Chomp and Circumstance
By Mary Dickson
The only thing that sets Steven Spielberg's sequel to Jurassic Park apart from Godzilla is the spectacular visual-effects technology that makes his dinosaurs so incredibly life-like you forget they're not real. Spielberg knows how to put on a really big show, but without the robotics, animatronics and special effects, The Lost World is pretty much standard B-grade matinee fare.
The cast and plot are pretty much a backdrop to the dinosaurs. Jeff Goldblum is back as wise-cracking chaos theorist Dr. Malcolm, who reluctantly agrees to return to a remote Costa Rican island where the raptors and the T-Rexes roam in a prehistoric world untouched by man. It's the island where the dinosaur manufacturing facility, code-named Site B, was destroyed by a hurricane, freeing the animals to live according to the laws of nature.
Richard Attenborough returns for brief scenes as Dr. Hammond, venture capitalist turned preservationist. Looking at a last chance for redemption, he's sending Malcolm and team on a research/photographic mission. Later on, of course, he'll have to concede that "These creatures require our absence to survive."
Malcolm's primary motive is to save his naturalist girlfriend (Julianne Moore), who has gone on ahead. Once on the island, Malcolm and company meet up with the villains, the bad "Marlboro men" from the InGen Corporation, led by Hammond's greedy nephew. Having given up their idea for a far-off island theme park, they're now trying to capture the creatures to take them back to the states for Jurassic Park San Diego.
Pete Postlewaite, in proper safari attire, is the big-game hunter along for the hunt of a lifetime. He's had enough of lions and tigers and bears; he wants to bring down a T-Rex.
The results of mankind's interference with the natural or in this case unnatural world are expectedly disastrous. What ensues for two hours is pretty much chomp and chase, chomp and chase. There are some harrowing scenes early on, like when a couple of angry T-Rexes leave a 60-foot van, scientists inside, dangling over a cliff. The nailbiter comes when Julianne Moore is sprawled on a slowly cracking window high above the pounding waves.
Apart from an unexpected move by a snapping velociraptor, the other dangerous encounters quickly lose their ability to startle, probably because the novelty of those stupendous animated creatures has worn off the second time around.
How quickly we become jaded to the latest in computerized effects. The final act, intended as a homage to Godzilla and King Kong, is so cheesy it's laughable.
Lost World has all the standard issue ingredients of the genre: Reluctant scientist (this time David Koepp's script has Goldblum stretching for snappy one-liners); intrepid girl scientist/love interest (Moore is supposed to be Goldblum's girlfriend but there's hardly a relationship there); child in peril (for a little added twist she's Malcolm's unexplained black daughter); and, of course, the film's raison d'etre those scaly gigantic monsters who are bound to get upset when the pesky humans show up. This time the T-rexes have a baby, to whom they are extremely devoted.
Several elements feel recycled from Jurassic Park. You've got your stampede of smaller dinos with the humans riding through the herds. You've got one scene after another of those huge T-Rexes in profile with one, man-size eye staring through the window as their tree-size teeth chomp at the bit. You've got minor actors and extras getting crushed between those gargantuan gnashing teeth. And you've got characters who never learn the rules, which are:
With Lost World, the summer's effects-laden budget guzzlers are off and roaring. Put your brain on hold, lower your expectations and go along for the ride if you must.
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