You did it. You planned to watch all three Jurassic Park films prior to watching Jurassic World and stalled after the first one.
There are problems with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, sure, but it is crucially a Spielberg film. Not executively-produced, but directed by the bearded cinematic deity himself. But you had to skip it because everyone ‘knows’ how bad it is. Truth be known, I don’t think it is that bad. I don’t see the horrendous train-wreck of a film, many believed it was…
The now-defunct podcast ‘Frankly, My Dear‘ once claimed – and I’m paraphrasing – “The Lost World is so bad that it puts in doubt whether Spielberg actually directed the film and, though people claim it’s only the San Diego bit which is bad, in fact, the whole thing is awful”.
I adored Jurassic Park and when the first sequel was released in ’97 I paid-up (well, my parents did…) twice to see it at the cinema. I bought the VHS on the day of its release. I watched it regularly and couldn’t recall the film being that bad. Back in the day, I recorded an episode of ‘The Simon and Jo Film Show‘ whereby we discussed the trilogy – and I could see the major flaws too, but ultimately enjoyed the film.
This enjoyment is what has brought me back to the film time and time again. Equally, it assures us of Spielberg’s involvement and, though the flaws of the film are not in the final act alone, it does clarify that the film could’ve been brilliant but simply didn’t hit the mark. And Jurassic Park is a high mark to reach. For the over-a-billion dollars Jurassic World has made, and the positive press it has courted, I’ve never heard anyone claim it is superior to the original. The Lost World: Jurassic Park, at it’s time, had the biggest opening the world had ever seen. In time, maybe Jurassic World will sit on a par with The Lost World: Jurassic Park…
Until then, let me remind you why Spielberg’s last Jurassic-directed effort wasn’t that bad…
1. Ian Malcolm Returns
He was the best character in Jurassic Park. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) was slick, funny and witty. He also had a mean laugh. We wanted him to return and he did. In addition to this, he is the most ‘normal’ character of the bunch. His cynicism is what we relate to. His sarcasm, mocking Nick (Vince Vaughn) and Eddie (Richard Schiff) as they stare at the roaming dinosaurs, is unforgettable. Finally, his horror at all the dumb-ass decisions others make couldn’t be better balanced. He’s seen this sense of wonder, and seen where it leads. At no point do I feel as if he is a problem – and, as the lead role, he is the primary reason I’d watch the film again.
2. The Conversation between Malcolm and Hammond…
This could stretch to include Malcolm’s conversation with INGEN’s new owner Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) too, prior to Malcolm meeting with Hammond. These two scenes show the state of the world post-Jurassic Park. We know about the cover-up of the deaths on the island. Most importantly, Malcolm has been discredited for the sake of the organisation. A huge capitalist argument amongst this entire sequence. It’s also a camero appearance of the isolated John Hammond. He’s clearly losing his grasp on reality, but clings onto the hope of ‘Site B’. What’s even better is how adamant Malcolm is about not going. In fact, his first reaction is contacting everyone else and ensuring they’re not going to go either. The blackmail by Hammond, as Malcolm’s girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is already on the island is what forces him to leave for Isla Sorna. Intelligent plotting that makes sense, proving David Koepp knows how to build a strong foundation for a tent-pole film.
3. The Opening Sequence/Compsognathuses
Stan Winston and ILM prided themselves on the amount of dinosaurs they created for this film. It is clear that this is primarily about the wide range of toys everyone wanted to sell. But only a few new dinosaurs were truly effective. The compy’s specifically. Like the first film, this was a creature which, in production, was either CGI or a puppet (whereby the sticks were edited out). Almost like insects and rodents, these creatures get under your skin. The opening sequence alone, despite the awkwardly-posh British accents, has this as a highlight. A tiny child fighting against these lizard-like creatures, jumping up and down, is truly impressive. Fascinating still, is when we see them later attacking permanently-sleepy Dieter (Peter Stormare). We see the mouth nibbling at his ears and wrapping around his nostrils, pulling and tugging at his skin. Both brilliant sequences and a terrific addition to the series.
4. The stampede of dinosaurs/Posthelwaite – “the dome-shaped… the … the … Friar Tuck!“
These final two points are minor, but they deserve a mention. The stampede, as a way of introducing the ‘other’ team is a dino-obsessed kids dream come true. A wide range of dinosaurs charging through the land. How exciting would the start of the stampede have been? The vast array of dinosaurs forces Tembo (Pete Posthelwaite), desperately trying to read the names, to give up completely, and refers to each of them by nicknames such as “Friar Tuck” or “Elvis”. In addition to this, it really is sad to see the mistreatment of the creatures, and we’ve seen that cruelty on creatures today. I know it’s all CGI, but when “Elvis” falls, we think of graceful giraffes and lumbering elephants, murdered for sport and ivory.
5. The T-Rex finale/Long-Grass
Spielberg knew what we liked. We loved the T-Rex and the Raptors. Here we see two Tyrannosaur’s and a short sequence with the raptors. The grass, turning to shadow as the raptors home in on the group of people, is terrifying. At least we don’t have a ‘bigger’ dinosaur or a ‘scarier’ threat, a la Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World. This is Jurassic Park without the gates.
Yes, the character of Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester) is a huge problem (She’s a gymnast?). It is clear that producers – and Spielberg himself – also had to cram in as many ‘toy’ connections as possible, and thus we have two ‘baby’ dinosuars and lots of ‘functional’ cars. Then there’s the San Diego finale and John Williams throwing out the theme and replacing it with percussion. Huge flaws and it may struggle to be a great film at the best of times, but it looks darkly sinister, with a brilliant cast to stand out as a unique film in the series. It may even be better than Jurassic World…
This post was originally written for Flickering Myth in June 2015