24. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

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The truth about nostalgia is that we’d be better off without it. What keeps us trapped in the past, or yearning for things to be as they were, is irrational. This is one of the blockbusters that Steven Spielberg became disillusioned with while filming (Temple of Doom would be a similar experience), and some Oscar-bait epic was the byproduct result, his personal catharsis. But in the meantime, we got The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

For five years, and being based on a Crichton novel, it’s a wonder why this movie’s plot feels so rushed. It’s curious how the two main characters of the original are missing with little to no explanation (and yet the entire cast isn’t overhauled), it’s puzzling how ‘humor’ works here, but none of this occurred to me as a five year old.

Jurassic Park being such a huge part of my upbringing is probably owed to this film, whose marketing would’ve been taking the nation around when I could comprehend the VCR and the flashing lights on-screen. Although I could tell the difference between the two movies, they became interchangeable, and this one was often more popular because it had less [important] setup, and there were plenty of dinosaurs. The first had a singular Tyrannosaurus? This one has two!

Sequels are a fascinating business to me. The original Jurassic Park is a perfectly self-contained unit. It tells its story with the needed amount of set pieces. The Lost World is on hand to offer more set pieces, because it can’t offer a story.

It might, theoretically, but in accordance with the themes of Jurassic Park, there was only one story to tell. That’s why both sequels have the same story — people on an island, chased by dinosaurs. It’s a better formula than a story, which is both why the plot is so dumb, and how it can facilitate some pretty great moments.

The T-Rex chases the camp into a waterfall, the raptors attack in the long-grass, and the series’ makes its only Stegosaurus appearance, which is like my favorite dinosaur. Another formula arises: the direction of Spielberg of adventure action, the John Williams music, and most critical, the Stan Winston effects. It’s my favorite thing about movies.

For all the story-bashing, The Lost World represents a better extension of the original movie’s world than Jurassic Park III, which is a more straight-forward adventure (akin to The Last Crusade, that kind of simplification). We get some insight on inGen, Jurassic Park’s Weyland-Yutani, and although some of that back-story is interesting (the only reason I’d play Trespasser), what it does is create that aesthetic, as discussed with Deep Blue Sea.

Again, it’s an overgrown locale, an industrial space overtaken by the jungle. There’s a visual motif of lost dreams, but this is mostly background, and so the mise-en-scen tells a more compelling story than an Ian Malcolm family harangue, or collecting dinosaurs for transport to San Diego.

It’s a film that takes place mostly at night, but it isn’t the ‘dark second chapter’ that’s much-maligned here at The Battle Beyond Planet X. It’s another adventure, and that might mean burnout for you, or it might mean dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs, and possibly more dinosaurs.

This, for the record, is the second-to-last critically unacclaimed film on the list — critically reviled, I should say, though #10 is indefensible to most, and tomorrow’s is precisely 50/50, hyper-polarizing.

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5 thoughts on “24. The Lost World: Jurassic Park

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but I remember it being about 38,000 times better than anyone was giving it credit for. Sadly, it would probably be even more hated if it was released today. It’s not “dark and gritty” enough, and it’s too genuine and sincere. Audiences today demand “witty” irony and directors who think they’re above the material. What, you want earnest movies? Ha, fuck you.

    “Based on a Crichton novel” is dubious. I remember reading both books, and while the first movie was mostly faithful to the book, The Lost World has basically nothing to do with its supposed source material. The set-up is sort of similar, and there’s maybe one or two scenes that resemble one another, but Spielberg left most of it behind. Not really a bad thing, since most of the memorable stuff from the movie was original.

    Funny thing is, the later movies have gone back and pillaged the books. JP3 had no less than three scenes taken from the first book, and I just recently saw a trailer for Jurassic World with someone racing through the grass on a motorcycle through a raptor stampede, just like in the second book. And I think the opening scene from The Lost World was taken from the first book.

    A while back Spielberg was supposed to make a movie based on Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes. Not sure if it’s still happening, but I’d be more excited for that than Pirates of the Carribean 5: We Stopped Pretending to Give a Shit Three Movies Ago.

    1. My recollection of the two books is so vague… I’d love to revisit them, but then — I just made myself tired.

      It’s weird that any of Jurassic Park III was from the books, because that one just feels so disconnected, but maybe it’s because ultimately Spielberg was the majority creative lead on the series, not Crichton, and so when his influence left, JP3 was just hollow and empty.

      And this one is definitely a Spielberg movie — he does adventure like nobody else. It’s big and fun and thrilling. Who cares if the plot is stupid? You’re right, the honesty of the movie is a lynchpin undersold by critics and forgotten by today’s filmmakers.

      I still have to see the trailer for Jurassic World. Can’t say I’m excited for it, but I’m not down on it. Give me CGI dinosaurs, and you can fuck everything else up (as evidenced by this Top 100 list)

      1. Jurassic World looks like Predators: a sort of combination sequel/remake that takes no chances at all and doesn’t offer a single surprising turn of events, competent and respectable but rote and forgettable.

        Not long ago some concept art leaked from back when they were planning on going totally batshit and doing a movie with human/dino hybrids, and seeing the new trailer made me wish they had gone that route instead.

        I think the Jurassic movies are victims of their success and budgets. Smaller movies like Tremors can go crazy with the sequels and actually offer some progression and evolution, but bigger franchises are under pressure to keep repackaging.

        Which is fine if it’s executed well, but just once I’d like to see something that isn’t less creative than internet fan fiction. Someone smuggles embryos off the island and the dinos start reproducing on mainland America… why hasn’t that been done yet?

    2. At this point, everyone would rather a Predator 2 than a Predators, for most things. That defanged approach is just so boring (Godzilla 2014). Yet, I like the formula of Jurassic Park a hell of a lot more than that of Predator, and even though Predator’s is pretty hard to screw up, I think there’s a higher standard to meet for Jurassic Park. One that may require a certain baseline of creativity because how do you do dinosaurs chasing people? Maybe throw motorcycles in there…

      I don’t know. I’d like to see Dinosaurs in America, but I do love the jungle. We just need more dinosaurs in general

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