Terrible 2’s Reviews: The Lost World – Jurassic Park
*Some people may say that most films lose their way by a third sequel, but that isn’t always the case. For every “Wrath of Khan” or “Toy Story 2,” there’s a dozen ‘number 2’ films that were made, that could not uphold the energy and enthusiasm of the first film. This review section, aims to talk about these “Terrible 2’s”*
In 1993, Director Steven Spielberg created an amazing cinematic experience for millions of people worldwide, when he brought Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park to the screen. At times both awe-inspiring and terrifying, I often consider it my generation’s Star Wars.
No film stood a chance against it that summer, and with it’s box-office grosses breaking records worldwide, it was a sure bet that Universal Studios would bring the dinosaurs back to the big screen.
The success of the film caused Crichton to soon churn out a rather unnecessary sequel, dubbed The Lost World. Released in 1995, it’s story dealt with another island (“Site B”), where the dinosaurs that populated Jurassic Park, were born and raised.
The science-fiction adventure story, has Ian Malcolm (who had previously been killed off in the book-version of Jurassic Park!) and a number of persons go off to rescue a colleague named Richard Levine, who has struck off for the island on his own. Right behind them, are a group of people from the InGen rival, Biosyn, hoping to steal eggs from the dinosaurs that have been set free on the island.
What gave some hope during the production of this sequel, was when Spielberg himself came back to direct, making it one of the first sequels he’d done outside of the Indiana Jones series. This was also his first feature after 1993’s Schindler’s List, a film whose dramatic tone seemed to signify a new direction he wanted to go in.
Most of the crew from the first film would return as well, though Crichton would opt out of screenwriting duties, which would pass solely to David Koepp (who had co-written the first film with Crichton).
From production on up through it’s release, much of the story and imagery was kept a secret. The teaser trailer was particularly exciting, showing the T-Rex roaring in the rain, before the words “Something Has Survived” flashed before our eyes! Only a scant few moments of dinosaur footage was released, before the film’s big release on Memorial Day weekend, in 1997.
The excitement over the film, would make it one of the biggest hits of the year. However, it failed to capture the magic that had enthralled us four summers prior, and made itself a prime candidate for this category.
Here’s some of my issues with The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
The Lost World, in name-only
Let’s face it: when one adapts a famous novel to the screen, you have to expect some liberties to be taken. Of course, sometimes, there are quite a few.
If one were to read Peter Benchley’s Jaws, and watch Spielberg’s 1975 film, you’d find they are two completely different ‘beasts’ (did you know Matt Hooper was having an affair with the Sheriff Brody’s wife in the book!?).
When it came to Crichton’s novel, screenwriter David Koepp made quite a number of changes!
Of the new novel’s characters, he only ports over Sarah Harding and Eddie Carr, though drops the whole subplot regarding Biosyn, and instead has our villains come from within InGen itself.
In this case, the main corporate bad guy of the film, is John Hammond’s nephew, Peter Ludlow (played by Arliss Howard). Peter has taken over the company, and is eager to exploit the leftover dinosaurs on Site B to recoup the company’s lost investments from the shuttered Jurassic Park.
Of all the ‘set-pieces’ from the novel, the only one that seems to have survived the story restructuring, is when the two T-Rexes on the island come for their infant, and push a research RV over the edge of a high-cliff.
It should be noted that one of the more intriguing (new) creatures in the novel, actually ended up making it’s way into the SEGA arcade game tie-in.
Near the end of the novel, our main group of humans is menaced by a chameleon-like carnotaurus. Though much like how the first film’s dilophosaurus was given fictional neck-frills and a venom-pouch, the Carnotaurus in the SEGA game was also embellished.
Notable was that in relation to it’s chameleon-like camouflage features, it was colored green, as well as given the swivel-eyes of a chameleon, which it did not have in real life.
The carnotaurus was one of the more memorable dinos in the arcade game, mainly due to it having a strange, digitized howl when one dealt a major blow to it.
Few Likable Characters
With the first Jurassic Park, there were plenty of enjoyable characters to choose from. From paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), to the slimy lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), almost all of the characters easily stuck in our minds.
Unfortunately, that kind of chemistry across the cast is pretty much left in the dark here.
In regards to the original film’s cast, Ian Malcolm is the only ‘major’ returning player. However, Jeff Goldblum plays him as the ‘reluctant hero,’ sometimes acting as a babysitter, other times trying to get people to listen, but most of the time just there to largely tell the idiots around him, “I told you so.”
Of all the new characters introduced, I couldn’t help but find Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Sarah Harding, to be quite annoying. The filmmakers seem to be trying to make her a vocally-outspoken and serious researcher, but oftentimes, she sounds moreso like she’s just there to spout certain facts, and doesn’t quite realize wholly that she’s among an environment of creatures that could squash or eat her.
Nick Van Owen (played by Vince Vaughn) is added in as a nature photographer/double-agent (Hammond secretly told him his nephew might show up!?), and seems to be the film’s resident “tree-hugger,” there to mainly get in the way of hunter Roland Tembo, played by Peter Postlewaite.
Probably of all the new characters, it is Roland who is the only one that seems interesting, let alone is given a small character arc. A bit like Robert Muldoon from the first film, Tembo is a big-game hunter who has caught almost everything…but, the chance to take down a Tyrannosaur, piques his interest enough to join the InGen ‘hunting’ party.
The film also attempts to make us care about two men in Roland’s employ, Ajay Sidhu (Harvey Jason), and Dieter Stark (Peter Stormare). However, Stark is quickly pegged to be our ‘evil man in the wilderness,’ and Ajay’s role is so underused, that when Roland expresses remorse for the loss of his friend at the end, it doesn’t really resonate (there was a deleted scene that did give the two more time together).
The film also finds the time to shoehorn in some brief cameos, from Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards, reprising their roles of Tim and Lex for a brief meetup with Malcolm. Lord Richard Attenborough also returns as John Hammond, though mainly to bookend the adventure.
This is a symptom I’ve seen in a lot of second films over the years (like Men in Black 2, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). When it comes to some sequels, the filmmakers seem to get worried that they have to top themselves from the previous film…and give the audience more!
That definitely seems to be the case with Lost World. We get so many extra dinosaurs, that at times, the wonder and awe that we experienced in the first film, is all-but-forgotten.
Sure, the stampede/round-up scene in Lost World showed new effects boundaries being pushed, (making the Gallimimus scene in the first film look quaint), but so many of the effects-heavy scenes here, often feel like the film’s story is stopping just to say, “look at this!”
This isn’t to sat the effects work in the film isn’t admirable, but it just doesn’t feel as thoroughly in the service of the storytelling for much of the picture.
Oh, Give me a Break!
There’s one scene in the film, that seems to have passed into the annals of laughable set-up/payoff scenes, when it comes to this film.
As Malcolm prepares to leave his daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) and go to Site B, he makes mention of her upcoming gymnastics tournament, before being told she got cut from the team.
One would assume this was the writer’s attempt to show us how disconnected Ian was from his daughter’s life. However, there was so much more…
In a later scene, Malcolm finds himself being menaced by a raptor in a multi-level utility hut, with Sarah and Kelly looking on. Suddenly, Kelly takes a leap, and, using some overhead piping as parallel bars, ends up using her gymnastics skills to take out the raptor, kicking it out of a window to it’s death.
How ridiculous was this joke? Well, a month or two after the film premiered, a comic book I was reading actually referenced it, with one character calling it’s set-up/pay-off a work of genius!
More B-movie than usual
Spielberg filled some parts of Jurassic Park with homages to some of the old days of stop-motion monster movies, and that same feel (somewhat) continues with Lost World.
The film’s title and some of it’s ending, do borrows from the 1925 silent film, The Lost World. However, it is a brontosaurus that the explorers bring back to the mainland in the 1925 film, compared to the more exciting T-Rex.
Plus, just like the first film, there is a reference to King Kong in this film, with the name of the boat that brings the Rex to San Diego, being the S.S. Venture, which was the name of the ship that brought Kong to New York City.
The original ending for the film would have featured pterodactyls attacking a helicopter, but this was changed to the more B-movie scenario, of the T-Rex getting loose in San Diego, California.
Spielberg seems to really revel in getting his monster-movie fix during the rampage. People scream, cars crash, a family is terrorized, but, it feels like Spielberg pulls away from the main story a little too long, almost like he’s become distracted by what the guys at Industrial Light & Magic can do with their CGI creatures.
If there is one saving grace to the Rex’s rampage, it’s with the man whom the T-Rex consumes in one scene, who attempts to escape into a nearby store. The man it turns out, is Lost World screenwriter and second-unit director, David Koepp. So, if you didn’t like the film, you can feel a little better knowing that the guy who wrote that gymnastics scene, got eaten onscreen. They even have some fun in the credits, as Koepp’s character is called, “Unlucky B******.”
Loose plot threads much?
While the first Jurassic Park had several large plotholes (notably how the T-Rex seemed to be levitating over an area in it’s paddock, that became a steep drop-off only minutes later!), The Lost World had quite a number of storypoints where it felt like the script just gave up.
One notable plothole, comes after the ship with the Rex crashes into the InGen docks. Littered across the ship, are the remains of it’s crew. However, it’s never explained just how this happened. We see a severed hand holding onto the ship’s wheel, but there’s no way the T-Rex could have caused such a thing (the boat’s wheelhouse is completely intact!).
My theory is that maybe raptors had gotten aboard, but one would have assumed they would have stayed aboard the ship, and then jumped off once they were able to get on the ground.
Another loose thread is how as the film enters it’s third act, Nick Van Owen just disappears from the story!
It’s never explained just why he didn’t accompany Ian and Sarah to the Rex’s arrival, and he’s never mentioned by name again. I guess maybe the two assumed he’d try some crazy stunt and free the Rex once it arrived? Or, maybe he just figured John Hammond’s paycheck only covered his time on Site B?
Speaking of this film’s habitat, the existence of Site B throws into question, a scene in the first film. During the tour of Jurassic Park, the group is shown a number of working scientists and technicians, whom Hammond claimed were “the real miracle-workers” of the park.
This seems rather hard-to-believe upon seeing Lost World, as one would assume if the development and breeding of the dinosaurs was all off-island on Site B, it feels like a wasted expenditure to have that small operation on Isla Nublar in the first film.
Plus, if the park was just for show as Hammond claims in this film, then why were important (and valuable) vials of the dinosaur’s DNA being kept there, rather than on Site B?
…the world, may never know.
Overall, I think The Lost World: Jurassic Park’s biggest problem, is that it doesn’t know how to balance itself out, acting more like a ‘product’ than a film at times.
It’s shaky storytelling reminds me of such Spielberg films as Hook, and the most recent Indiana Jones film (which David Koepp also penned). Both of those films also seek to have Spielberg take us back to something familiar from our past, yet in trying to ‘make it new,’ there’s a certain something…missing.
Over the years, seeing some of the ridiculousness of certain situations in the film, I couldn’t help but wonder if Spielberg was trying to make some sort of 90’s era satire, ala Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy, Dr Strangelove.
Given how we have two groups of people trying to decide ‘what’s best’ for these prehistoric creatures, it feels like maybe writer David Koepp is trying to find some form of satire in the very PC way that characters like Nick Van Owen try to preserve nature, in the face of InGen and Roland Tembo’s crew, who either want to exploit it, or decimate it.
In the end, the film is not as memorable to us as the first one, but it cleaned up pretty well, being one of the top moneymakers for the 1997 summer movie season. Even so, it’s take didn’t do what most of today’s sequels do, and it made less overall than the first film.
While it is lacking in making us care about it’s characters, the film does get “brownie points” regarding it’s effects work.
The advances in technology with Industrial Light & Magic and Stan Winston Studios, helped the film earn an Oscar nod for visual effects (which it would lose, to the more aptly-named, Titanic).
I also have a soft-spot for John Williams’ score, which becomes it’s own ‘beast.’ Less like the eerie-yet-majestic feel of the first film, his score here brings in a true atmospheric sound that ties into the darker climate of a world, where there are no manmade fences to keep the dinosaurs at bay.