Hang on, this is gonna be bad
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is directed by Steven Spielberg, written by David Koepp, and is loosely based on Michael Crichton's 1995 novel The Lost World. The film stars Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vince Vaughn, Richard Shiff, and Vanessa Lee Chester.
I always expect nothing but the best from Steven Spielberg. How could you not? The man has proven to be one of the most talented film directors in history, spearheading some of the most classic, memorable films to ever be released: Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler's List, and of course, Jurassic Park. What then exactly, do you think you'd feel if Spielberg came out with a movie that was not all that good? Anger? Disappointment? Repugnance? Spielberg has never been notorious for having a long string of bad movies the way M. Night Shyamalan has been; even some of his more maligned films like Temple of Doom and Hook have clusters of people that will give those two movies the seal of approval. Now, when it comes to The Lost World: Jurassic Park, there's no denying it: this second installment in the Jurassic Park franchise is the worst movie that Spielberg has ever directed.
Following the success of Jurassic Park, Spielberg took a rare sabbatical from directing, spending time getting his new DreamWorks studio up and running. Fans of the Jurassic Park novel pressured Michael Crichton into making a sequel, which Crichton refused. Then in March 1994, it appeared that Crichton had given in to fan pressure, announcing he was intending on making a sequel novel that would likely translate into a sequel film. Spielberg was announced as director of the film sequel in November 1995, and thus, The Lost World was off and running.
The fact that Michael Crichton originally had no intention of making a sequel novel was the seed that sprouted into one of the biggest problems with the eventual The Lost World movie: a glaring lack of inspiration. Crichton went about making the novel as nothing more than providing a service to fans, as opposed to thinking up clever and creative ways to expand upon the world of dinosaurs he introduced in the Jurassic Park novel. That lack of inspiration from Crichton I think rubbed off on Spielberg, who, according to some stories, grew more and more disenchanted with the film as production went on. I'm sure Spielberg had it made up in his mind that the sequel wasn't going to be anywhere close to what Jurassic Park was, and like what Crichton did with the Lost World novel, Spielberg did with the Lost World movie: give the people what they want. The only trouble is, the passion and desire are not there like they were with Jurassic Park.
The Lost World takes place four years after the Jurassic Park incident. The dinosaurs from the park now live free within their own ecosystem on Isla Sorna, another island fairly close to Isla Nublar. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a survivor of Jurassic Park, goes and meets with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who explains to Malcolm that Isla Sorna was where the dinosaurs were created, until a hurricane forced InGen to abandon the island and move the dinosaurs into Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. InGen is now run by Hammond's nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), who is sending a team to Isla Sorna in order to capture the dinosaurs and bring them to a new theme park in San Diego. Hammond wishes for Malcolm to join another smaller team, in hopes of documenting the dinosaurs and create public support against human interference on the island. Malcolm refuses, until Hammond tells him that his girlfriend, paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), has already made it to the island. Malcolm then heads to the island with field equipment expert Eddie Carr (Richard Shiff) and video documentarian Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), and the three quickly meet up with Sarah. The InGen team arrives just a little bit later, capturing several dinosaurs, until Malcolm and his team sneak into the InGen camp and free all of them (after learning of the San Diego theme park idea). The dinosaurs, including two adult T. Rexes, destroy both groups' equipment and vehicles. The two groups decide then to team up, evading the dinosaurs and looking for a way to get back home.
- The Lost World has more dino-action than Jurassic Park, resulting in some genuine thrills that once again allows Spielberg to show off impressive CGI and animatronic work. The climax is one of the T-Rexes breaking free from captivity and rampaging around the streets of San Diego, my personal favorite moment being an homage to Godzilla: a quick shot of several Japanese tourists running through the streets, yelling in Japanese, "I left Japan to get away from this!" Spielberg intended to save the San Diego sequence for another film, but he figured he would not direct another film in the franchise, so he decided to put the sequence in this film. The T-Rex stomps on some people and gobbles up some others; it's good stuff, even if it isn't entirely fresh.
- The one place that The Lost World goes horribly wrong is its screenplay, with David Koepp getting sole credit as screenwriter. I'm wondering if Koepp forgot that he was a co-writer for Jurassic Park in the four years between the release of that movie and the release of this movie, because an admittedly interesting premise goes almost completely to waste with unnatural dialogue and a host of characters that behave like complete idiots. The issue with the dialogue is that several characters, especially Sarah Harding, like to talk about stuff in total word vomits, as if everyone was trying to rush through their lines as quickly as possible because they all knew the movie wasn't going to be very good. The hyperactive speaking of dialogue kills the intrigue to be had in several conversations and makes you feel as if you're missing several important plot points.
But the characters! Holy crap! I just LOVE how several of the characters openly boast about how they have years of experience in their fields, yet act like this is their first day on the job. The InGen team is led by Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), but he doesn't know how to tell one dinosaur species from another while his group is on the hunt. Are you kidding me? How is your LEADER unable to tell one dinosaur from another? Shouldn't he know each dinosaur species by heart before the hunting team goes to the island? Shouldn't that be a reason why he is the leader of the team? But Tembo's incompetence isn't quite up there with the stupidity put on display by Sarah Harding. To start with, Sarah interacts with a baby Stegosaurus, despite knowing full well that the protective parents are literally a few feet away. After that, she and Van Owen find an injured infant T-Rex, and decide to take it back to their trailer to tend to its wounds. While Sarah means well with taking care of the infant, she completely ignores the fact that the parent T-Rexes can follow the infant's blood scent from far away, resulting in the parent T-Rexes finding the trailer and sending it tumbling over a cliffside. Later when the two groups get together, one of the T-Rexes finds the group camping out for the night, because Sarah had the infant's blood on her jacket. Why is this all Sarah's fault? Because she openly talks about the T-Rex being one of the most fearsome predators ever, yet she doesn't discard her jacket, despite knowing full well she got the infant's blood on it. It wasn't the dinosaurs that killed the humans. It was stupidity that killed the humans.
- The other low point is how largely unfocused the film seems, especially while on the island. Scenes go back and forth between the members of the two groups, but not with much care towards a sense of plot progression or anything resembling meaningful character development. It's as if Spielberg and company just filmed various scenes they thought would look cool, thrown them all into a blender, and whatever mush came out, they would call it the final cut.
Look, making a sequel is tough work, especially when that sequel is to the ultimate 90's blockbuster, Jurassic Park. While The Lost World provides some more dinosaur thrills that should please the most undemanding of fans, the film has no true inspiration, no fiery passion from its director, and no excuses for its horrendous screenplay. The whole movie feels obligatory, like it's something that had to be made because Jurassic Park was such a huge success, and not something that anyone really wanted to make. And while there are far worse sequels out there than The Lost World, I'm stumped to think up other sequels that are as uninspired as this one. If one day this film somehow becomes lost, I doubt the world will miss it very much.
Recommend? No. The only way I'd think you'd enjoy it if is if you loved and adored Jurassic Park and don't set your expectations very high.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: