with the preservation of Isla Sorna and the dinosaurs living there. Ian is understandably hesitant to make the trip until Hammond reveals that Ian's girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), is already on the island. Sarah is the daughter of Dr. Harding, the chief veterinarian from Jurassic Park who we saw tending the sick Triceratops.

Along with Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) and Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), Ian makes his way to Isla Sorna, intent on rescuing Sarah from certain death. While finding Sarah proves to be easier than anticipated, the revelation that Ian's daughter, Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), stowed away on Eddie's trailers throws a wrench in the rescue mission.

InGen's new CEO, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) flies in with a team of mercenaries to move the dinosaurs to San Diego and the new Jurassic Park. Ludlow's group is being led by big game hunter Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), whose one caveat to being Ludlow's guide is being given the right to hunt a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

After witnessing the cruelty of InGen's methods of capture, Van Owen reveals that Hammond hired him not only for his experience with photography, but also because of his experience with Greenpeace. Van Owen then releases the caged dinosaurs into the InGen camp, allowing them to wreak havoc, rescuing a baby tyrannosaurus to draw in the Tyrannosaurus parent. Sarah and Nick apply a makeshift split to the baby rex's broken leg just in time for the mom and dad T-Rexes to arrive and trash their camp, as well. In an unfortunate turn of events, Carr is torn in half by the two parents, the camper that had been their shelter is knocked over a cliff, and their jungle terrain vehicle is destroyed.

After Roland's group rescues Ian's group at the cliffside, the two groups make their way to an old communications center left behind by InGen. With the two Tyrannosauruses looming behind them, the groups trek through the grasslands of Isla Sorna, where they're confronted by a new threat: Velociraptors. Ian's group is separated from Roland's group, and Roland's group is quickly torn apart by the Raptors, leaving only a handful of survivors to rescue.

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As Ian's group leaves the island, they see Roland and Ludlow with a caged Tyrannosaurus loading onto a ship. Upon arrival in San Diego, Ian and Sarah witness the cargo ship containing the Tyrannosaurus running aground, which allows the Rex to take to the city. After giving Ludlow a shakedown, Ian and Sarah take the baby Rex and "follow the screams" through San Diego to find its parent. As daddy Rex runs rampant through the streets, destroying buses, eating dogs, and causing major traffic jams, Ian and Sarah try to coax him back to the cargo ship to return all Rexes back to Isla Sorna.

Ludlow, determined to save face, follows the baby Rex into the cargo hold, not realizing that daddy Rex was following behind him. Ludlow actually gets eaten by the baby Rex as Sarah pricks the larger Rex with a tranquilizer dart, and the cargo hold closes up, keeping the dinosaurs sheltered until their arrival back on Isla Sorna. The film wraps with Ian and Sarah dozing off on the couch as Kelly watches the news report of the return to Isla Sorna and Mr. Hammond doubling down on his conservationism.

What's There to Love?

While this movie cannot possibly hold up to the high standards that Jurassic Park left in its wake, The Lost World: Jurassic Park does a phenomenal job of world-building. We now understand that there are not just one, but TWO islands with dinosaurs inhabiting them, and that InGen is fully equipped and capable of cloning male dinosaurs as well as females. Seeing Dr. Ian Malcolm return to the screen was a joy, and his interactions and sarcastic commentary on the events bring a certain understanding that didn't quite exist in the first film.

The new cast of characters that joined Jeff Goldblum on-screen was spot on. The on-screen chemistry among the characters didn't feel forced, despite having two factions that end up together for their own survival.

In addition to the new characters, viewers are also treated to several returning dinosaur species (Triceratops, Gallimumus, Velociraptor, and the Tyrannosaurus) as well as five new species being introduced on Site B (Compsognathus, Mamenchisaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Pteranodon, and Stegosaurus). Despite being a sequel, Lost World ends up being a film that expands on the Jurassic franchise, while also keeping the narrative relatively down to Earth.

What Could Have Been Better?

There is no doubt that Jurassic Park set the new standard for how dinosaur movies should feel going forward, but unfortunately, The Lost World: Jurassic Park was not able to keep the standard up. While the story was thrilling, and for the most part, the special effects still manage to hold up, one factor that falls short, in my opinion, is the Velociraptors in this film. While they do have that iconic fear-inducing stalking scene when they hunt down all of InGen's Hunters, when we finally get the up-close shots of the practical effect Raptors, they leave something to be desired. There is something off-putting about the Raptors' unmoving eyes that just take away from the realism that the series typically has.

The other major aspect that feels less than authentic is the sound mixing for the death screams. During the aforementioned long grass scene, there are multiple kills shown on screen, but the screams of the victims sound far more comical than the scene should be giving the viewers. Unfortunately, because of these comical screams, it ultimately took me out of the moment.

Final Thoughts?

Look, there is absolutely no topping the original Jurassic Park, but this movie did a phenomenal attempt at it. The stakes were higher, with far more people involved in the mission to Isla Sorna than were involved in the Jurassic Park incident. While there were some weak points, which I covered above, this genuinely felt like a natural follow-up to Jurassic Park.

All things considered, I give this movie an 8/10, it's not perfect, but there is enough to enjoy within the movie that it still holds up after these years.

Thanks for reading! If you think there's anything I should review next, leave a comment below! Until next time, stay frosty!

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