Jurassic Park: The Lost World
directed by Steven Spielberg
(Universal, 1997)

It's always a shame to see a really good idea perverted into a bad sequel.

After the triumph that was Jurassic Park, writer Michael Crichton and director Steven Spielberg fumbled the ball in their haste to capitalize on the big-selling dinosaur market. The sequel, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, flounders from the merely adequate to the downright bad.

Having seen the dinosaurs already in all their fully animated glory, there's no reason to build suspense in this film, and Spielberg doesn't. He gives us a dinosaur attack right from the get-go, albeit an attack of cute and little ones.

There is, we learn, a second island populated by dinosaurs. This one has no fences or tourist attraction facilities; instead, it's a breeding ground where the dinos were allowed to develop and evolve at their own pace. Now, a small team of scientists is sent in to study their progress.

Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as scientist Ian Malcolm, and his appearance here makes no sense beyond Spielberg's desire for a big name on the credits. While the research team itself is a valid basis for the film, there is never a reason given for including a chaos theorist on the team. Of course, it helps that the crew is led by paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), who just happens to be Ian's girlfriend. And having Ian's teenage daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) stow away on the expedition is an even sillier plot device, serving no purpose but to add a screaming, terrified child to the group.

And then there's the "evil" team, the mercenaries sent in to capture dinosaurs for exploitation on the mainland. Please. Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is a boring, two-dimensional villain motivated solely by financial gain. While his uncle, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, who makes a few brief cameos here), was merely misguided in Jurassic Park, Ludlow is so driven by greed that he's a caricature.

On the plus side, The Lost World has every bit as much visual magic. From the moment a stegosaurus family trudges across the screen, the film is dominated by incredible scenes of dinosaur animation. Unfortunately, special effects can't always overcome bad plotting.

For instance, it's hard to believe that any thinking, rational scientist would take an injured tyrannosaurus rex baby back to base camp for a Band-Aid. Or that an experienced safari guide would wander off into the dinosaur-infested jungle to relieve himself. Or that someone would be scared enough of a snake that he'd run into the jaws of a huge toothy carnivore.

For all its flaws, I would have been content with The Lost World as another action dinosaur flick if they hadn't tacked on a trite King Kong ending. The killer daddy T-Rex on the loose in San Diego put a ridiculously stupid cap on the film. (Could anyone please explain to me how the T-Rex managed to break free of its containment on the ship which brought it to the mainland and kill the entire ship's crew -- including those in cabins and compartments too small for it to reach, or how the dead crew managed to pilot the ship to its exact docking point despite being, well, dead?)

The feel-good epilogue is just one last nail in The Lost World's coffin. Do yourself a favor and watch Jurassic Park again.

(Word is that Spielberg is already working on Jurassic Park 3, although no information has been released about its cast or plot, if indeed it has one.)

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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