Article By: Dan Clark
After the stunning success of Jurassic Park a sequel was bound to follow. The question was, could it live up to the hyperbolic expectations of fans. Also would Steven Spielberg be artistically fatigued after filming both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List only a few years earlier. Spielberg first attempted a sequel with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and that film failed to fully satisfy most fans’ demands. Unfortunately, the trend of disappointment continues as The Lost World: Jurassic Park is unable to capture the magic of Jurassic Park. While the computer graphics have been enhanced greatly, the spiritual core has been removed and replaced with bland storytelling. There are flashes of brilliance that harken back to the franchise’s former glory, but those moments are far less frequent than you would expect. Nearly every bright spot is ruined by an inability to hold a cohesive narrative. The Lost World is one story that would have been better off forgotten.
The film takes place four years after the events of Jurassic Park. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has become an outcast of his own InGen Company, and they have done their best to keep the tragedy of the park under wraps. Hammond once again calls upon Ian Malcolm(Jeff Goldblum) to help save the island codenamed ‘Site B’. We learn the dinosaurs were actually bred on a separate island then brought to Jurassic Park. With the absence of human involvement the dinosaurs have thrived on the island. This basic concept of the film starts off on shaky ground. The idea that there is ‘another island’ feels largely like a coincidence plot device. It is almost as if they fabricated the idea as an excuse to manufacture more dinosaur merchandise. Otherwise it would be too difficult to explain why new dinosaurs suddenly pop up. Here the prehistoric world is their oyster as they can grab any dinosaur they wish and jam them into the movie. Perhaps that is too much of a cynical take on the idea, but considering what follows it’s not hard to feel that way.
Hammond hopes to construct a team to observe the dinosaurs to prove they should be left alone, however his company, now run by his own nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), plans on liquidating ‘Site B’ to recoup from the losses of Jurassic Park. Malcolm has no interest in helping Hammond with his plight, but when he learns Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), his paleontologist former girlfriend, is already on the island he changes his tune in hopes of rescuing her. He joins Hammond’s team that includes Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) an equipment expert and Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughan) a video photographer. Malcolm hopes with this team they can find Sara before the dinosaurs do.
Jeff Goldblum nearly stole every scene he was in as Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, so it is understandable that he is placed onto the forefront here. The issue is he doesn’t feel at all like the same character. He loses much of the eccentric charm he had in the last film. Considering the trauma he is facing it is logical that he is not as flamboyant. However, most of the issues occur because they try to make him more relatable by shoe horning in these personal relationships. Elements, like adding his daughter to the story, were halfhearted attempts to humanize the character.
When Malcolm and his team arrive on the island they soon discover they are not alone. Peter Ludlow has brought his own team to the island to wrangle and capture dinosaurs in order to sell them to the highest bidder. Leading this team is Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite) an avid hunter, who is hoping to capture his biggest prize yet. Tembo was one pleasant addition to the franchise. The idea of a big game hunter looking to take down a massive dinosaur is not teeming with creativity, but Postlethwaite’s gravitas as an actor sells the character. The actual capturing of the dinosaurs was one well handed set piece. There was an emotional resonance seeing how destructive the human hand can be. Overall The Lost World has a number of standout action sequences. Clearly the best is the T-Rex attack on the research trailer. Spielberg used simple tools like glass to evoke some pure edge of your seat thrills. Sequences like the raptors attack in the talk grass helped amp up the ‘dino action’ to new levels. Overall Lost World nearly doubles the amount of time dinosaurs are on screen. That massive increase is a big reason why the plot becomes a jumbled mess.
As the story progresses logic is seemingly left at the door. The struggle between these two opposing forces turns to an alliance when they realize they must rely on each other to get off the island. It is jolting story elements like this that make it evident the story is always playing catch-up to the action. In Jurassic Park the action always had a purpose, which caused it to organically flow within the story. Here much of the action is dependent upon characters making stupid decisions. Julian Moore’s character is said to be an animal expert, but doesn’t see the potential problem of jacket soaked in baby T-Rex blood. How the blood got on there was even more questionable. The action that it leads to is currently memorable; nevertheless the cost of getting there doesn’t make it worth it. Not that the action is flawless either. Using gymnastics to fight against a raptor attack may go down as one of the worst moments ever in a Spielberg film. Once the film divulges into a T-Rex gallivanting around San Diego it’s hard not to check out. While it leads to some enticing imagery, the end result leaves a lot to be desired.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a misbegotten adventure that does little to legitimize its existence. Just like the dinosaurs of Site B the Jurassic Park storyline would be far better off if it was out of the reach of human interference. Instead it gets manipulated into a rambling exercise of mediocrity. Nearly every positive aspect is ruined by a failure to create an atmosphere of intrigue. In its place is a sequel that is a shadow of its former self.