“Oh, Yeah. Oooh, Ahhh, That’s How It Always Starts. Then Later There’s Running and Screaming…” – Dr. Ian Malcolm
Strangely dubbed; The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a title that appears to be out of order in its literary arrangement. This adventurous sequel to the timeless classic; Jurassic Park, released in 1993, was once among the most anticipated films of the 1990s. Yet, upon its initial release in 1997, The Lost World: Jurassic Park disappointed many for not living up to the lofty expectations set by the original, including Spielberg himself, who expressed disappointment with the film after becoming increasingly disenchanted with it during production. Nevertheless, I have always considered The Lost World: Jurassic Park somewhat underrated, harbouring an intriguing story and a more foreboding tone/aesthetic, which offsets some of its screenplay-centric faults.
Plot Summary: Four years after the catastrophe of Jurassic Park, the now-humbled John Hammond, strives to redeem himself by studying the well-being of the dinosaurs roaming free on InGen’s secondary site for bio-engineering, the secluded island of Isla Sorna. While assembling his team for this study, Hammond contacts the reluctant Dr. Ian Malcolm to convince him to join the expedition. Meanwhile, Hammond’s ignorant nephew, Peter Ludlow, intends to use his newly-obtained position as the CEO of InGen to capture as many of the island’s prehistoric species as possible for a new attraction opening in central San Diego…
Similar to the original film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton and helmed by celebrated director Steven Spielberg. So, as is to be expected, under this masterful direction, The Lost World: Jurassic Park boasts several edge-of-your-seat moments, the stand-outs of which are a scene that features a Tyrannosaurus Rex tandem bashing a mobile trailer over a cliff, as well as a sequence in which a Tyrannosaurus Rex rampages through San Diego destroying everything in its path, swiftly morphing the audience’s perception of dinosaurs from captivating, awe-inspiring creatures to truly terrifying prehistoric beasts, following the incident on Isla Nublar. However, as the runtime continues, it becomes increasingly evident that Spielberg desperately wanted to integrate as many of his own ideas into the framework of Crichton’s sequel novel as he could. A desire that ultimately results in the narrative becoming unfocused, eventually losing itself almost entirely near the end of the second act to concentrate on exciting dinosaur sequences.
Returning from the original film is Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, the remarkably entertaining pessimistic mathematician with a dry sense of humour. Accompanying Malcolm this time around is his adolescent daughter, Kelly Curtis, portrayed by Vanessa Lee Chester, and his palaeontologist girlfriend, Sarah Harding, portrayed by Julianne Moore, in addition to the other members of Hammond’s research team; wildlife photographer, Nick Van Owen, portrayed by Vince Vaughn, and tech expert, Eddie Carr, portrayed by Richard Schiff. Whilst every cast member turns in a solid performance, however, there is undoubtedly a lack of well-defined characters in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, as every character has a shortage of development beyond the dexterities they bring to their team. Roland Tembo, portrayed by the late Pete Postlethwaite, is perhaps the most compelling character of this particular entry in the series, being depicted as a jaded big-game hunter, determined to capture a male Tyrannosaurus Rex, single-handedly.
Swapping out the tidied facilities and tropical foliage of Jurassic Park for dim lighting, expansive forests and more intense violence, The Lost World: Jurassic Park‘s visuals are substantially darker than its predecessor, corresponding with the more downbeat tone of the narrative. Furthermore, the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski retains a tremendous sense of movement, while the film’s abundant use of marvellous CG effects, detailed miniatures and impressive life-sized animatronics effectively bring the dinosaurs (and a handful of locations) to life, all whilst demonstrating how far CGI had come since the first instalment in the franchise in ’93.
Once again composed by John Williams, the original score for The Lost World: Jurassic Park only contains minor hints towards the iconic theme and secondary motifs of Jurassic Park. Instead, the score houses much of its own appeal (not too dissimilar to how the visuals differ from the original film) as Williams constructs a different thematic and textural landscape for InGen’s Site B, a.k.a. Isla Sorna. As such, the soundtrack sheds much of the amazement and beauty of John Hammond’s prehistoric theme park for a more ominous soundscape. Excluding the film’s unfairly neglected theme; The Lost World, which is more wildlife adventure-inspired.
On a separate note, whilst its amusing to see franchise-staple dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Velociraptors return in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, I’ve always felt its a shame the filmmakers didn’t attempt to introduce a selection of lesser-known dinosaurs, especially with how many fantastic choices there are, as the carnivorous Alioramus, Majungasaurus and Spinosaurus (which would later appear in 2001’s Jurassic Park III), all would’ve served as significant threats and upped the ante for this much-anticipated sequel.
In summary, while it truthfully does pale in comparison to the original film, there is plenty to appreciate about The Lost World: Jurassic Park when viewed from a different perspective, as the film retains an overabundance of spectacle and exceptional visual effects, affirmed by the film’s Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects in 1998. Essentially, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a perfect example of just how difficult it can be to craft an engaging sequel to a beloved cinema-altering blockbuster. Rating: 6/10.