JURASSIC PARK 2 The Lost World, 1997
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn, Richard Attenborough, Peter Stormare
Review by David Hammond
Set several years after the teething problems that occurred at the worlds first biological prehistoric amusement park, a second island full of dinosaurs is revealed to the public after an incident involving a small girl being attacked by its previously extinct inhabitants. Millionaire John Hammond has come under public scrutiny and his company has been taken away from him. He enlists the help of a team to document and study the animals that have been allowed to develop in their ‘natural’ habitat before the island is interfered with. Dr Ian Malcolm reluctantly joins the team when he discovers his girlfriend is on the island. Soon after they arrive they soon discover they are not the only people on the island when a team lead by Hammond’s nephew has come to extract the dinos in order to populate another Park in San Diego.
After the overwhelming success of Jurassic Park which is rightly regarded as one on the seminal points in filmmaking due to the technological advances that were made in the creation of the creatures and the amount of realism that was injected into them; a sequel was always inevitable. The Lost World is ultimately missing the thing that made Jurassic Park so special, which isn’t dinosaurs because there’s loads of them wandering about.
Four years after the incident at Jurassic Park, a wealthy family stumble across a beautiful island and decide to take a break on its picturesque sandy beach. Soon after the tea, cakes and indeed sandwiches are unpacked the families little girl is attacked by a mob of small dinosaurs. The attack proves that not only should you never feed luncheon meat to a dinosaur but also the genetically engineered inhabitants of the island are a danger to the public. With “Site B”; the breeding ground for Jurassic Park in the spotlight, beardy millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) has had to relinquish control of his company to his nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) who plans to remove the dinosaurs from the breeding ground and open a new park in San Diego in order to keep his newly acquired company from bankruptcy. With previous experience of the potential pitfalls of such a business venture, Hammond is naturally worried about the potential dangers involved.
In order to protect Site B from being pillaged Hammond has put together a scientific expedition to record the animals in their natural habitat, and asks Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to be a part of it. Understandably he is reluctant due to the somewhat jarring experience that he had the last time he did Hammond a favour, but is quickly roped in when he discovers his girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) is already there. Soon after the team (along with Malcolm’s stowaway daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) arrive they are soon joined by Ludlow’s mercenaries who begin to capture dinosaurs to transport them to America. However after both the factions equipment is destroyed the rival teams must work together in order to survive the predators on the island.
Once again the creature effects in the Lost World are completely believable and therefore should be applauded. But Lost World suffers from the same problems as Jurassic Park did, but does so on a grander scale. The characters once again seem to have been put to the side in favour of the dinosaur effects. Ian Malcolm serves as both the main protagonist and the comic relief in the Lost World, but is lacking many aspects that made him such an enjoyable character in the first film. Malcolm is much more embittered in the Lost World due to they way he was treated after the Jurassic Park incident, which essentially robs him of any of the likeable characteristics that he had in the first film. Julianne Moore and Arliss Howard are lumbered with thankless roles as is true with the majority of the supporting cast; who you can identify from very early on who is and who isn’t going to be eaten and or stepped on. Only Pete Postlethwaite portrayal of big game hunter Roland Tempo who’s only desire is to hunt a T-Rex seems to raise above the materials limitations. The deep performances once again are credited to the dinosaurs.
The poor characterisation in the film is obviously a product of a shaky script. In the worst cases it makes the characters act with the shocking absence of any form of common sense. For example unbalanced hunter Dieter Stark (Peter Stormare) wanders off into the jungle to relieve himself and asks his friend to wait for him. His friend is listening to his Walkman and therefore fails to hear his friends cries for help when his is eventually attacked and eaten. Even for downtime personal cassette players should always be left at home when you plan to be navigating harsh jungle environment hunting prehistoric animals. The lack of common sense even extends to the more educated characters like Dr. Sarah Harding. After treating the infant T-Rex of its injuries Sarah’s jacket is stained by its blood, she later mentions that the T-Rex has exceptional scent detection, but is later shocked when the disgruntled mother T-Rex sneaks into camp to investigate said jacket with questions. Having theorised and witnessed the Rex’s fierce paternal instincts first hand there was only one outcome, and it should’ve been something that a behavioural palaeontologist would’ve predicted and avoided.
The aforementioned lack in judgement the characters often display lead to some impressive set pieces. One of the highlights is where panicked mercenaries run into a field of long grass, they are stalked by raptors. Spielberg shows a strange amount of restraint in the scene only showing their tails and the trials left behind as the grass is separated as they approach their prey; proving like he did with Jaws that less is more. But as with most of the Lost World while some things work brilliantly others fall flat. The climatic T-Rex rampage in San Diego feels tacked on and like a lot things in the film doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems as it’s just there for the sake of it.
What you come to realise with the Lost World is that we have seen it all before. The dinosaurs are still brilliant, but because we’ve seen them before you find yourself focusing on other aspects of the film that weren’t so important when you first watched Jurassic Park. The lack of the initial reaction of wonder to the animals means that the Lost World has to rely on the story and the script, both of which are mediocre. Even John Williams classic score fails to resonate the same epic feelings that were attained with the original and sometimes feels out of place. Spielberg falls short of topping his 1993 classic by making the same mistakes again but on a grander scale. The usually reliable Spielberg makes some strange decisions with the Lost World and the special effects fail to support this somewhat jumbled sequel.