The Lost World

Tucson Weekly

DIRECTED BY: Steven Spielberg

REVIEWED: 05-29-97

THIS IS THE worst idea yet in the long history of bad ideas, and I'm going to be there when you find that out."

Uttered by the geeky-yet-suave chaotician Dr. Ian Malcolm, this is as prophetic of the film itself as anything in it.

The Lost World (subtitled Jurassic Park 2, in case anyone wasn't sure) proves to have its share of bad ideas, as well as a considerable amount of no idea.

Viewers of Jurassic Park the First will no doubt recall it was largely an exercise in sequel-building, as it left almost nothing actually resolved and was crafted with any number of convenient loose ends.

Remember the Barbasol can full of frozen embryos, lost in the rainy mire?

Remember, for that matter, practically the whole rest of the film?

Inexplicably, none of these careful arrangements were employed in establishing the context for the sequel, which instead spends its first half-hour scrambling ineptly to invent some new background.

We and the protagonists suddenly learn the island site of the original park is one of a chain of five similar islands called the "Cinco Muertes."

Which means "five deaths," as our heroes are breathlessly told by their trembling Costa Rican sea captain.

Like any amusing ethnic working stiff in the history of cinema, he is superstitious, and refuses to actually approach the islands, thus establishing the reason why the ship does not dock.

After all, it's hard to remain in peril when you can just get back on board and steam away.

Anyway, turns out that lots more dinosaurs were bred on one of the other islands and have been left to run riot ever since.

And now the corporate baddies at InGen, Inc., mean to recapture some and put them in a new park to be located more conveniently in San Diego, that natural home of animal attractions.

Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, the only returning actor in a major role) this time packs some unexpected baggage in the form of a hitherto unknown daughter, Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), who is of the age that all Spielberg films require.

Naturally, when Malcolm is compelled to return to the scene of carnage, Kelly obediently stays home and is not seen for the rest of the film, honest.

She absolutely does not stow herself on board, never becomes a heart-wrenching potential victim to scream shrilly and be rescued at intervals, nor does she brilliantly and youthfully save the day at any time.

The now-discredited and very reluctant Malcolm is compelled islandward by the fact that between films he has also acquired a paleontologist girlfriend, Sarah, played by Julianne Moore.

The evil, exploitative and really environmentally insensitive InGen has not only contrived to send her to the Island of Ultimate Comeuppance, but also to somehow keep Malcolm ignorant of the fact.

The mission also includes a lot of rugged safari types led by Pete Postlethwaite as the archetypal Great White Hunter, equipped with a dozen or so carefully outfitted and even more carefully photographed Mercedes-Benz all-terrain vehicles.

All this setup leads to a very familiar sequel:

It was called Aliens and James Cameron made it a few years ago.

A small team of sensitive experts and a large team of heavily-armed types arrive to kick monster butt, and are soon mauled into a terrified rout and spend most of the film retreating and being innovatively eaten.

A great example is a scene in which a character named Eddie "gave his life to save us," in Malcolm's words, by being shared between two dinosaurs like the spaghetti noodle in Lady and the Tramp. Another sequence has everybody simply being grazed upon by raptors as they attempt to cross a broad field of deep foliage.

However, although the film is darker and more violent than its predecessor, it doesn't quite turn into a luau of long pig: Though I didn't actually count, there are probably no more than five or six scenes of explicit humanivore activity.

But as might be expected, the film has a sliding scale of baddies, and the worst of them is reserved for the most lingering consumption.

It's worth noting that the role of one such meal was actually played by the screenwriter David Koepp, whose character is listed in the credits as "Unlucky Bastard."

Pounded with tense and spectacular scenes, we ought to be having a pretty good time, but the weak and unfocused story has a distancing effect.

We don't get as scared as we might because we're just not involved enough.

Although there's an effort to include things like character development, the effort shows; and everyone seems relieved when things just concentrate on the spectacle of the dinos.

One rare attempt at a light moment comes when Malcolm, Sarah and Kelly have narrowly escaped death and are clinging to a cliff.

Hollering for a rope, they're answered with, "Okay, and do you need anything else?" To which they respond, "Yes, a double cheeseburger with fries. And an apple turnover."

Erm, yes, that would be humor, wouldn't it.

Enough about the story then, what about the real star, those special effects?

Well, they're good. Really good. Better and grander than the original. But there is a sameness to much of it: In particular we are treated to endless dark scenes of a T. rex head snuffling menacingly around buildings and vehicles wherein cower hapless, terrified humans.

This head is very well done, but we see rather a lot of it, presumably bobbing around on the end of a crane. It's an impressive engineering investment, and it gets a lot of screen time. And presumably after its film debut, went back into service as a fixture of Jurassic Park, The Ride.

--Dan Parslow

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The Lost World
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