Lost World, The: Jurassic Park 2 (United States, 1997)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

When Jurassic Park was released in 1993, it set a new standard for state-of-the-art visual and audio effects. It was suddenly possible to see humans and dinosaurs interacting in a way that had never before been possible, and to feel the entire theater shake with the approach of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Four years later, not a whole lot has changed. Effects houses like Industrial Lights and Magic have tackled bigger, more imposing objects such as tornadoes and volcanoes, but it's still basically the same technology that Jurassic Park ushered in. And, because The Lost World doesn't offer anything especially innovative, it seems rather familiar and almost (but not quite) disappointing.

Like its predecessor, The Lost World is basically a big-budget monster movie of the sort that has been popular ever since the dawn of motion pictures. Unfortunately, like many entries into the genre, it falls into expected patterns. As a result, much of this movie seems like a retread of Jurassic Park (with a little King Kong thrown in at the end), not because director Steven Spielberg is intentionally copying himself, but because there's really not much more that he can do with the premise. If there's a third movie in the series, it will probably follow pretty much the same storyline as the first and second installments.

Still, repetitiveness notwithstanding, The Lost World boasts several edge-of-the-seat moments. The dinosaurs aren't nearly as awe-inspiring, but they remain formidable adversaries for a group of plucky, overmatched humans. The standout sequence in this film features two T-Rexs, a lot of rain, spiderweb fissures in glass, and a literal cliffhanger. The ending, which takes place in San Diego rather than on a tropical island (where most of the film transpires), is a little anticlimactic. Next year's Godzilla will hopefully do a more impressive job with the "dinosaur loose in a city" concept.

Returning from the first film is Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician with an analytical mind and a wry sense of humor. This time, he has an adolescent daughter, Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), and a paleontologist girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore). Ian gets pulled back into the dinosaur game when Sarah joins an expedition to the island of Isla Sorna, which is populated by a wide variety of genetically-engineered extinct species. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), older and wiser after his Jurassic Park experience, no longer intends to open an amusement park; he simply wants to study dinosaurs in a natural environment. So, a reluctant Ian, along with Sarah, a nature photographer named Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), and a gadgets expert, Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff), begins a "look-but-don't-touch" foray. Little do they know, however, that Hammond's nephew (Arliss Howard) is on his way to the island with far less benevolent intentions. He wants to bring dinosaurs back to San Diego for a prehistoric zoo. Accompanying him is big game hunter Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), whose goal is to bag a male T-Rex.

The differences between Jurassic Park and The Lost World can be summed up relatively simply: more dinosaurs, fewer legitimate thrills. In this case, familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but it results in a movie that's unlikely to keep viewers going back time-after-time the way they did for the original. The Lost World is solid entertainment the first time; it's not something I have any great desire to sit through again.

One could argue that giving Ian a daughter and a girlfriend is an attempt to broaden his character. If so, it really doesn't work. The self-deprecating scientist is likable exclusively because of Jeff Goldblum; even after two films, he's still relatively one-dimensional. The rest of the characters are pretty much interchangeable from their counterparts in Jurassic Park (different names; similar functions). Vanessa Lee Chester is this film's child in danger; Julianne Moore replaces Laura Dern; and Swingers' Vince Vaughn takes over for Sam Neill. Meanwhile, Arliss Howard represents the obligatory nasty corporate villain type.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about The Lost World is how perfunctory and unimaginative Steven Spielberg's direction often is. In his more than two decades of film making, Spielberg has been responsible for a variety of innovative action/adventure movies -- Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jurassic Park, to name a few. On this occasion, he seems content to turn things over to the gurus at ILM. The magical spark that characterizes so many Spielberg films is largely absent.

The Lost World ends up being a passable popcorn adventure film. It is to this year what Independence Day was to last year -- the summer's single "can't miss" motion picture (or so the advertisers would have us believe). It also comes early enough in the season so that we're not already sick to death of this kind of effects-oriented action/adventure. So, although The Lost World has its share of problems, chief of which is the familiarity factor, it still offers a couple hours of glitzy, hi-tech fun. And that's just about all that anyone can reasonably expect from this kind of blockbuster.

Lost World, The: Jurassic Park 2 (United States, 1997)

Run Time: 2:13
U.S. Release Date: 1997-05-23
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1