|Jurassic Park - The Lost World|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 10 October 2000|
'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' is a beautifully-engineered thrill ride guaranteed to make even the most jaded viewers shriek and giggle with terror and delight. 'Jurassic Park' had a smoother structure that built more steadily and carefully to a bang-up pair of climaxes, but 'The Lost World' has sequences that are at least as exciting as anything in the first movie. Jeff Goldblum returns as Ian Malcolm, but he's more subdued and serious than in the first film, which he almost stole from the dinos.
The movie opens with a scene establishing, as the ads at the time insisted, something has survived -- there's still an island off the coast of Central America where those dinosaurs first created for a theme park have managed to survive. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) hasn't been doing very well since he got back from Jurassic Park, and resents being summoned by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to go to this other island, where the dinosaurs for Jurassic Park were actually bred, and make sure they are safe. He refuses until he learns his girlfriend, paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), is already on the island, but not responding on her satellite phone. Meanwhile, Hammond's ambitious, greedy nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) has taken over InGen from the ailing Hammond, and has plans of his own for the dinosaurs. Malcolm he joins documentarian Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) and field-equipment specialist Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) as they head for the other island.
|They soon find Sarah, gleefully photographing a family group of Stegosauruses. Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), Malcolm's 12-year-old daughter, has stowed away in the van they brought with them. Then they realize that Ludlow has brought an expedition to the island to capture dinosaurs to exhibit in a park back in San Diego. The man in charge is great white hunter Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), who dreams of bagging the largest carnivore ever: a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Events eventually destroy both groups' equipment, forcing them to team up and to make their way into the center of the island, where the laboratory and offices of InGen's "Site B" still exist, after being abandoned following the hurricane of the first movie. But the interior of the island is swarming with ferocious carnivores, including the deadly velociraptors that were so memorably menacing in 'Jurassic Park.' Finally, a Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes in modern-day San Diego, in a sequence that was kept well under wraps until the film began to be shown to audiences.
The movie is strung on major action set-pieces, all of which work splendidly, although there's some sag between them. There's the great, literal cliffhanger scene involving that huge van and a couple of pissed-off Tyrannosaur parents. But the parent Tyrannosaurs aren't done with our plucky band, and after Malcolm and the others meet up with Tembo's group, they pursue them down a stream bed. This includes a sequence from the novel of 'Jurassic Park' as our heroes hide behind a waterfall, and one of the greatest gruesome gags I've ever seen. For the first time, Spielberg impishly laces a movie with references to older films. Among those you might spot are nods to the original 'Lost World' (based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel), 'Gorgo,' 'Godzilla,' and even, by gum, 'The Killer Shrews.' A sequence of capturing fleeing dinosaurs was inspired by the Howard Hawks-John Wayne movie, 'Hatari.' But the film most often referred to is the great 'King Kong,' referenced both visually and aurally, as John Williams' score seems to include a couple of Max Steiner's cues.
Although 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' is visually darker than the original movie, it has a playfulness it comments on itself and the kind of movie it is. Here, even more than in the first, you can occasionally notice Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp winking at us, suggesting that, like us, they know that this movie is basically just a big money machine, but isn't it fun anyway?
Spielberg definitely draws a line between his "personal" and "impersonal" projects, and 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' is certainly one of the latter. Sometimes, it's obvious how little the movie engages him. There are too many closeups of people looking frightened at something off screen, for example. And while the lead characters are moderately colorful, little is done with the rest; they're just there, fodder for the dinosaurs. Spielberg gave his full attention to the set-piece action/suspense sequences, and they really deliver the goods.
The special effects are not the whole show, but they're grand nonetheless. In fact, this time the computer graphics have gotten so good that the dinosaurs can be photographed exactly like real animals: the camera can move, even bounce all over the landscape. The "full motion" dinosaurs were the work of Dennis Muren and Randall Dutra (and a huge team) at Industrial Light & Magic. The live-action animatronic dinosaurs from Stan Winston's studio are also better than in the first movie; their faces flex, their eyes seem moist, their jaws work naturally.
Technically, of course, the movie is outstanding; all of Spielberg's movies are. It's beautifully produced, using carefully-chosen locations very well; everything about the movie is as first-rate as a big studio and lots of money can make it. 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' is not a great movie, mostly because it's essentially familiar, and because it has a slightly tossed-off attitude about the story (such as it is) and the characters. But it's a wonderfully entertaining movie, probably just the sort of palate-cleanser Spielberg needed between the vastly more serious 'Schindler's List' and 'Amistad' -- and as it turned out, it was a better movie than 'Amistad.'
The extras on this well-produced DVD aren't as interesting as those on the simultaneously-released 'Jurassic Park' disc. Here, the documentary was made concurrently with the production of the film, and isn't as interesting or detailed as that for 'Jurassic Park,' though it's still well above average for these promotional documentaries. It was directed by Laurent Bouzereau, who's been making those excellent Hitchcock documentaries for Universal.
The excellent, rich sound for 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' was designed by the great Gary Rydstrom, one of the great masters of movie sound. The best home-theater scenes include Chapter 1, full of crashing waves (which sound like roaring dinosaurs), and the chittering of the little dinos that menace a young girl. There's also creative use of sound in chapter 5, involving the stegosaurs, but the room-shaking stuff kicks in with chapter 9 -- and pretty much runs on all the way to the end of the movie. There's hardly five minutes of calm from that point on. We hear the dinosaurs' breaths and feel their chest-quaking roars; sharp highs, thunderous lows, natural sounds, invented sounds -- a great sound mix.
Although 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' hasn't been given the A-plus treatment afforded movies like 'Terminator 2' and 'Gladiator,' it's a fine choice for those devoted to their home theater systems.