Action/Adventure / Films

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park was a phenomenal success on its release and made a considerable chunk of money for Universal; audiences loved it, critics were impressed, and so a sequel was inevitable. Spielberg, itching for more material but aware the project wasn’t his baby, pushed author Michael Crichton for a follow-up, and The Lost World novel was hastily put together, giving Spielberg a much needed foundation for his second movie. Unfortunately, that second movie – The Lost World: Jurassic Park – was a mess, and now serves as an interesting example of franchise failure. Interesting in that most sequels fail to live up to their predecessor’s legacy, yet most sequels don’t have the same advantages that The Lost World had. Most sequels, for instance, don’t come with new material from the same literacy source; most don’t have the same director, and most are formed largely through studio insistence. It’s strange then, that a movie which had so much going for it – same author, same world-class director, same team – managed to fall so flat. The Lost World: Jurassic Park remains a great example of what happens to a movie when its director loses passion for the project.lost7The film picks up a few years after the original, in which Ian Malcolm, (Jeff Goldblum, one of the few returning cast members from the first movie), meets up with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and learns of a second island. Isla Sorna, or Site B, was the factory floor for Jurassic Park, where the animals were put together before being shipped off to the more commercial theme-park on Isla Nublar. After the fall of the first island, the second has been left relatively untouched, with the dinosaurs breeding and performing as they would naturally. Hammond has sent in a team, including Malcolm’s girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) to investigate the dinosaurs, and fearing a repeat of the past, Malcolm rides in to save them. Unfortunately, the trip coincides with a raid by Hammond’s former company InGen, which seeks to take the dinosaurs back to America to start a new Jurassic Park, this time based in San Diego. A few hiccups along the way strand the two teams, who must then join forces to escape the prehistoric island.the lost worldThe first problem with The Lost World is its plot. Clearly, Crichton wasn’t creatively invested in a sequel and the lack of enthusiasm shows in his novel – The Lost World is a fairly dull, weak book with little of the first story’s inventiveness. It did, however, provide a jumping off point in producing a second island – one overrun with dinosaurs, which Spielberg steals at the expense of the rest of the source material. A lot of the movie’s key scenes – the opening attack on the girl, the T-rex and the waterfall – actually come from the original novel, and besides the concept of Site B, very little of Crichton’s follow-up is used. Early in the film however, it becomes clear that The Lost World’s plot lacks the tension and drive of Jurassic Park‘s, and plot-holes form quickly. If InGen have spent so long covering up the first incident, why are they so ready to open a second park? How did the dinosaurs not die out, as was promised on genetic grounds in movie one? To be fair, the film does answer this question, but in a weak, throwaway manner which feels lazy.ian malcolmThe film lacks tension throughout and suffers from characters making stupid decisions; the first movie, for all its slower, talky moments, was much more balanced, spacing out the dinosaur attacks amongst debates on playing God and attempts to get the power back on. Plot-wise, there was much more going on in the first movie and it felt meatier. The Lost World, more so than ever, feels like a string of hectic set-pieces hung together by the flimsiest chase plot; the characters are trying to get from point A to point B (physically, they’re basically crossing the island) and various dinosaur attacks punctuate their journey. It doesn’t help that most of the characters feel like, and are treated as, disposable dinosaur fodder, which means it’s hard to get invested with anyone. The characters that we’re supposed to like, Julianne Moore’s Sarah for example, are idiots, and make terrible decisions which counter their supposed expert heritage. There’s also the problem that our heroes actually unleash the dinosaurs and so are responsible for all the chaos and death which follows. There’s a sloppiness to The Lost World, which wouldn’t be surprising if the film had been a studio cash in, but Spielberg directed the movie, and Spielberg is usually a seal of quality.the lost world trex teethPart of the problem is that the sense of awe and spectacle from the first film simply can’t be recreated. The special effects which blew audiences away in Jurassic Park are a bit standard here – yes, the dinosaurs look amazing, but we’ve seen them before. There’s new dinosaurs yes, lots of them, but throwing more monsters onto the screen can’t replicate the wonder at seeing said monsters for the very first time. The film tries to copy moments which worked in the original whilst adding more dinosaurs to up the stakes, without realising that quantity is no excuse for quality. The best, or worst example of this, is the first T-rex attack. Again, this takes place in the rain, with the T-Rex’s (plural, there’s two) attacking a vehicle and pushing it over a ledge. This scene feels desperate to be the same as the scene in the first movie, but bigger, and on the whole, it feels flat as an action scene, lacking the imagination of Jurassic Park’s first attack. There’s nothing new here and it feels tired. The best and most suspenseful part of the scene – of the whole movie in fact – involves Julianne Moore and a slowly cracking windscreen – and when a sheet of glass is more exciting than your dinosaurs, it’s time to reassess. The ending in particular, in which the T-Rex takes San Diego, is a self-indulgent, silly King Kongthrowback which pushes the movie’s credibility to its limit and sends the film spiralling into overkill. Not only that and plot-holes aside (how does the T-Rex kill everyone on the boat and lock itself back into the hold?), the city-setting just doesn’t work; dinosaurs don’t function as a threat when there’s military missiles and soldiers with guns. It’s not all bad however – Spielberg is a fantastic filmmaker and even the dull action scenes are directed competently, just without any passion, and the film does pick up with the velociraptors. The shots of them snaking through the long-grass are imaginative, signs of Spielberg back on form, and the attack at the film’s first climax is tense and exciting. It’s a shame that the velociraptors don’t get more screentime as Spielberg knows how to shoot them. The only new element of the film – the pteranodons – are a brief tease at the end.lost6The problem with The Lost World stems with Spielberg. Spielberg is an incredible filmmaker and rarely makes bad movies – The Lost World being one of these rare events. It was clear by this point of his career, Spielberg had lost interest in big monster movies – this sense of malaise had its roots in the first Jurassic Park, but Schindler’s List had come out since, and Spielberg’s focus had changed onto more mature, character or thematically focused pieces. Despite his insistance that Crichton pen a sequel, he clearly wasn’t invested in the material when the time came, and put together a half-hearted movie. The issue with The Lost World is that, on the surface, plot and character aside, it should work – but it’s shot with such lifeless, craftman-like energy; this is a director ticking the boxes. Spielberg has spoken since of not enjoying the production – claiming, and paraphrasing, that it was a big roaring movie and he missed shooting scenes where characters actually spoke to each other. The problem here is that is Spielberg didn’t have passion for the project, then he shouldn’t have made the movie.flying dinosaurThe second major issue with the film, other than the lack of passion behind it, also stems from Spielberg, and his politics. Spielberg used to be a fairly brutal filmmaker – he wasn’t afraid to feed a kid to the shark in Jaws, and he didn’t shy away from blood and horror in Raiders of the Lost Ark. After E.T however, he began to mellow and become more sentimental, and more overly left in his views – hence the debacle of replacing guns in ET with walkie talkies on its re-release. Whilst Jurassic Park was thematically about playing God and chaos, The Lost World is an overly sentimental environmental tale. It’s a morality piece at the expense of characters and plot, which portrays the dinosaurs as animals which need to be protected. This isn’t necessarily a bad approach, and there have been great movies with strong environmental messages – Princess Mononoke for example, but Mononoke was a smart, well-balanced movie, whilst The Lost World is not. For example, John Hammond, eager capitalist in the first movie who admits his failings, is here all about loving the dinosaurs, letting them roam free. It’s not an approach which gels with his previously established character and feels like Spielberg’s politics forcing themselves into the plot. Then there’s the fact that our heroes are responsible for most of the movie’s deaths, yet when Vince Vaughn’s character lets the dinosaurs out, we’re meant to see it as a positive act. And the issue that the villains essentially just want to build a zoo and don’t actually do anything wrong, yet we’re expected to hate them and want them dead? The politics and sentiment in this movie are all wrong, contradicting the rather straight-lined approach of the first film and leading to all sorts of character complications. We don’t side with who Spielberg wants us too and everything is crudely painted in black and white – his argument doesn’t hold up because it doesn’t make sense, and Spielberg never makes a case for it, or gives us an opposing view. It’s a clumsy and sloppy approach. Again, if Spielberg, in his new found political leanings, wasn’t comfortable making a monster movie then he shouldn’t have made it, instead of crudely forcing his ideals into the material.lost8The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a poor movie, lacking in passion, with ill-guided out of place politics and frankly dull action scenes. It’s an interesting failure of a sequel in that it should have been amazing, providing a fascinating insight into what happens when a director loses their drive. Spielberg of course, went on to make several amazing movies after this one, The Lost World nothing more than a slight blip on his filmography, and at the time, the film was successful enough to warrant a third movie – one which attempted to do away with issues like plot and character and simply have dinosaurs chase people. The fourth movie too is set for release in a year or so – based on the interesting concept of an already full-functioning Jurassic Park going haywire – and perhaps that one will take the series back to its roots. It’s unlikely however. Jurassic Park remains the gold standard for the franchise, The Lost World is little more than an interesting failure.

2/5

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3 thoughts on “The Lost World: Jurassic Park

  1. Pingback: Jurassic Park | Some Films and Stuff

  2. For all the faults TLW has, JP has just as many. This review seems totally misguided and feels like you watched the Nostalgic Critics comedic review of the film and took every word he said seriously.

    “Spielberg, itching for more material but aware the project wasn’t his baby, pushed author Michael Crichton for a follow-up, and The Lost World novel was hastily put together,”

    Where did you get any of that information from? Crichton wrote the follow up because he wanted to. (see his interview with Charlie Rose https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QXota4sh7Q)

    Also TLW doesn’t follow the novel closely but nor does its predecessor. Your jump off point for this review is that you seem to believe Spielberg had no passion for this project when clearly the facts state otherwise. (see making of TLW)

    TLW is underrated and unappreciated for the fantastic sequel it is. The only reason it’s stated as otherwise is because it’s not the original and doesn’t repeat what was seen before. Personally I love its departure (as you may have guessed) and truly believe that it’ll gather more and more praise as the years go on.

  3. Pingback: Jurassic World – Review | Some Films and Stuff

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