Now that Jurassic World has been released, there’s been increased interest in the past Jurassic Park films. It’s a common consensus that the first Jurassic Park film is a timeless classic and that Jurassic Park III is an inferior entry in the film franchise. The first sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park is constantly lambasted by many critics and fans as being another disappointing sequel that can’t compare to the original. Personally, I disagree with this common assessment, The Lost World: Jurassic Park was a terrific summer thrill ride that has so much merit.
This doesn’t mean that this film is as good as Jurassic Park. No, the original film is superior because of it explored many themes about man and nature. Then what cemented its status among film classics was its then-groundbreaking fx. The Lost World: Jurassic Park doesn’t have such lofty themes although there are some and its fx may now seem like old hat. But the film delivered the goods in being a grand adventure film with relatable characters and intense action scenes.
Let’s examine that closer. The film, like the Michael Crichton novel it’s based on, focused on Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the slightly eccentric scientist who accurately predicted that bringing dinosaurs to life was a bad idea. Malcolm was one of the most endearing characters from the first film thanks to Goldblum’s performance and once again he shines as the scientist. This time, he is asked to go to another dinosaur-infested island off the coast of Costa Rica to rescue his girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore). She was shown to be a very capable scientist who could take care of herself. Other new and memorable characters included photographer Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), big game hunter Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), and Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard). One thing that was interesting is that with Ludlow this film had a true villain that lasted for most of the film. Ludlow was John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) greedy nephew who wanted to exploit the dinosaurs to create his own theme park.
In light of all the controversy parks like SeaWorld are going through with alleged neglect and abuse charges with their animals, this animal exploitation theme is explored fully in this film. Stressing this point are the distressing moments when herds of frightened dinosaurs are hunted and captured by Ludlow’s team. This animal conservation motif was the overriding message in this film. It may not be as complex or profound as chaos theory, but it is still a valid point.
However, this film didn’t get bogged down and or come off as too preachy with its message about leaving nature alone. That was because the film was adorned with exciting sequences where humans are threatened by dinosaurs. Chiefly, a couple of Tyrannosaurus rexes who hunt the humans after Ludlow has their infant T-rex captured. There’s this chilling and captivating moment when Malcolm and his companions are trapped in a trailer that the t-rexes attack. It was just as terrifying as when the Tyrannosaurus first appeared in the foreboding rain in the original Jurassic Park. Another scene worth mentioning is when the same dinosaurs creep up on Ludlow’s camp at night and the frantic fleeing of the humans that followed. It was very gripping and full of dark humor. A case in point is when a T-rex steps on a hunter and the squashed human is stuck on the animal’s paw as it pursues other humans. This chase scene led to a return appearance of the dangerous Velociraptors that made their mark in the original. The followup scenes where the raptors use the tall grass to close in on the hunters evoked the terror that director Steven Spielberg so expertly showed in Jaws.
But the big highlight for me with this film had to do with its last act. Many people deride the moment when a captured Tyrannosaurus rex escapes into the streets of San Diego, but it was great! It was a clear tribute to the old Willis O’Brien classic The Lost World and more recent kaiju films. The images of the T-rex rampaging through a crowded street, attacking a city bus and eating hapless people still bring a smile to my face. Spielberg knew what would please fans and their inner youth who would revel in the spectacle of rampaging dinosaurs in our cities. It may be a tacked-on final act, but it was downright entertaining!
Putting aside these compliments, The Lost World: Jurassic Park does have its faults, which I won’t go into here. It’s worth noting that while it’s not as good as the original this sequel had many features that improved upon the first Jurassic Park. It was more thrilling, had more dinosaurs and naturally had better fx. Maybe it’s time everyone gave this film a second look and see why it’s a fun film.
Lewis T. Grove