Today marks the 20th anniversary of me defending The Lost World: Jurassic Park as my favorite Jurassic Park movie. I get why this wasn’t the sequel to Jurassic Park that people wanted. The book wasn’t either, but I was never enamored with Jurassic Park so this was more on my wavelength: a hardcore action movie with no sentimentality for majestic creatures.
I realize that wasn’t fair to the fans looking for another wondrous cooing at dinosaurs movie but it’s the reason I love it. I saw it twice, although I don’t have a stub because I still worked at the movie theater, but this was the first film to demo the mall’s remodeled auditorium with DTS sound. The lightbulb blowing up in the old Jurassic Park control room sounded like it was in the back of the room.
I suppose I should explain why I wasn’t captivated by the biggest movie of all time until Titanic. I liked Jurassic Park fine when they were running from dinosaurs but I didn’t care about all the ogling them in a zoo. I was already watching movies differently in 1993, so while fans were amazed the dinosaurs looked so real, I simply expected them to. They made the movie because they were confident in the technology to create realistic dinosaurs. That’s what I bought a ticket for, so they’d better. Actually, you can still see the matte lines when they first see the brontosauri. I knew how special effects worked then. If you’re going to linger on that shot you’d better smooth that out.
In a way The Lost World is the Aliens of Jurassic Park movies. There was escaping in Jurassic Park but Lost World is about hunting dinosaurs, and stopping ingen from bringing them home just like the xenomorphs. Ingen wants them for profit, not weapons, but it’s a total Weyland Yutani move.
One of the reasons I became Franchise Fred was I loved that sequels didn’t have to set up the premise anymore. They could just get going. Jurassic Park already explained cloning dinosaurs from DNA found in amber, so The Lost World can get right into action on the island. The minimal setup of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) being tricked into going to Isla Sorna is just enough to catch us up to Malcolm’s post Jurassic Park fame, and let us know the Hammond kids are ok and don’t have too much PTSD.
The Lost World is all Goldblum, since he was the best character in Jurassic Park and sidelined the whole second half. Is it too much of a good thing? Perhaps but there’s nothing that he says or does in this movie that I don’t like. Malcolm was the moral compass of the first film too and perhaps subsequent films lost that angle. It makes sense he was the one who violated his NDA and was discredited. I still quote his line about Hammond not making the same mistakes twice. “No, you’re making all new ones.” He certainly takes the formula of action movies down a peg like your best Bruce Willises or Harrison Fords.
Assembling Malcolm’s team is more like a mission movie, although all the scientists got an intro like that in Jurassic Park too. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is there for research but Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) and Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) are there for a rescue mission.
No one disagrees the trailer scene is prime Spielberg. I think the dinosaur safari hunt, the raptors picking off hunters in the grass and the raptor siege on the control room are great too. I love the T-Rex in San Diego. Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla was announced for summer ‘98 so Spielberg beat him to it. He beat Speed 2 to a boat crashing into land by less than a month too. Any of these sequences top running with gallimimuses or raptors in the kitchen. It’s the bigger, badder sequel and they built off the first film’s achievements.
The Lost World may still have the highest body count in a Jurassic Park movie. Even with dinosaurs chasing full park crowds in Jurassic World, I don’t remember this many people getting eaten on screen. If everyone was so upset about Zara in Jurassic World, how come nobody cried for Eddie? Not only did he do nothing wrong, he was actively trying to save people. The T-rex even eats the dog which really tickled me after the whole “never kill the dog” Hollywood trope, particularly in light of the previous summer’s Independence Day. This was totally Spielberg playing.
Perhaps the science is now just a blatant excuse to have dinosaur action. I like that because it always was. The point of Jurassic Park was Dino-rampage, not Mr. DNA. Sarah is trying to correct assumptions about dinosaurs which is noble, but the practical issue is there’s always going to be a suit trying to exploit science and endangering the public.
Dieter (Peter Stormare) is the one-dimensional animal abusing A-hole who totally gets what’s coming to him and it’s magnificently satisfying. I mean, no one deserves it like the lawyer who abandoned the kids in Jurassic Park but this is the stuff I love in action movies. His negligence is the reason Eddie and Sarah were able to set the dinosaurs free anyway. Dieter’s demise is classic Spielbergian monster build up. I completely understand Roland (Pete Postlethwaite). Even he suspects ingen has the wrong intentions but what professional hunter could turn down an opportunity to go after that game?
The gymnastics scene doesn’t bother me. At all. They set up that she was a gymnast. And if you’re opposed to a kid (Vanessa Lee Chester) tagging along the adventure, do you know Steven Spielberg? He put Short Round in Temple of Doom. And the value of having Goldblum have an African-American daughter in 1997 was huge.
On Blu-ray I can tell some of the CGI isn’t as seamless so I have to be just as harsh as I was on the original. Stegosauri walk through trees and you can tell someone’s shaking the trees and they’re added in later. During the hunt, dinosaurs seem to be on a different plane than the humans. But since we know dinosaurs aren’t real we suspend disbelief, and the Stan Winston animatronics are still top of the line.
Maybe Jurassic World 2 will be the Lost World of the new trilogy. I doubt it because there’s not the perfect storm of Michael Crichton writing a sequel novel and the original director returning. It will probably just be another opportunity to remind people I unabashedly love The Lost World.