By Marc S. Sanders
The Lost World: Jurassic Park contains a batch of characters making a lot of stupid decisions all in the name of being stupid for stupidity’s stake. That doesn’t make it a bad movie though. Just somewhat…unsophisticated…and stupid.
In the sequel to the monster smash adaptation from Michael Crichton, Steven Spielberg reunites with Jeff Goldblum, now at the top of the credits list, as smarmy mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm. It really doesn’t matter if the guy is a doctor of any kind of specialty though. Malcolm doesn’t utter one scientific fact or theory or observation this time around. Whatever shred of debate regarding the resurrection of dinosaurs that existed in the first film is completely abandoned this time around. Carnage, mayhem and outrageous ridiculousness take center stage, stage left, stage right, downstage, upstage, off stage, and over a high cliff.
In an early scene, Malcolm is summoned by wealthy entrepreneur John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, in a welcome cameo). Hammond tells Malcolm that his paleontologist girlfriend (isn’t that a coinkidink), Sarah (Julianne Moore) is on a nearby island to the original one from the first film, and studying the behaviors of the dinosaurs that were developed there. She will soon be meeting up with a photographer (Vince Vaughn) and another associate (Richard Schiff; I don’t recall the script explaining his specialty). So, Malcolm sees no choice but to go after Sarah and rescue her from the island. This is one Daring Mathematician.
One point of order, because this is a Spielberg adventure, a kid has to be involved. Malcolm’s pre-teen daughter and gymnast extraordinaire Kelly (Vanessa Chester) stows herself away on the excursion. Thank god she’s gymnast. That may come in handy.
At the same time, Hammond’s greedy nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is leading a large expedition crew on the island to recover representatives of each breed of animal to bring back to the mainland in San Diego for show and tell. The leader of this pack is also the best character in the whole film. He’s a game hunter named Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite). Tembo’s price is to hunt down one Tyrannosaurus-Rex for his own game pleasure. Aaaaand that’s where the story stops.
I just ticked off a lot of actor names, didn’t I? Well, this is a sequel and in a monster movie sequel there’s a demand for more casualties of course. If that’s what you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed.
You also won’t be disappointed in the assortment of dinosaurs on hand. This time there are two T-Rex’s and they are used beautifully in a very daring, albeit long for the sake of maximum suspense, scene that involves our heroes dangling within a double RV trailer that has been pushed off a cliff. When Sarah lands face first on the back windowpane of glass, try your best not to bite your nails.
Another exceptional scene is when the expedition runs into a tall grass raptor nest. This is like Jaws on land. With the help of much CGI, but also puppetry from Stan Winston’s imagination factory, Spielberg gets great overhead shots of fast forming black lines that quickly cut through the meadow taking out one poor soul after another where beast overcomes man. These moments occur in the large second act of the film where it’s nothing but action done with Spielberg’s skill to oversee.
The third act is questionable, but I found a nostalgic admiration for it. Spielberg goes for the salute to King Kong, the grand daddy of all monster movies. Ludlow’s hubris and what remains of his expedition team trap and bring back the male T-Rex to San Diego aboard a large freighter. In the dead of night, garbed in his finest suit, he’s ready to give a speech to a press junket that must work a graveyard shift introducing the marvelous attraction. Naturally, we know things will not go as planned. Now, we know this is not New York City and the Empire State Building is not nearby, but this T-Rex will naturally run amok anyway and settle for destroying a suburban dog house, about a dozen cars and a 76-gas station. No, it is not King Kong, but the salute is appreciated nonetheless. There’s even a wink and nod to Godzilla. I laughed.
Pretty stupid of Ludlow to do this, right? Well, he’s the villain. So, let’s give him a pass. On the other hand, the heroes are dumb as rocks. Sarah takes a baby T-Rex away from its quarters. Ian gets up into a high area platform with his daughter as an escape to safety…but then he comes down again!!!!! The hunters simply think they are hunting kittens no matter the stature of any of the game they are pursuing. The telephone doesn’t get answered when it really, really should. You’ll find yourself shaking your head and outstretching your arms at the screen (palms up) as if to say “WHY????????”.
It really doesn’t matter. The first Jurassic Park film never had a fully developed brain. This installment, unabashedly, never even stops to think. It’s as if a collection of characters in a shoebox raised their hand for volunteer slaughter.
My wife watched this with me recently, and at times she would ask “Why are you doing this or why not just call such and such?” I’d have to remind her it’s not that simple. Cuz if it were that simple, then they would have picked up the phone. We all have a destiny in life. I truly believe that. The destiny of the cast of The Lost World: Jurassic Park was to run and maybe or maybe not get chomped on and eaten. This is what they were groomed for their whole lives. So, let’s not interfere with the laws of nature.