The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: David Koepp (based on the novel by Michael Crichton)
Stars: Jeff Goldblum (Dr. Ian Malcolm), Julianne Moore (Dr. Sarah Harding), Pete Postlethwaite (Roland Tembo), Arliss Howard (Peter Ludlow), Vince Vaughn (Nick Van Owen), Peter Stormare (Dieter Stark), Vanessa Lee Chester (Kelly Curtis), Richard Attenborough (John Hammond)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 1997
Country: USA
How do you go about topping the highest-grossing film of all time? I'm sure that was a question heavy on the minds of all those associated with "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," the $75 million sequel to 1993's mega-smash dino epic. This perplexing question was probably nagging strongest in the mind of Steven Spielberg, back in the director's chair for the first time since he won the Best Director's Oscar for "Schindler's List" four years ago.

How did he fare? By all accounts, I have to say that "The Lost World" is a tremendously enjoyable action adventure. Taken by itself, it's a finely crafted piece of excitement that once again proves that Spielberg is in a class by himself when it comes to piecing together action and suspense.

Unfortunately, the movie suffers from an overhanging cloud of deja-vu that is always poking at you. No matter how intense the action, it most of feels like a variation on what we've already seen in "Jurassic Park."

Screenwriter David Koepp ("Jurassic Park," "Mission: Impossible"), who took little more than the title and one or two scenes from Michael Crichton's best-selling novel, does his best to make "The Lost World" its own movie. How do you top a terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex menacing people trapped inside cars? How about two T-Rexes menacing people trapped inside cars that are dangling precariously from the edge of a muddy cliff? Tired of seeing the dinosaurs lumbering through forest and swamps? How about letting one run loose in the middle of San Diego?

The story picks up right where the first left off. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the chaos theory mathematician, is pressed back into service by billionaire entrepreneur John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). Apparently, there is another island of dinosaurs in addition to the one featured in "Jurassic Park," and he wants to study the animals. This island, referred to as Site B, is where the dinosaurs were actually made (which begs the question, why wasn't it called Site A if that's where the dinosaurs originated?).

Goldblum doesn't want to go back, but once he discovers that his gung-ho paleontologist girlfriend, Sarah Hammond (Julianne Moore), is already on the island studying the animals, he can't resist. So, with another group of scientists (including a photographer played by Vince Vaughn and Malcolm's stow-away daughter played by Vanessa Lee Chester), he sets off for Site B thinking he's going to rescue Sarah.

Instead finds himself in a fight with not only the dinosaurs, but also with the evil corporation In-Gen, now run by Hammond's scheming nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard). Ludlow, accompanied by a group corporate baddies and hunters led by Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite with a shaved head and menacing scowl), wants to capture the dinosaurs and take them back to the mainland for a new amusement park.

Although much of "The Lost World" is a simple rehashing of "Jurassic Park," it manages to throw in enough new surprises to keep it interesting. One of the new ideas is that the dinosaurs, especially the T-Rex's, are family -oriented creatures. Crichton pressed this point repeatedly in his novel (as he pressed the idea that dinosaurs were more like birds than lizards in the first book), and Koepp adapts the idea just enough to give the T-Rex's motivation to come after the humans because they have one of their babies.

Once again, the actors take backseat to Industrial Light & Magic's digital effects and Stan Winston's animatronic creatures, but that's to be expected. Goldblum, who has turned into the unlikeliest of super movie heroes (after "Jurassic Park" and "Independence Day"), infects Malcolm with the same dry, intellectual wit he did in the first movie The screenplay is littered with great, witty lines from the always caustic Malcolm. When Hammond tells him he's not going to make the same mistakes twice, Malcolm quickly informs him, "No, you're making all new ones." It's his ability to point out the obvious that all the other characters overlook that makes him so endearing.

The oddest thing about "The Lost World" is how purposely uneven it is. The first two-thirds of the movie are much darker than its predecessor. The human body count is much higher, as is the intensity of which their demise is depicted. Needless to say, this is not a film for young children because it fully earns its PG-13 rating.

But, the last third of the film almost turns into a parody of itself, with a T-Rex wrecking havoc in San Diego. Spielberg lightens the tone, and throws in obvious "Godzilla" jokes, including a group of Japanese businessmen running in the streets. Spielberg walks a thin line here and almost looses control of the movie, but in the end he shows just enough restraint to save it.

©1997 James Kendrick

Overall Rating: (3)

James Kendrick

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