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  [rating: 3 of 4 stars] movie review by Gary Johnson

The Lost World: Jurassic Park contains the most spectacular special effects ever put on a movie screen. Bar none. Case closed. While the effects in Jurassic Park were indeed mind-bogglingly realistic, The Lost World ups the ante even further, allowing us to see the digitally-created dinosaurs up close and personal to an extent far beyond the original movie.

"Something has survived" in The Lost World.
(©1997 Universal Studios Inc. and Amblin Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

Now we see dinosaurs clawing the earth while humans run around them on all sides. Dust swirls through the air as the creatures bleat and men drop snares over their heads. The creatures and humans interact with much greater freedom than before, making the seams between the live action humans and the digital creations even more difficult to discern.

So if you want dinosaurs, you'll get dinosaurs and plenty of them in The Lost World. But this movie is ultimately disappointing because that's practically all you get. At least in Jurassic Park, director Steven Spielberg allowed us to sense the wonder and awe of being pulled into an incredible environment where dinosaurs had been reborn. We also could experience the growing tension as the dinosaur theme park gradually self-destructed.

In contrast, The Lost World takes little time throwing us onto the island. The first scene in fact delivers the goods with hordes of tiny scavenger dinosaurs attacking a little girl. After the opening sequence, we only have to suffer through twenty dreadfully boring minutes back on the mainland (some of the worst filmmaking of Spielberg's career) as Jeff Goldblum struggles with the dilemma of whether or not to join an expedition that will return to the island. But after the boring stuff is out of the way, Spielberg wastes no time showing us the dinosaurs.

Jeff Goldblum, Richard Schiff and Vince Vaughn encounter a herd of Stegosaurs.
(©1997 Universal Studios Inc. and Amblin Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

As a result, The Lost World is filled with spectacular special effects, but little real tension until the tyrannosaurs and velociraptors start attacking, at which point all hell breaks loose. For some reason, all the people (except for the always dissenting Goldblum) seem to have forgotten just how dangerous the creatures could be. The humans wander around the island blissfully ignorant that it's only a matter of time before the carnivorous dinosaurs start chowing down on the "nice to have you in town" humans.

Neither did Spielberg learn from the painfully flat characters in the first movie. The human characters are just as dull in this movie. They only exist to give the dinosaurs something to hunt. Whereas King Kong found a way to tell a great story and give us, for its time, state-of-the-art special effects, Spielberg and company skip the storytelling part and head straight for technical virtuosity. As a result, the movie often feels exciting, but afterwards you're left with nothing of consequence to consider.

Julianne Moore and Jeff Goldblum go face-to-face with a T-Rex.
(©1997 Universal Studios Inc. and Amblin Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.)

This continuation of the Jurassic Park story suggests that dinosaurs were bred on another island before being moved to the dinosaur theme park. And while the dinosaurs in the theme park were destroyed, dinosaurs now roam wild on the other island. Therefore, a party of explorers is put together to photograph and document the dinosaurs. Goldblum only decides to go along after he discovers that his girlfriend (Julianne Moore) has already joined the party and, in fact, is already in route to the island. However, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the head of InGen, the company responsible for creating the dinosaurs, has recently lost control of the company to his mercenary nephew (Arliss Howard). And now, against his wishes, an army of hunters (led by Pete Postlethwaite) descends on the island to rope and crate the creatures (just like the safari crews in Hatari! (1962), where John Wayne and crew rode jeeps across the African veldt to trap rhinos and wildebeest). Goldblum and company (including Vince Vaughn of Swingers and Richard Schiff of Seven) react in horror as the trappers chase and tranquilize the critters. But eventually the tyrannosaurs show up (surprise!) and everyone scatters like cockroaches from bright light. Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!

Most of the developments in The Lost World are incredibly predictable, not particularly surprising, and at worst, quite mundane. But even with its weaknesses, the movie contains several absolutely stunning set pieces. In one scene, the humans run through a field of tall grass with a pack of velociraptors in pursuit. With the camera looking down on the field, we watch as the velociraptors quickly converge on the humans from all sides. In another scene, a pair of tyrannosaurs attack an RV and send it tumbling to the edge of a cliff, while Goldblum and Moore get battered around like pinballs inside the vehicle.

If you're familiar with the silent movie The Lost World (made in 1925 by the same team responsible for creating King Kong eight years later), you'll have a pretty good idea where The Lost World: Jurassic Park is headed. Few people except movie buffs have seen the original The Lost World. While it pushed special effects to a completely new level and awed its audiences, it lacked the great storytelling that made King Kong a vital part of our culture. As a result, it has faded away to just a footnote in history. The same fate may one day await The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but for the time being this is the best roller coaster ride around. The movie should be credited for giving the tyrannosaurs parental instincts. They aren't simply the killing machines of Jurassic Park; now, they are protecting their young. But this development is simply a ruse to excuse the human slaughter that soon takes place.

Coming from Steven Spielberg, the same man responsible for Schindler's List, The Lost World: Jurassic Park promises much more than it actually delivers and ultimately it becomes an irritatingly superficial thriller. If Spielberg had actually given the same attention to the human characters and the storytelling that he gave to the dinosaurs and the technology that created them, he might have given us a classic tale of the dangerous lengths that parents may go to protect their brood. But the dinosaurs dwarf everything in the movie, even the monumental reputation of Spielberg.

The Lost World Web site

Universal Web site

A Universal Pictures Presentation
An Amblin Entertainment Production


Ian MalcolmJeff Goldblum
Sarah HardingJulianne Moore
Roland TemboPete Postlethwaite
Peter LudlowArliss Howard
John HammondRichard Attenborough
Nick Van OwenVince Vaughn
Kelly CurtisVanessa Lee Chester
Dieter StarkPeter Stormare
Ajay SidhuHarvey Jason
Eddie CarrRichard Schiff
Dr. Robert BurkeThomas F. Duffy
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Produced byGerald R. Molen
Colin Wilson
Screenplay byDavid Koepp
Based on the novel The Lost World byMichael Crichton
Director of PhotographyJanusz Kaminksi
Production DesignerRick Carter
Music byJohn Williams
Costume DesignerSue Moore
EditorMichael Kahn
Full Motion DinosaursDennis Muren
Live Action DinosaursStan Winston
Special Dinosaur EffectsMichael Lantieri
Technical Advisor, Paleontology ConsultantJack Horner
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