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The Lost World: Jurassic Park

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Vince Vaughn, Arliss Howard, Peter Stormare, Pete Postlethwaite, Richard Schiff, Thomas F. Duffy, Harvey Jason, Vanessa Lee Chester, Richard Attenborough

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1.  Edward Johnson-Ott review follows movie reviewmovie review
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Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
2 stars out of 4

Remember when JURASSIC PARK first came out? Most critics panned the movie, stating that while the dinosaurs were spectacular, the film itself was flimsy stuff, sorely lacking in plot and characterization. Of course, they failed to realize that we weren't particularly concerned with plot or characterization. We just wanted to see a movie overflowing with big- ass, realistic-looking, living, breathing dinosaurs. JURASSIC PARK delivered the dinosaurs and we flocked to the theaters, making it the largest grossing film of all time.

Well, it's four years later and the inevitable sequel, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, has arrived. So what are we looking for this time? Most of the people I spoke with said the same thing. More big-ass dinosaurs and non-stop action. Director Steven Spielberg, no dummy when it comes to anticipating audience expectations, has crafted a film that gives us relentless action and scores of incredibly realistic dinosaurs. While the film suffers from the been-there, done-that syndrome, and has some major structural problems, as far as sequels go, THE LOST WORLD is one of the better ones.

Here's the premise. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) really had two dinosaur islands. The one we saw in the original, and a second, where the dinosaurs were actually bred, and now live in uncontrolled ecological balance. Two groups of humans go to the island. The good ones, reluctantly led by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum,) merely want to study the creatures. The bad ones want to hunt the dinosaurs for a new Jurassic Park, ready to open in San Diego. In short order, of course, all hell breaks loose and everyone scrambles madly about, trying to avoid becoming Dinosaur Chow.

THE LOST WORLD wastes no time getting to the action. Following the obligatory teaser and ten minutes of squabbling between Goldblum and Attenborough, the film whips out the lizards in grand fashion. The dinosaurs look significantly better than in the original; so good, in fact, that it's easy to imagine that the filmmakers somehow got their hands on real dinosaurs. Come to think of it, we've been reading news stories about real-life cloning successes for months now. Steven Spielberg is an incredibly rich man. Do you suppose that maybe he used his financial resources to…oh, never mind. I'm getting so cute here that I'm actually annoying myself. Time to get back to business.

The thrills come fast and furious in THE LOST WORLD. Early in the film there is a spectacular Tyrannosaurus Rex attack, leading to an extended, extremely intense scene that leaves Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) dangling over a huge cliff, separated from the rocky surf hundreds of feet below only by a single pane of glass that splinters further and further in torturous fashion. The scene is totally gripping and one of the best set pieces in the film.

As for the acting, Jeff Goldblum, promoted from secondary comic relief figure in the first film to leading man, handles his role well, leaping about in heroic fashion while tossing off caustic one-liners (when Attenborough assures Goldblum that he has learned from his mistakes, Goldblum spits back "Yeah, now you're making all new mistakes.") Vince Vaughn, the breakout performer from last years wonderful comedy SWINGERS, creates a distinct, compelling presence as Nick Van Owen, an environmental activist working for the good guys. Vanessa Lee Chester has some nice moments as Kelly, Goldblum's daughter who joins the expedition as a stowaway. The rest of the cast are generic event-movie archetypes, chewing scenery until the dinosaurs chew them.

That's one of the problems with THE LOST WORLD. In JURASSIC PARK there were relatively few characters, allowing the audience a chance to get to know them and to care about their fates. THE LOST WORLD has so many people swarming over the island that it's hard to keep track of who's who, let alone become emotionally involved with them. When one character gets pulling in half by two dinosaurs, the audience reaction is "Cool!", which says something very good about the special effects and something very bad about the screenplay.

The biggest problem with THE LOST WORLD is it's climax. A Tyrannosaurus Rex gets loose in San Diego and goes on a rampage. Things begin well, as the T-Rex roams through dark suburban backyards. Things get better as the monster goes berserk in the city streets, shredding a gas station and several vehicles. And then, just when you're ready for the big final confrontation between the raging beast and humankind, everything gets resolved, way too quickly and in a very anticlimactic way. For an action- packed film, the climax simply doesn't have enough action.

Regardless of its flaws, THE LOST WORLD fares better than most sequels. Its fast pace helps to minimize the sense of deja vu, and the dinosaurs are absolutely superb. I was frustrated with JURASSIC PARK for not showing any pterodactyls. In one of THE LOST WORLD's best shots, several of the flying reptiles soar through the sky. One lands close to the camera and slowly stretches out until its wings are fully extended, with sunlight glinting through the membranes. At that moment I realized that for hard core dinosaur-watchers, THE LOST WORLD is as good as it gets.

Copyright © 1997 Edward Johnson-Ott

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