Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997)

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn
Written by David Koepp
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 129 Minutes

Four years after the disaster on Isla Nublar, scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) lives in disgrace. Chewed up and spit out by the corporate PR machine after going public with his experiences at Jurassic Park, Malcolm is reluctant to take on another trip for InGen founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). But when he discovers that Hammond has sent Malcolm's girlfriend, paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) to "Site B," another island full of genetically-engineered dinosaurs, he has little choice.

Malcolm gathers the rest of Hammon's small team including wildlife photographer Nick van Owen (Vince Vaughn) and equipment specialist Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) and heads to the island to rescue Sarah. But no sooner have they arrived do they discover that Hammond's nephew, Peter Ludlow, a rival at InGen, has unleashed a full-fledged hunting expedition on the island to capture dinosaurs for a new zoo park in San Diego.

Determined to allow the animals their freedom to develop naturally on their own without human interference, Malcolm and the others try to stop the hunters' plans, only to find that both groups are being hunted by the island's most dangerous and territorial predators: the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

When you make a film as massive and loved as "Jurassic Park," sometimes a sequel is inevitable. Rather loosely based on Michael Crichton's "The Lost World" novel, the film version unfortunately suffers from a lot of the problems that befall most sequels.

While Spielberg still directs like the seasoned pro he is, the script isn't up to snuff. This return to Jurassic Park is a darker tale, both in terms of its photography and script. There's a greater focus on action rather than adventure and suspense, with the T-Rex returning for multiple sequences where the first film used the creature sparingly aside from its centerpiece attack sequence.

Here, a young T-Rex is captured to be used as bait by InGen's big-game hunter, Roland, ably performed by Pete Postlethwaite. The two adults then spend much of the film attempting to retrieve their offspring, chasing the humans across much of the island and finally on a rampage through downtown San Diego.

But while the first film was an adventure film full of majesty, "The Lost World" feels like it just meanders from action sequence to action sequence. The San Diego climax is stuffed full of silliness that saps the energy out of what should be the film's big selling point. Additionally, since so much of the movie takes place on the island, it also feels tacked on.

The other action sequences are generally great. We are talking about a Spielberg film, after all. The first hunting sequence on a game trail is cool, and a scene in which the T-Rex parents attack Malcolm's trailer and push it over a cliff is also a highlight. But a raptor attack late in the film falls prey to the same silliness that bogs down the San Diego finale. The dinosaur effects still work, too, though there's a great deal more computer-generated effects compared to puppets and animatronics here.

Jeff Goldblum returns from the first film as Dr. Ian Malcolm, but he doesn't seem to be putting a ton of effort into his performance. His delivery comes across as a mixture of tired and sarcastic, and maybe that's how it was intended but it doesn't really work all that well. The rest of the cast seem to do their best with what they've got, but that isn't much. Vince Vaughn in particular seems miscast.

"The Lost World" feels slight, and rather hollow. It takes the "more is better" approach to sequels, and falters for it. Very little of what makes the original an enduring adventure today is present in "The Lost World."

See Also
Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park III