Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Vince Vaughn, Arliss Howard, Richard Attenborough, Vanessa Lee Chester, Peter Stormare, Richard Schiff, Harvey Jason, Thomas F Duffy, Joseph Mazzello, Arian Richards
Running Time: 134 minutes.
Steven Spielberg’s sequel to Jurassic Park, officially the biggest grossing film in history, is the most eagerly anticipated film of the year, and The Lost World doesn’t disappoint. Spielberg’s first film in three years, The Lost World is an equal rather than a sequel, and is, in many ways, a better film than its predecessor – pacier, more exciting, and generating a genuine atmosphere of danger and suspense that was missing from the original.
The Lost World takes up the story four years after John Hammond’s ambitious plans for a dinosaur theme park and island resort crumbled. But unknown to the authorities who closed the island down, there was a second island, on which the bio-genetically engineered dinosaurs were developed. Since a hurricane destroyed the main buildings on this island the creatures have roamed free, establishing their own natural habitat. Hammond (Richard Attenborough, briefly reprising his role from the original) decides to send a small team of experts including a palaeontologist (Julianne Moore, from Short Cuts, etc) and a documentary film maker (Vince Vaughn, from the cool new comedy Swingers) to study and document the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, thus creating a permanent record for history and restoring his tarnished reputation. Scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, also reprising his role) knows the dangers that await the team and he reluctantly heads off to the island to try and bring them out. He also has a personal motive, as Dr Harding (Moore) is his girl friend.
Meanwhile Hammond’s ambitious and ruthless nephew (Arliss Howard), who has developed far grander plans to further his pioneering work by establishing a tacky Sea World-like dinosaur park as an adjunct to the world famous San Diego Zoo, sends in a high tech safari team led by a legendary great white hunter (the ubiquitous Pete Postlethwaite) to bring back some live specimens. Even in this artificial, genetically engineered animal kingdom man is still at the bottom of the food chain, and the two opposing teams are reluctantly forced to work together in order to survive. There are two threads to this story – one pits the humans against the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, while the other sees a dinosaur transplanted to the unfamiliar environment of San Diego, where it escapes and wreaks havoc.
Unlike most sequels, which are misguided attempts to capitalise on the success of the original and made for commercial rather than artistic considerations, The Lost World actually manages to stand alone as an exciting film in its own right. Spielberg and screen writer David Koepp have expanded upon Michael Crichton’s themes and ideas concerning technology and how environmental rape often goes hand in hand with corporate greed. Spielberg and co explore how man’s interference in this forgotten world drastically changes the balance of nature, inevitably leading to destruction. Spielberg has worked with most of the same creative personnel and technicians from Industrial Light and Magic in his recreation of this spectacular new lost world of dinosaurs, thus retaining much of the same flavour of the original. Given the advances in computer generated special effects and digital animation in the past three years, Spielberg and his special effects technicians have surpassed the achievements of the previous film, creating even more realistic looking dinosaurs, which are able to move with ease.
Even the human performers establish strong identities so as not to become dwarfed by their animatronic and computer generated co-stars. Given a more active role to play in proceedings this time around, Goldblum is wonderful and brings a welcome touch of droll humour to the film, while, as usual, Postlethwaite is good as the clichéd great white hunter. As usual, John Williams’ driving score also adds to the atmosphere and underscores the suspense.
As a director of exciting and spectacularly visual effects driven movies, Spielberg is probably without peer, and he makes the cutting edge technology behind the film’s central premise all too credible. However, at the same time he is careful not to allow the fantastic technology and effects become too distracting and get in the way of the rattling good thriller that is The Lost World. There are a couple of minor narrative glitches, including the unanswered problem of what exactly kills and dismembers the crew of a cargo ship that slams into San Diego harbour, but overall they don’t really seem to matter. Spielberg manages to generate enough suspense and thrills, and a number of impressively staged sequences will either rivet most audiences to their seats or jolt them right out of them. However, parents should be warned that The Lost World is a tad gory in places, with several scenes of dinosaurs tearing people apart probably a little too strong and frightening for younger audiences.