a critiQal film review The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Plot: John Hammond (Attenborough) summons chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) to his home with some startling information - while nearly everything at his Jurassic Park had been destroyed, his engineers happened to have a second site, where other dinosaurs were kept in hiding. It seems the dinosaurs on the second island are alive and well and even breeding; and Hammond wants Malcolm to observe and document the reptiles before Hammond's financiers can get to them.

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With Jurassic Park (1993) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) already reviewed, I figured I needed to review The Lost World: Jurassic Park. After all, I had to review all three originals before reviewing the reboot, right?

Thankfully, NetFlix® had The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I had a bit of trepidation going in to this one, though. After all, the other sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), was downright awful. But, with Steven Spielberg at the helm, and another Michael Crichton novel as it’s basis, it couldn’t be that bad. Could it?

Sam Neill isn’t around for The Lost World, and that’s just a shame. He really helped sell the first film. Instead, we get another dose of Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm. While this film tries to tone him down a bit by giving him a kid and a love interest, he’s still the same snarky jerk he was in Jurassic Park (1993). While it worked well to balance him against Sam Neill’s lovable tough guy, it just doesn’t work as well when he has to play both parts. The film tries to inject that alter-persona into Malcolm, but mainly, it just falls flat.

Julianne Moore seems to love playing second fiddle to main stars. While she wasn’t able to compete against Jodie Foster when she took her place in Hannibal (2001), the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991), she fares much better here when compared to Laura Dern. While Jodie Foster was able to take her role and run with it, Laura Dern didn’t develop as firm a grasp on hers. Toss in that Julianne Moore is actually playing a different (but similar) character to Dern, and the lady paleontologist of The Lost World does okay.

While the child (Vanessa Lee Chester) is mainly around to make horrified faces (actually less of a role than the kids had to do in the original), and Vince Vaughn is rather dull – and miscast – as a videographer, there are a few supporting characters that get a moment in the sun. Pete Postlethwaite, especially, doesn’t disappoint in his acting (although his character does a bit). Peter Stormare (“Prison Break” (TV)) is also a nice surprise, even if his screen time is largely wasted.

The novel by Michael Crichton was a tossed-together sequel meant to cash in on the success of Jurassic Park (1993). With Spielberg at the helm, viewers will still be expecting good things from the adaptation too. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work out that way. While bringing Ian Malcolm and John Hammond back is nice, the similarity between the core group of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the previous film gives the viewer the impression that it would have been nicer to have the original characters around instead of these newcomers (namely Vaughn and Moore).

Plus, the introduction of new characters like Postlethwaite’s Roland Tembo and Stormare’s Dieter Stark is only a positive if there characters are three-dimensional. Unfortunately, like most of the new characters, they are pretty one-dimensional, and used mainly to provide a bigger buffet for the dinosaurs this time around. After all, it’s a sequel, so the body count has to be higher, right?

Postlethwaite does his best to escape the rather slipshod-then personality his character has been given, making a stand against a T-Rex intense and a bit poignant, as the man faces what seems to be certain death that he seems to push aside by pure force of will. Still, even that sequence is wasted as the camera zips off to cover some other area of action – almost as if it’s got a short attention span – and his fate isn’t shown until much later.

It’s surprising Spielberg is behind The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It fails to reinvigorate the awe and excitement of the first film, and instead jerkily moves from one action sequence to the next without any real regard for continuity. Sure, there’s entertainment, but there isn’t any sort of sense of the film as a whole trying to deliver a subtle yet powerful message, as most of Spielberg’s films do.

Instead, The Lost World: Jurassic Park comes off as nothing but a cash grab by the filmmakers. With an obvious afterthought (another island nobody mentioned) kicking things off, Spielberg just doesn’t seem to have the heart for this sequel, leaving the magic that made the first one so entertaining on the cutting room floor.

Nothing but a color-by-numbers sequel (with even the same bad dinos from the original), The Lost World: Jurassic Park is somewhat entertaining – and that’s more than can be said for the next dud in this series, Jurassic Park III (2001).

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