The Lost World Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

The sequel to "Jurassic Park" is all that and a bag of chips.

Based on probably only a few pages of Michael Crichton's novel, this latest Spielberg incarnation begins weakly with some contrived plot points, including the revelation of the existence of ANOTHER island inhabited by dinosaurs (you see, the original Jurassic Park was only the showroom floor) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) having a mulatto daughter (!). But once our intrepid protagonists hit the island, the awkward plotting gives way to what people truly want to see in this sequel: BIG FREAKIN' DINOSAURS and lots of 'em.

Oh no, I won't make the same mistakes again.
You're right... you're make whole new ones.

Things have not gone well for Ian Malcolm in the four years since his first and only trip to Jurassic Park. He went public about the horrific occurrences at the island, only to be publicly ridiculed when everyone at InGen (the company that created the dinosaurs) disavowed any knowledge of such an incident. Now, he has been summoned by an ailing Professor Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who has recently lost control of InGen to his nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), an oily corporate MBA-type who only cares about having things in the 'black'. Hammond wants Malcolm to be part of an expedition to Site B, which will record the natural habitat of the dinosaurs which Hammond can use to appeal to the world to keep Site B isolated as a preserve. Malcolm flatly rejects this plan-- until he learns that his girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore, last seen in Todd Haynes' "Safe"), has already gone to the island. Determined to get Sarah out of harms' way, Malcolm sets out with a wildlife photographer, Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), tech guy Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff), and his daughter, Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), who has stowed away (and nobody noticed on the long boat ride over?!).

They land on the island, and immediately you are awed by the CGI dinosaurs in their natural environment. Unfortunately, this nature study is quickly spoiled by the arrival of Peter Ludlow's well-equipped team. In direct contrast to the first team, which has a deep sense of respect for the dinosaurs (and life in general), the second team is characterized by greed-driven arrogance, who brashly drive in their off-road vehicles into herds of dinosaurs with reckless abandon. Like the marine squad sent to LV-426 in James Cameron's "Aliens", they are armed to the teeth and place too much confidence in their technology. This second team has more than observation on their agenda-- they are here to capture dinosaurs and bring them to a new Jurassic Park in San Diego. Their disrespect of the environment is embodied by the lead guide of the team, Roland Tembo, a big game hunter (Pete Postlewaite, the priest in "Romeo & Juliet"), who is unable to pronounce the scientific names of the creatures he sees and ends up identifying them with monikers such as "the bald one with the spots". He also forgoes any monetary compensation in exchange for the opportunity to hunt a male T-Rex.

They've lived in isolation... they have no reason to fear man.
Now they do.

Whereas the relationship between the two teams begins on an adversarial note with their differing philosophies on what should be done with the dinosaurs, they soon must join forces to survive the unexpected chaos that ensues. It is here where the movie kicks into a high gear, with the teams being chased over rugged terrain by all sorts of ferocious predators: Velociraptors, T. Rexs, and Procompsognathids (oh my). Just when you think they're safe, the David Koepp screenplay throws something else in the mix, notching up the thrill-factor. There are enough memorable nail-biting scenes to make you jump out of your seat in the last-half of the movie. The most inventive sequence involves one of the vehicles dangling over a cliff and Sarah being kept from certain death from the rocks below by a pane of glass-- that is cracking ever so slightly with every movement. And of course, TLW turns into a disaster movie in the last act as a captured T. Rex goes on a rampage in suburban San Diego.

Did you find him?
Just the pieces they didn't want.

The effects are seamless, suspending any disbelief in the CGI creations. The level of interaction between the dinosaurs, their environment, and each other is enthralling. The dinosaurs flip cars over, ram buses, stampede through a base camp, munch down on hapless humans and behave with a primitive rationality.

You raised me, but you don't want to be around me.

Now compare this with the characterizations in the movie. The characters have as much depth as a Spice Girls music video. As for the second team, all you have to know is of their macho bravado and disregard for the precariousness of their situation. When they finally do get munched on, you'll know that they deserved it. Ian Malcolm is probably the only developed character in the whole movie, but that was mostly because of the set-up from the first movie, though he spends most of the movie like a 'George Costanza', constantly complaining and nay-saying. Sarah is merely the girlfriend that needs rescuing and whose curiosity gets the best of her. Thankfully, the 'innocent child' character (a convention in any Spielberg movie), Kelly, is more mature (and a tad precocious) than her two smartass predecessors from the first movie (who make a brief cameo at the beginning of the movie). Though an interesting parallel is drawn between Hammond and his dinosaur-creations-gone-awry and the dysfunctional relationship between Malcolm and Kelly, perhaps a commentary on the responsibility that comes with 'parenthood', this is quickly lost in the shuffle. You see, the stars of this movie are the dinosaurs, and the human characters are merely there to react to them.

If you want, you can have a job at the San Diego facility.
No... I have spent enough time in the company of death.

Overall, TLW is a much darker movie than the first one, with most of the action taking place under the cover of night, a higher body count, and some truly horrific scenes of people being devoured, that would probably be too intense for younger viewers. Though it starts of slow, "The Lost World", as an edge-of-your-seat-thrill-machine, succeeds admirably, and will probably make a ton of money over the summer.

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