140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
This film exists for 1 & only 1 reason: so Spielberg could have a King Kong moment with Rex on the mainland. Should have just remade Kong…
Spoiler-free Movie Review of The Lost World Jurassic Park:
Jurassic Park was a triumph in filmmaking, a great story and a dino-sized hit. This last fact is the reason Steven Spielberg insisted to making a sequel, even talking author Michael Crichton into writing another book. Which Spielberg then completely ignored…
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is possibly the all-time best example of the perils of going into pre-production without waiting for the source material.
Spielberg had dinosaurs on the brain after the smash hit that was Jurassic Park, and who can blame him? He wanted more, and guys like him don’t hear “no” a lot. Crichton knew there was no good reason for a second novel, but was swayed. One visualizes the director dressed in John Hammond’s all-white outfit, shaking his amber-tipped cane and insisting that “creation is an act of will”.
The novel The Lost World was published in September of 1995. The film adaptation escaped into theaters in May 1997. That’s barely 20 months; do you know how long it takes to make a big-budget FX picture? Hint: more than 20 months. So how do you compress all that pre-production, filming and post-production into that amount of time, not to mention the lengthy marketing timeline? Very poorly, actually…
No, I’m being glib. The real answer is that you don’t. You can’t. So you have to start pre-production before the novel is released. In actual fact, you probably start before the book is even written. Anyone spot a potential problem with that?
Jurassic Park was a great movie because it was a great story. Everything else, the FX, the music, the direction – that all just helped. Spielberg thought his movie succeeded because he knows how to make big summer blockbusters. And of course, he does. But you simply can’t take shortcuts like this, no matter how good you are.
Dismissing the offer of Joe Johnston to direct, the filmmaker proceeded with his vision for the film; he wanted to get a Tyrannosaurus Rex onto the mainland. That’s kind of it, actually. He really made this picture almost entirely because he wanted to get a dinosaur smashing stuff in San Diego. Makes me wonder if they let him film that sequence whether he might have let Johnston direct. If he wasn’t such a ball-hog and insistent on this one idea, there may have been a good film to be had. Instead, we got The Lost World.
All of the exposition I praised in Jurassic Park is missing in The Lost World; Goldblum is feverishly packing in as much dialogue in the first 10 minutes as possible as you can virtually see Spielberg ripping pages out of the novel and chucking them. Whenever a sequel goes back to the original source material and grabs everything they didn’t get around to the first time, it’s a sure sign that they’re short on material. Or in this case, that Spielberg is haphazardly grabbing anything that looks interesting as though he were a kid in a penny candy store.
The film would prove to be another massive success, but even Spielberg realized quickly that his monsterous production was all hat and no cattle. The film was so obviously barren of purpose, particularly after the critical success of Schindler’s List, that it would cause the man to reevaluate his career and he would spend the next few years and films trying to do something meaningful.
After opening with a scene from the first book, the entire premise of the film and justification for its existence are crammed into a very small amount of screen time. You could be excused for failing to grasp the plot of the picture because someone asked you to pass the popcorn – it’s that quick. If you were a little late to the theater, you’d have missed it entirely.
Not that it really matters. Much like its filmmaker, The Lost World assumes you don’t care about the why or the how, only that there’s another bunch of dinosaurs somewhere and it’s open season on humans. There’s a dinosaur escalation factor of enormous proportion – you see them early and often. The picture set new box office records at the time, so I guess the creators were right…
If this review hasn’t been negative enough, here are some other criticisms of The Lost World:
- Combining the book characters of Doc Thorne and Eddie Carr into one character, played well by Richard Schiff, isn’t really a problem – except that it makes no logical sense, since they then need to introduce another member to the party. So they create activist/photographer Nick Van Owen (Vaughned into existence by Vince Vaughn). This is to support the film’s invented subplot that the team is there to document the animals in order to go public with their existence and create support for leaving the animals alone, unsupervised, on an island that they’ve provably escaped from already. And some of them can fly.
- The acting…wait, no, I’m sorry, I can’t let this go. Instead of a simple plot that was already written, some combination of Spielberg, screenwriter David Koepp and the producers has stepped off the path, making changes for no particular reason, and now they have to start making up crap to get them back. This is pretty much a good summary of the problems with this film.
- Product placement – this film is the first time my friend Paul brought my attention to the increasingly sinister prevalence in product placement in film. Up until then it had really escaped my notice and I sort of shrugged it off, but time has proven him more than right…
- Back to the acting, or rather the casting: the main “bad guy”, InGen CEO Peter Ludlow (played with crisp English coldness by Arliss Howard) is such a stereotypical “rich jerk in a suit” it’s ridiculous. But that’s not the biggest problem. They also cast Harvey Jason as Ajay Sidhu, the longtime Indian hunting partner of Pete Postlethwaite’s African big-game hunter Roland Tembo. What’s wrong with that? Well, apart from the fact that Howard isn’t from England, Jason isn’t from India and Postlethwaite isn’t from Africa – they are all short, bald white men in a frequently dark setting. The fact that Tembo doesn’t wear glasses is the only reason I could distinguish him from the other two, who both wear thin-framed glasses. This may seem a minor point, but when a dozen or more people are running away from a dinosaur at night in the jungle, it’s more than a little difficult to tell who anyone is, particularly since they didn’t bother to give Jason’s character anything to do. Jason’s only real speaking scenes were left on the cutting room floor. At one point Tembo mentions something to Ludlow about Ajay, even using his name, and I thought “Who the hell is Ajay?”
- Vince Vaughn. Just because Vince Vaughn…
- The dinosaur expert that is clearly meant to be Dr. Robert Bakker. That’s not even inside baseball – it’s just dumb.
- The kid. Granted, the two precocious kids in the novel have been exchanged for one precocious kid in the film, which should be addition by subtraction. And for the most part, the character of Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), the child of one of the former Mrs. Malcolm’s is fine and credible. But there’s a cutesy gymnastics thing going on that nearly made me walk out of the theater. It’s “I don’t like sand” bad…
- And that sort of crappy humor makes up almost the entirety of the San Diego portion of the film. It really is tacked on. I’d go as far as to suggest that if the film ended with the humans safely leaving the island, The Lost World, despite all of the negatives, would be considered a pretty good film. But the superfluous fourth act that is the Kong homage is so dreadful and pads an already overlong runtime.
- I actually remember when the film ended that I had to run out of the theater to use the head, having finished my dino-sized drink, not realizing the picture was going to be so long. I begged my friends not to compare notes on the movie until I got back, because I wanted the first shot at it; I wanted to rant about what the hell I just saw and didn’t want to miss a second of criticizing it…
Yikes, pal, you must really hate The Lost World, huh? Not at all – what makes you say that?
Look, we’re always hardest on the films that we expect greatness from. I really thought this was going to be an amazing film and it wasn’t. Not even close. But do I hate it? Not even remotely. Why?
- Jeff Goldblum is once again great as Ian Malcolm, nearly everyone’s favorite character from Jurassic Park. I’d actually argue that people respond more to Goldblum’s portrayal of Malcolm than the character himself. I don’t think Malcolm is the hero of The Lost World film because he was the hero of the novel, I’d say that he is the hero of The Lost World novel because Goldblum made the character the star of Jurassic Park.
- (However, the flipside of this is that Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of John Hammond, described by Crichton as a dark Walt Disney, is so kindly and paternal that not only couldn’t they kill him off in the first picture, they’ve turned him into a philanthropist/environmentalist/naturalist/humanitarian grandfather presence in this one. So it cuts both ways…)
- Julianne Moore may have done this one strictly as a paycheck film (she’s admitted as much), but she’s too good of an actress not to stand out in anything she appears in. Dr. Sarah Harding is a good character, a unique character, and it’s just Moore’s bad luck to have so much screen time with Vince Vaughn. (Although, the character is forced to do some very out of character things, like carrying around bloody clothes and not cleaning her campsite, so maybe she earned this one…)
- Postlethwaite is a tremendous talent and makes Roland more interesting than any two other characters combined.
- The action set-pieces; there are some really good ones here. The sequence with the trailer being attacked by the parent Rexes is at least as good as anything in the first film. It’s a seriously long scene that just keeps upping the ante, Indiana Jones style…
- The look of the picture is great; frequent Spielberg collaborator DP Janusz Kamiński has shot a few clunkers, but they always look good. Actually, the locations aren’t quite as interesting, as they opted for California instead of Hawaii or New Zealand.
- The score by John Williams isn’t as iconic as Jurassic Park, but then, that’s a tough act to follow. There are still some great moments, along with the familiar cues.
- While it’s brief, I really like the scenes of the abandoned facility; reminds me of the interesting parts of the novel.
- Despite the rim-shot nature of a lot of the lines, there is some good humor and dialogue. “It’s so important to your future that you not finish that sentence.”
No matter how many problems The Lost World: Jurassic Park has, I can’t totally pan it. It still has good effects and John Williams and lots of dinosaurs. It coulda, shoulda been a better film, but then I suppose it could have been worse…
The Representation Test Score: B (7 pts)
|Main Cast||Jeff Goldblum Ian Malcolm
Julianne Moore Sarah Harding
Pete Postlethwaite Roland Tembo
Vince Vaughn Nick Van Owen
|Release Date||Fri 23 May 1997 UTC|
|Genres||Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi|
|Plot||A research team is sent to the Jurassic Park Site B island to study the dinosaurs there while another team approaches with another agenda.|
|Tagline||Based on the novel by Michael Crichton.|
|Writers||Michael Crichton (novel), David Koepp (screenplay)|