Director – Steven Spielberg, Screenplay – David Koepp, Based on the Novel The Lost World by Michael Crichton, Producers – Gerald R. Molen & Colin Wilson, Photography – Janusz Kaminski, Music – John Williams, Visual Effects – Industrial Light and Magic, Live-Action Dinosaurs – The Stan Winston Studio, Production Design – Rick Carter. Production Company – Amblin/Universal.
Jeff Goldblum (Dr Ian Malcolm), Julianne Moore (Dr Sarah Harding), Pete Postlethwaite (Roland Tembo), Arliss Howard (Peter Ludlow), Vince Vaughn (Nick Van Owen), Vanessa Lee Chester (Kelly Malcolm), Richard Schiff (Eddie Carr), Richard Attenborough (John Hammond), Ariana Richards (Alexis Murphy), Joseph Mazello (Timothy Murphy)
Ian Malcolm is called to see John Hammond who has just lost the chairmanship of his corporation InGen. Hammond informs Malcolm that other genetically-engineered dinosaurs have been found alive on Isla Sorna, the original test site for Jurassic Park, despite a code in their genes that kills them off without the regular replenishment of an antidote. Malcolm travels to the island, joined by his girlfriend Sarah Harding and his stowaway daughter Kelly, arriving at the same time as a rival team from InGen led by big-game hunter Roland Tembo. There they indeed discover dinosaurs roaming in the wild and soon both parties of humans end up hunted by the dinosaurs.
When Jurassic Park (1993) became the most successful film of all time, a sequel was fairly much obligatorily mandated. Michael Crichton, author of the original Jurassic Park (1990) novel, quickly dashed off a book sequel The Lost World (1995), which dutifully became a best-seller. The Lost World was the most formulaic of Michael Crichton’s books – it had “Jurassic Park sequel” written all over it. There were little in the way of new ideas, just a thin attempt to spin the basic idea of the first book out. You could see from the way it was written that Crichton was designing scenes for the way they would subsequently end up on screen. The Lost World was Michael Crichton’s first ever sequel and one can fairly much forgive him in the circumstances for taking the opportunity to make a lot of money by churning out something – anything – that had the words Jurassic Park attached to it.
Certainly, when one sits down to watch the film of The Lost World, one is prepared to forgive Michael Crichton a whole lot more. The film makes the sparse creativity of the book look like a work of genius by comparison. Screenwriter David Koepp ditches most of the book, all bar one or two of the highlight scenes – notably the scene with the RV trapped on the edge of the cliff. This may not have been too bad an idea if for one fact – the plot they substitute in the book’s place is an appalling mishmash of loose ends and abrupt changes of tone. It feels like an amateur hack job or the first draft of a screenplay. There is no real story to it – it lacks any unifying drive, seems only designed to move from one dinosaur sequence to the next. There is a gaping lack of exposition – Vanessa Lee Chester just turns up in the middle of the expedition, she is written in as Malcolm’s daughter for the sole reason of having a kid present.
Although, the worst aspect of the story is the character of Van Owen (Vince Vaughn). The script never deigns to ascertain for us whether Van Owen is simply a photographer/documentary filmmaker along for the adventure, whether he is a covert Greenpeace agent or whether he has been sent as part of Hammond’s ‘backup’ plan that is referred to a couple of times. What the case is is anybody’s guess. Spielberg and David Koepp also add an extended sequence with a dinosaur brought back and getting loose in civilisation. The idea is as old as the Arthur Conan Doyle The Lost World (1912) that Michael Crichton gamely stole the name of his book from and the sequence clumsily falls into a horde of cliches from King Kong (1933).
When he is making a commercial film, Steven Spielberg always seems caught between making either Jaws (1975) or E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – his films are either thrill rides or filled with a beneficent childlike glow of love for the rest of the universe. Jurassic Park allowed Spielberg to make another Jaws in effect, but with Lost World too much of E.T. has crept in and the film uneasily straddles a line between regarding the dinosaurs as monstrous or cute.There is the attempt to paint the T-Rex as only being a protective parent. In the first film, the sympathies were with the humans trying to survive as they were hunted by the dinosaurs but in diametric contradiction The Lost World: Jurassic Park has the humans trying to protect the dinosaurs from being exploited. The final image of the film is an unbelievably Utopian one – not unakin to the arrival at the promised land in Dinosaur (2000) – of the dinosaurs being allowed to roam and intermingle in freedom on their island paradise.
Certainly, the presence of Steven Spielberg at the helm never fails to make The Lost World: Jurassic Park less than watchable, although The Lost World is probably one of the slightest films that Spielberg has made. The sequences with the T-Rex nosing its way into the RV or with people fighting off a vicious horde of raptors are well sustained. The film is at its best during the third quarter when it turns into a tensely sustained trek across the island through dinosaur-infested territory. There is at least one standout sequence with Julianne Moore trapped on the edge of a cliff in an RV with a slowly cracking windscreen being all that there is between her and the cliff bottom. Spielberg also pushes the violence envelope more than he did in the first film with a number of scenes of people – even sympathetic characters and a dog – being devoured and eaten on screen.
The special effects are expectedly good, although none of them are standout. Certainly, they offer little that is new, just the same scenes as last time done slightly differently. We get appearances from one or two creatures – stegosauruses, pterodactyls, the bone-headed pachycephalosauruses and most successfully the deceptively tiny procomsognothauruses. However, with the exception of the latter, these are little more than passing appearances. The film disappointingly belongs to the two star creatures from the first film – the T-Rex and the velociraptors – and Spielberg and David Koepp seem to lack the wherewithal to expand the repertoire of the creature sideshow.
Steven Spielberg’s other genre films as director are:– Duel (1971), Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Twilight Zone – The Movie (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Always (1989), Hook (1991), A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) (2001), Minority Report (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), The BFG (2016) and Ready Player One (2018). Spielberg has also acted as executive producer on numerous films – too many to list here. Spielberg (2017) is a documentary about Spielberg,
(Nominee for Best Special Effects at this site’s Best of 1997 Awards).