Should I Watch..? 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park'
What's the big deal?
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is an action adventure film released in 1997 and is loosely based on Michael Crichton's 1995 follow-up to his Jurassic Park novel, The Lost World. Naturally, the film is a sequel to Steven Spielberg's hugely successful Jurassic Park and sees eccentric chaos-theory specialist Ian Malcolm join a team of experts who return to a second island off Costa Rica where the cloned dinosaurs have roamed free since the events of the first film. The movie stars Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard and Vince Vaughn and was once again directed by Spielberg. The film is noticeably darker in appearance and tone to the first film and critics gave it a mixed reception when it was first released. Nevertheless, the film still went on to make more than $618 million worldwide and was among the biggest film released that year. It would eventually be followed by Jurassic Park III in 2001 before being rebooted with Jurassic World in 2015.
What's it about?
On the island of Isla Sorna just off the coast of Costa Rica, a young girl is attacked by a small group of Compsognathus dinosaurs. Her parents intend to sue InGen, the company that first cloned dinosaurs and who were planning on using the dinosaurs on Isla Sorna to help recover the financial losses incurred after the disaster on Isla Nublar, the site of the original Jurassic Park resort. To help facilitate this, mathematician and survivor of Jurassic Park Ian Malcolm is coerced into travelling to Isla Sorna to document the animals there after he learns that his girlfriend Dr Sarah Harding is already out there.
Arriving on the island and meeting up with his team-mates Eddie Carr and Nick Van Owen, Ian is distraught to find that his teenage daughter Kelly has stowed away and travelled with him to the island. Intending to leave as soon as possible, Malcolm discovers a second InGen team also on the island with orders to capture and transfer the creatures to a theme park in San Diego. Fearing a similar tragedy to before, Malcolm and his crew try to prevent disaster striking again but they are out-manned and out-gunned...
Dr Ian Malcolm
Dr Sarah Harding
Nick Van Owen
Vannesa Lee Chester
Release Date (UK)
18th July, 1997
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Academy Award Nominations
Best Visual Effects
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake Or Sequel, Worst Reckless Disregard For Human Life And Public Property
What's to like?
Anyone who thought the original Jurassic Park was a bit too talkative will be delighted to discover that The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a more action-orientated affair with lots of chase sequences, jungle exploration and plenty of holding your breath. Once the set-up has been established, the movie is a fairly relentless roller-coaster ride through some familiar elements but enlivened by some frighteningly realistic dinosaurs. Combined with the evil rival team shooting at anything that moves, this is one of those films that dispenses with bothersome narrative and instead just wants to scare and entertain the pants of you.
Goldblum, the eccentric chaos theory specialist somehow roped into a second trip onto a dinosaur-infested island, feels different enough from most action movie heroes to stand out although Ian Malcolm is no John McClane. This is purely a race to see who can survive and return for yet another sequel and as our characters sprint through overgrown fields surrounded by velociraptors or flee through thick mud to escape an angry Tyrannosaurus, you get the nagging feeling that this was what Spielberg wanted to make in the first place - a knuckle-whitening thrill ride featuring more beasts, more perilous action and less of Crichton's original concept.
- The Japanese tourists in San Diego running for their lives are shouting (in Japanese) "I left Japan to get away from this!", an obvious nod to the Godzilla series of movies.
- The film largely dispenses with the source material, Michael Crichton's sequel novel of the same name. Instead, Spielberg asked screenwriter Koepp to watch the 1925 silent movie The Lost World for inspiration as well as Crichton's novel. Koepp has a cameo as a man eaten in San Diego.
- Watch carefully when the bus crashes into a video store - not only will you spot a poster for a fictional Tom Hanks film called "Tsunami Sunrise" but you'll also see Arnold Schwarzenegger appearing in "King Lear"!
What's not to like?
Much like the first film, this film lives and dies on the strength of its dinosaur stars and while the animatronic creatures are still as believable as ever, the CG lets the side down somehow by looking blurry and indistinct by comparison. But even so, they are far more animated that most of the human cast who don't really come across as interesting or memorable. Goldblum's eccentricities grate after a while and Moore over-acts even more than Laura Dern did in the first film. The only character I enjoyed was Postlethwaite's big-game hunter but he felt as one-dimensional as the others despite Postlethwaite's performance.
The biggest problem is the film's narrative which feels cobbled together out of recycled or abandoned ideas from the first film. Yes, it has the sense to put dinosaurs in an urban area which creates some of the best moments in the film. But again, this feels like director wish-fulfilment - I'm no palaeontologist but I suspect that the tyrannosaurus rex, estimated to have weighed between 8.5 and 14 tonnes, would not have been able to sneak up on an unsuspecting human snack. And despite all the effort made to entertain audiences, the film lacks one crucial factor - it isn't significantly different enough from the first Jurassic Park to feel worthy of your time. There's no sense of awe or wonder here that you felt the first time, as if dinosaurs returning to life after millions of years is an everyday occurrence to these characters.
Should I watch it?
If the first film has somehow passed you by, The Lost World: Jurassic Park will do everything you expect it to - scare, amuse, thrill and excite. But the film's lack of imagination, decent characters and originality means that for most people, this is a pale imitation of the first film. It feels as though Spielberg was going through the motions (something he subsequently admitted afterwards), delivering a film big on promise but short on performance.
Great For: dinosaur-obsessed kids, Crichton's bank balance
Not So Great For: anyone who saw the first film, viewers with poor eyesight (the bulk of the film seems to be set at night), the squeamish
What else should I watch?
The original Jurassic Park, now regarded as breaking new ground by blending CG with animatronic puppets, was the most financially successful in history until Titanic claimed the record a few years later. For most, it will always be the best in the series - the mixed reception that greeted Jurassic Park III mean that the series needed a reboot, which duly arrived in 2015 with Jurassic World. Although the reception in 2015 was a bit more positive, hopes remain high for the forthcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as plans are afoot for another film after that.
Dinosaurs have had a long and fairly chequered history in cinema from the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen's dinosaurs in One Million Years BC to the more kiddie-friendly creatures in The Land Before Time and its never-ending parade of sequels. These days, they are more likely to be found in B-movie nonsense like 100 Million BC or pitched into battle against each other or more recognisable cinematic monsters like King Kong in Kong: Skull Island. My advice is to stick with Spielberg's vision and you'll never need another dinosaur-pic again.
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© 2018 Benjamin Cox