The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) Review

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) Director: Steven Spielberg


After the extraordinary success of the original Jurassic Park movie in 1993, there was mounting studio and fan pressure to create a sequel, despite the fact that Spielberg found himself wholly burnt out after directing both Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List back to back, and also the fact that Michael Crichton was wary about writing a sequel (he had never written a sequel to any of his novels before). Nevertheless the result was a massively hyped sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park –a film which diverges considerably from the Crichton novel (notably in the novel a disease is discovered among the dinosaurs causing them to go extinct, but this plot point was removed entirely in the film). The title for the novel and the book was of course taken from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.

The film reintroduces Dr. Ian Malcolm (reprised by Jeff Goldblum), a fan favorite character from the original. Since returning home from the events of the first film, he has published about his experiences but no one seems to believe him. The film opens with a wealthy family making a stop on a remote island where their daughter is attacked by a clutch of small carnivorous dinosaurs. Meanwhile, Dr. Malcolm visits the original park founder, John Hammond, who is now ill in bed. Hammond shares information about a “Site B” island called Isla Sorna where the dinosaurs were genetically engineered before being transferred to the park (I am not sure why the addition of a second island was necessary). On this island a hurricane destroyed the facilities so the dinosaurs have been roaming free. Hammond asks Malcolm to visit Isla Sorna to document the dinosaurs with the hopes of opening a nature preserve and prevent another corporation from seeking to exploit the island for profit. However, Malcolm declines until he learns that his girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) was actually already dispatched to the island. Thus, he travels with a group under the explicit guise of retrieving his girlfriend, but soon after arriving he realizes that she does not wish to leave and also that his daughter has snuck along as a stowaway.

In addition, they discover a rival band of poachers on the island which seeks to hunt a Tyrannosaurus for profit. One evening, Malcolm et al infiltrate the rival camp and release the captured dinosaurs to disrupt the poachers’ efforts. However, when they rescue an injured baby T-Rex, the mother hunts down the group in a dramatic showdown that leaves their vehicle suspended over a massive cliff (one of the most memorable scenes in the film). With both groups on the island left in disrepair, they decide to join forces and make haste for the old abandoned communications station to signal for help. Along the way, they are hunted by the female T-Rex (which one of the poachers manages to tranquilize) and they are also attacked by velociraptors.

The Lost World is a considerably darker film in contrast to the warm and sunny optimism of the original. The poachers somehow capture the tranquilized T-Rex and transport it to San Diego to put on display in a theme park. In a moment which nods to 1933’s King Kong (even the name of the ship is the same as the “S.S. Venture”), the T-Rex escapes and we see some comical scenes of it running amok in San Diego. In the end, the full force of the American government saves the day as the dinosaurs are tranquilized and are returned to Isla Sorna which is finally declared a nature preserve by the Costa Rican government. The Lost World is an entertaining sequel that departs considerably from the original, but I was mostly dismayed by the changes made to the beloved character of Dr. Malcolm. In The Lost World he is less of a quirky philosophical critic and more of a whiny lecturing father-figure. However, I thought the idea of a cohort of greedy poachers was an intriguing addition. Despite the current fashionable impetus to publish reactionary, revisionist reviews that positively embrace clearly inferior sequels, The Lost World is a fun little adventure but it clearly pales in comparison to the original.

Click here to return to my survey of the Jurassic Park series.

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