So, after last week’s look at the greatest blockbuster of all time, let’s talk about a movie that…isn’t that.
Look, I’m sure that, like me, there are a lot of people who look back on The Lost World, the second part of the Jurassic Park franchise, with a whole lot of nostalgia. And I understand that. I have very fond memories of this movie on VHS, the slightly battered case on the shelf, the thrill of watching Jurassic Park and realizing there was more. More dinosaurs, more of that guy with the funny intonation, more of the delightfully grandfatherly Richard Attenborough. Why wouldn’t you want more? What could possibly go wrong with more?
The Lost World, as with many sequels, peels things back a little, as we follow Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) as he pursues his errant girlfriend (Julianne Moore) to the island where the dinosaurs from the first movie were originally developed. Of course, things go awry once again, and even Goldblum’s exciting line deliveries can’t keep them safe forever.
But, as we’ve probably all come to realize with some uneasy rewatching, The Lost World really…isn’t so great. Not to say that there aren’t some awesome aspects to the movie: Pete Postlethwaite as big-game hunter Roland Tembo is one of the most interesting and compelling characters the franchise ever offered it’s audiences, and the sequence with the velociraptors in the tall grass is just as amazing as you remember it being. But there’s a by-the-numbers feeling to The Lost World that leaves it feeling more like box-ticking that the brilliant, bold innovation of the first movie.
In fact, The Lost World often feels like a great example of not giving audiences what they want in terms of a sequel. I mean, Jeff Golblum was the breakout character of the first movie, but that was because he was tempered by the excellent Sam Neill and the even excellent-er Laura Dern. He’s really just there to wave his arms around, tell everyone what a bad idea this all is, and have a bit of a funny intonation, and the flimsiness of his character really shows in this second movie, with even Goldblum’s charisma not being enough to float Ian Malcolm through a whole film of his own. His relationship with Julianne Moore is near chemistry-free, and it just goes to show that more people need to take heed of the lesson that Joey taught us: never give the breakout a spinoff.
But it also tries to go bigger with the dinosaurs this time around, as the third act takes place in San Diego as a T-rex rampages through the city. Now, I understand the push behind this decision: bringing the dinosaurs (I still haven’t spelt that right once first time around) to an urban environment gives it a more immediate horror for a wider audience, the same way Halloween does as it brings the serial killer to a suburban neighbourhood. But holy hell, does this just look really silly in retrospect: not only is this plot riddled with holes (what, did the T-rex get out of it’s holding cage, kill everyone on the boat, and the politely climb back in and press the button to secure itself before the boat crashed into land?), but it feels like the movie straining for something bigger, better than the first movie. And sure, they couldn’t just rehash what went down in the first movie, but having Jeff Goldblum waggling his eyebrows around San Diego while the painfully underserved Julianne Moore runs about trying not to let too many people get eaten is not the most convincing route they could have taken.
It’s still dinosaurs, at the end of the day, and that’s cool and fun to watch no matter which way you slice it (a fact that future movies would exploit to degrees you’ll never believe possible). But the enormous love poured into the first movie is just missing here. Not completely – as sequences like the hunt through the tall grass show, Spielberg is still a master of blockbuster action, and the nineties were still very much his playground for the exploration of that. But there’s less heart and less wonder in The Lost World, and even the nostalgia factor can’t save it from that.
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(header image courtesy of Youtube)
By Louise MacGregor