The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn, Richard Attenborough
HAMMOND – “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again.”
MALCOLM – “No, no, you’re making all new ones.”
If the original Jurassic Park was a love letter to our childhood obsessions with dinosaurs and our desire to one day see one in real life, The Lost World instead takes its inspiration from King Kong and others of its ilk, showing what happens when large beasts are confronted in their natural habitat and how they react when placed in unfamiliar surroundings. Fear is replaced with sympathy, and by the end of the film Spielberg’s big accomplishment this time isn’t making us believe these fearsome creatures exist, but making us actually want them to overcome our own species in order to survive. That’s right, I can get deep when I want to.
After the incidents of the first film essentially made the Jurassic Park complex in Isla Nublar a bit of a write-off, The Lost World starts with Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) meeting up with John Hammond (Attenborough) for a little chat. Hammond tells Malcolm that Isla Nublar wasn’t really the main site, and that there was actually another island called Isla Sornar where they bred the dinosaurs and raised them in their natural habitat before moving them over to Jurassic Park. Remember that scene at the start of the first Jurassic Park where they were putting the raptor in the crate? That was at the other island, that was.
Hammond tells Malcolm that Ingen, the company he was in charge of, has punted him and put a weaselly lawyer guy in charge instead. Not dissuaded by this, Hammond wants Malcolm to head to the second island as part of a research group to study the dinosaurs. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, the sneaky old prick has also invited Malcolm’s scientist girlfriend to join the team and has already sent her there as a way of convincing him to go. Malcolm perhaps puts it best himself, in the first of many one-liners he gets in this film: “this is no longer a research project, it’s a rescue mission”. Little does Hammond know, however, that Ingen has sent its own workers to the island, in an attempt to bring the dinos back to the US and show them at a new Jurassic Park in San Diego. Because the last one worked out so well.
The Lost World tries its best to outdo the original in every way possible. You liked the bit with the T-Rex? Well now there are two of them! You liked when they were running with the herd? Now there’s a bigger herd and people are trying to catch them! Remember the sick triceratops? There’s a healthy one this time, and it fucks shit up! You liked seeing people interact with the dinosaurs? Well now a whole army turns up at one point to hunt them all down! You wanted a stegosaurus? Job done, and while we’re at it let’s have it wreck loads of shit in the process so it looks more bad-ass.
The problem is, in adding all this extra action there’s less focus on the story, and while most people don’t exactly watch Jurassic Park films for the character development, there’s still something missing this time around in terms of that human element. You still care about Malcolm because he’s familiar to you after the first film, but the other main characters – his annoying daughter, his headstrong girlfriend (Julianne Moore), their photographer (Vince Vaughn), the veteran hunter who wants to bag a T-Rex (Pete Postlethwaite) – are all lacking that certain something and, ultimately, you couldn’t care less whether they survive or end up as part of a T-Rex’s next shite.
Speaking of big Rexy, it’s once again the tyrannosaurs who steal the show despite the obligatory raptor scenes. The scene in which two T-Rexes push the team’s trailer off a cliff is impressive stuff, and when a solitary Rex discovers a large group of Ingen workers camping out chaos ensues.
By far the most memorable (and opinion-dividing) moment however is the film’s last fifteen minutes, in which Ingen manage to get a T-Rex back to the US and it starts running riot through the streets of San Diego. This is clearly Spielberg’s attempt at Godzilla and while it’s fun, it’s a bit of a jarring change of tone that doesn’t really sit well with the rest of the film.
The Lost World was never going to better the sheer novelty and innovation offered by the original Jurassic Park, but as sheer spectacle it’s still up there. It loses a little personality and while it’s still good fun to watch it does start to feel more like a generic monster movie by the end… but hey, you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until I review the third one.