Length: 129 minutes
Release Date: May 23, 1997
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Stars: 3 out of 5
“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” is the sequel to Steven Spielberg’s monster hit “Jurassic Park.” Taking place some time after the original, the film features Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and a group of scientists heading to Isla Sorna to document the dinosaurs still existing. The uneven movie is a fun ride overall, but it doesn’t quite hit the highs of “Jurassic Park.” In fact, some of the problems that plagued the original are magnified here, including an overreliance on special effects and one-dimensional characters. That being said, there’s plenty to enjoy here, including some truly masterful shots from Spielberg.
The plot involves a second island, called Isla Sorna, filled with dinosaurs. An accident involving a little girl leads John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the mastermind behind Jurassic Park, to lose control of his company InGen. His nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), is heading to the island with intent to bring back dinosaurs for his own zoo in San Diego. Hammond sends Ian to meet with Nick (Vince Vaughn) and Sarah (Julianne Moore) to catalogue the island and grow public supports to give Hammond back control of InGen. Of course, things get a bit sideways, and Hammond’s group ends up in a race against InGen to save a Tyrannosaurus Rex baby.
Of course, the plot is secondary to the CGI dinosaurs that grace the screen with the flesh-and-blood actors. In this film, the dinosaurs do not blend as seamlessly as they did in “Jurassic Park,” but part of that is because Spielberg is more aggressive in his scenes, detailing groups of people and, at times, vehicles and maneuvering in and out of giant herds of prehistoric creatures. There’s a bit less here to gawk at, which is partly because the audience has seen all of this already. That doesn’t stop Spielberg from showing his actors in awe by focusing on their wide-eyed expressions. It’s effective the first time, but after the tenth scene of an individual staring off into the distance, it becomes a bit tired.
“The Lost World” sees Spielberg going through the motions, showing off his skills as a master thrill maker with some great set pieces, but it’s not him at his best. The plot is too simple, and it’s tough to feel completely invested in these people, since the audience isn’t given a lot of time with them before they’re thrown into the proverbial fire. Plus, Spielberg seems to be bent on repeating certain story beats from the original by shoving Malcolm’s daughter into the film, re-creating the “child in peril” drama that existed in “Jurassic Park.”
That said, this is a Spielberg flick, and even his mediocre films are better than most. If anything, “The Lost World” is a master class on suspense. The scene with Malcolm and Sarah in a trailer as they are attacked by two Tyrannosaurus Rex’s is heart pounding. Another shot of velociraptors creeping through a field on some unsuspecting scientists is as eerie as it is cool to see. Finally, the T. Rex in San Diego is a fun nod to the “Godzilla” series.
Steven Spielberg seems to be embracing B-movie tropes throughout the flick. This is nothing new with the director’s filmography. Both “1941” and the “Indiana Jones” series have a lot of fun turning those cheesy films into A-level gold. In “The Lost World,” Spielberg embraces that B-level fun, with scenes seeming to revel in the blood and chaos. One scene even has a Tyrannosaurus stepping on a hunter and chasing after the rest of the humans, having that individual stick under the dinosaur’s foot. In any other context, this would be ghastly, but there’s a sort of cheesy fun here that Spielberg, especially lately, seems to stay away from.
There are some interesting themes of animal preservation that are brought up through the movie. A running subplot about a hunter looking to bring back a Tyrannosaurus is interesting, but it’s ultimately secondary to elaborate chase scenes. Spielberg has always teased larger social issues in his fun movies. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” another dark sequel to a Spielberg favorite, also had weird nods to imperialism and religion, yet the themes were dropped in favor of spectacle.
Ultimately, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” is a decent sequel that has plenty of thrills, although lacking much of what made the original “Jurassic Park” so special. Part of the problem lies on Spielberg, who seems mildly disinterested in the film. At the time, his career was at a crossroads, as he was leaving behind the pulpy fun of his early days to take on more serious work. He followed “The Lost World” up with “Saving Private Ryan” and the dark, brooding “A.I.,” officially leaving behind his pulp years until 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Meanwhile, the “Jurassic Park” series was left to Joe Johnston, who directed one more film before the series went dormant. “The Lost World” stands as the second best film in the series and an interesting piece of Spielberg’s filmography, but it’s a film that’s good for a Saturday night thrill rather than a purchase for your home library.