THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK
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 books 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 Malcolms 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 Hammonds backup plan that is referred to a couple of times. What the case is is anybodys 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).
There is also 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. 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. 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 Spielbergs 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. (2001), Minority Report (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and The BFG (2016). Spielberg has also acted as executive producer on numerous films too many to list here.
(Nominee for Best Special Effects at this sites Best of 1997 Awards).