The Lost World

Weekly Alibi

DIRECTED BY: Steven Spielberg

REVIEWED: 05-28-97

The Lost World, Steven Spielberg's sequel to Jurassic Park, will likely please fans of the first movie while offering little for the rest of us. Like its predecessor, the film is a visual effects masterpiece with a shallow, predictable plot. Why do movies that look this cool have to be so stupid?

The story goes like this: Jurassic Park was merely a playground for the genetically engineered dinosaurs that wreaked so much havoc the first time around. Their breeding ground was actually a remote island some 80 miles away known as Isla Sorna. InGen, the company responsible for Jurassic Park, has experienced a hostile takeover, dividing the corporation into two camps: those who want to conduct unobtrusive scientific studies of the beasts and those who want to stuff them in the San Diego Zoo. Jeff Goldblum returns as Dr. Ian Malcolm, the chaotician who survived the first movie. He agrees to visit Isla Sorna on a scientific expedition when he learns that his girlfriend, Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), is already on the island. For Ian, this is a rescue mission.

And of course, it wouldn't be a bad Steven Spielberg movie without bratty, precocious children. Introducing Vanessa Lee Chester as Kelly Malcolm, the 12-year-old daughter we never knew Ian had--and wish he hadn't. Vanessa overacts lines like, "You never keep your promises, daddy," and stows away on the ship to Isla Sorna. I was hoping Vanessa would be the first to get chomped by a T-Rex, but no such luck. In fact, no one dies until about halfway through the movie, and even then it's fairly tame for a bisection.

The "never-violate-the-prime-directive" scientists (to borrow a "Star Trek" phrase) are forced to team up with the "let's-make-a-zoo" sadists when all the dinosaurs on the island go nuts and kill people. What follows is pretty much like the original Jurassic Park movie: people run, scream and get eaten by dinosaurs. In the end, there is potential for a sequel.

As can be expected from Spielberg, the special effects in The Lost World are superb. The computer-generated dinosaurs are successfully integrated with the live cast to create a perfect illusion, as opposed to, say, Anaconda, in which the title snake looks like something from a Nintendo game. One scene that made me laugh out loud involved Peter Stormare of Fargo fame being eaten alive by scores of tiny, piranha-like lizards. I don't know how such an effect was achieved; I'd like to think it really happened.

Unfortunately, the greatest special effects in the world cannot save a poorly scripted film. There is lots of faux-clever dialog like, "Watch it, this suit cost more than your education!" And some of the action sequences are ridiculous. Twenty interminable minutes are spent on a dull, literal cliff-hanger; we know no one's going to die because it's too early in the movie. And later, young Kelly Malcolm uses her gymnastic skills to defeat an angry velociraptor. It sounds funnier than it is. Despite the film's insipidness, most theater-goers will probably enjoy it--especially the younger members of the crowd. So, while I may prefer the stop-motion tragedy of King Kong--a film which laid the groundwork for Jurassic Park and The Lost World--Spielberg's latest blockbuster may be a great movie to see with the kids ... as long as your kids don't mind a little human dismemberment here and there.

--Noah Masterson

Full Length Reviews
The Lost World
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Other Films by Steven Spielberg
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Columbo (tv)
Saving Private Ryan

Film Vault Suggested Links
War of the Worlds

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