I saw ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ for the first time in much the same way I watched its predecessor; on VHS, in the living room, on a tiny television set. My excitement for this film dwarfed my enthusiasm for the first, as I had built up my own expectations. I could not wait to see more dinosaurs terrorising their prey. A four year span separated the original classic and this new instalment and for a child of ten, that was a huge wait.
The film sees the always brilliant Julianne Moore, head to dino-land as part of a research expedition, unaware of the dangers that stalk the idyllic island. Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr Malcolm, rushes back to the place he so luckily escaped from, in a bid to rescue his love interest, with his daughter in tow. All the while, another expedition heads to the island with an alternative and more sinister agenda.
Spielberg continues the theme of parental fear in the film, this time with Goldblum’s character being the centre of attention. The dinosaurs represent the fear of failure as a parent; no coincidence then that a plot contrivance sees a young lady he has a paternal affection for secretly hitch a ride to the island. In the first film, Dr Grant felt more a natural model for a parent whereas Dr Malcolm in this film seems at odds with the concept. Dr Grant’s fear of parenthood stemmed from the fact he was unsure if he would be up to the challenge. Dr Malcolm’s fear stems from the fact that he is unsure if he really wants the challenge at all. It is a subtle shift in the exploration of the theme, but is no less prominent.
But before we get too deep into philosophical mutterings about the film, we should explore whether the film is actually any good. Yes is the short answer. The film contains, arguably, more excitement and terror than in the original. Everything is cranked up here; there is an attack from two T-Rex’s! With the action amplified and the violence as extreme as it can be for a PG certificate, the film is indisputably entertaining. But with everything on screen being bigger (figuratively and literally), it doesn’t mean it is better.
The film does not match up to the original, but comparisons to Spielberg’s masterful predecessor are unfair. The first was unique. This is a continuation which undoubtedly carries expectations and loses the novelty. The film ultimately falls down due to it’s hefty length and bloated story. This is not a simple story of people trying to escape from an island filled with creatures. This is all of that alongside a story of business ethics and animal cruelty. Just when you think the film finishes, another act rears it’s head.
Out of context, the final act works brilliantly and reminds us that Spielberg is a master at set pieces. But within the whole piece, it adds length and disrupts the pace of the film. This was probably done out of love for the film; Spielberg unwilling to lose parts of the film that work so well on their own terms. But it is unfortunate and the ending movement does not feel as natural as it would have if it ended where you expected it to. The continuation of using animatronics was wise and the decision to do so must have been difficult considering the advance in visual effects in the four years between films. But it was necessary because the prehistoric animals feel real and alive; the dinosaurs are the beating heart of the film, after all.
It might not be the masterpiece the original was, but the film works on it’s own merits, despite the flaws. Criticisms of the film being a cash-in seem unfair as this is a labour of love; it was crafted with good intentions and has a fully formed beating heart at it’s core, something which is missing from most summer blockbusters.
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG
STARRING: JEFF GOLDBLUM, JULIANNE MOORE, PETE POSTLETHWAITE, VINCE VAUGHN