"The Lost World:|
Opened: May 23, 1997 Rated: PG-13
"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" is a movie that answers the question "Is it possible to nearly fall asleep watching a dinosaur eat a guy alive?"
Yes, it is.
Like any other horror movie sequel -- and let's not kid ourselves, this is a horror movie -- "The Lost World" has a few jolts that nearly sent me over the back of my seat, but in point of fact nothing truly unexpected happens in this very, very long 134-minute film.
A small crew of scientists seeking to document the existence of man-made dinosaurs lands on a second dinosaur island -- the secret Site B, where the critters in the first movie were apparently bred before being taken to Jurassic Park.
Initially skeptical, the scientists become fascinated with what they find and just can't drink in enough of this world. But Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), returning from the first movie, knows better. "That's how it always starts," he says, "but later there's running and screaming."
He's right, of course, and before long the tyrannosaurus rex makes a bow, pushing the crew's RV-based command center over a cliff with our stars inside.
The only excitement in the first half of the movie comes in this scene, when paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is trapped kneeling on the back window of the RV, hanging 300 feet in the air, as the glass cracks under her hands and knees.
Director Steven Spielberg spends the next 10 minutes of screen time getting our heroes out of the dangling truck, which betrays the movie's stretch for thrills. Another five minutes is spent watching a guy get chased by chicken-sized dinos, and the rest of the victims don't meet their fate any faster.
(By the way, with one casualty torn in half by two T-rexes, the PG-13 rating was a gift -- this is no movie for kids.)
This all begins when Dr. Malcolm is asked by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the disposed CEO of the genetic engineering firm that cloned the dinosaurs, to lead an expedition to the island before his company arrives to capture some animals for exhibition in the U.S. Apparently his board of investors has never seen "King Kong."
Dr. Malcolm flat out refuses until he's told that Harding, his girlfriend, is already there. Because all Spielberg adventures need a kid to rescue, Malcolm's daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester) stows away in the equipment the expedition takes with them.
Goldblum's charisma carries the movie when he's not sharing the screen with reptiles. He has an arsenal of wisecracks that obviously made reviving this role more appealing and he plays a great reluctant hero.
Meanwhile, the bad scientists, lead by Hammond's profit-hungry nephew (Arliss Howard) and a big game hunter (Pete Postlethwaite), also arrive on the island intending to capture a T-rex.
Terror ensues in both camps and the two groups eventually team up to find a way off the island.
While the animatronic and computer-generated dinos are even better in "The Lost World" than they were in "Jurassic Park," seamlessly interacting with the flesh and blood characters and their surroundings, they're not called on to do anything new -- what could they do, really? -- and with nothing but recycled material from the first movie to work with, the sequel feels far too long when it's less than half over.
As a result, "The Lost World" leaves the audience plenty of time to ponder it's plot holes.
The bad scientists had about two dozen jeeps and humvees when they arrived on the island, so why are they trekking to their rescue rendezvous on foot? When folks start getting eaten by velociraptors in the dark, why don't the rest of them just climb trees and stay put until morning?
When our heroes finally exit the island, the audience sits waiting for the credits to roll. But there's a whole third act yet to come.
Once the T-rex is running loose in San Diego (yes, you read right), the whole business has become so routine that the only thrill left is a hilarious Godzilla reference.
"The Lost World" was bound to be a disappointment because after the success of "Jurassic Park" there's no new entertainment value left in seeing realistic dinosaurs tear up the screen. But the fact that the movie is literally dull comes as a surprise, especially with the usually reliable Spielberg at the helm. He's clearly grasping at straws here and should have left well enough alone.