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Face-Off: The Lost World: Jurassic Park vs. Jurassic World

The latest film in the JURASSIC PARK franchise, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, is finally reaching U.S. theatres this weekend, and when pondering which previous films could go against each other in a Face-Off, the standouts for me were Steven Spielberg's 1997 sequel THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK and Colin Trevorrow's 2015 monster hit JURASSIC WORLD. The first JURASSIC PARK is untouchable by the films that followed it and JURASSIC PARK III is a goofy little B-movie take on the concept, but THE LOST WORLD and JURASSIC WORLD might make for an interesting duel...
SETTING
The setting of this sequel was an unexpected one. Instead of returning to Isla Nublar, where Jurassic Park itself was located, or having people take dinosaurs or DNA from that island, THE LOST WORLD reveals that there was another island full of dinosaurs all along. Isla Sorna, located 87 miles away from Isla Nublar. A place where the dinosaurs were bred and nurtured before being moved over to Jurassic Park. (Never mind that we saw dinosaurs hatching on Isla Nublar in the first movie.) Isla Sorna was evacuated when it was hit by a hurricane, and the dinosaurs left behind have been thriving on their own for four years. No fences, no park. The introduction of this second island (where JURASSIC PARK III also took place) never fully sat right with me, it seemed unnecessary and random, and it's not that interesting of a place.
John Hammond's dream is realized in JURASSIC WORLD. An amusement park with scientifically resurrected dinosaurs as the main attraction is now up and running, successful and safe, on Isla Nublar, and has been open to the public for years. It's fun to explore what it could have been like if Jurassic Park hadn't fallen apart before it could open. We find that it's pretty much like any other amusement park, it just gives you the opportunity to ogle prehistoric creatures while you make your way around the place. By this time, the attraction has reached a point that is tough to imagine, but would be inevitable: in a world where dinosaurs exist again, the sight of them would kind of become old news. As it's described, kids aren't any more thrilled by the dinosaurs of Jurassic World now than they are by elephants at the nearest zoo.
HUMAN BLUNDERS
Jurassic Park founder John Hammond has lost control of his company InGen, and with the company facing bankruptcy after the disaster at the park in the previous film Hammond's unscrupulous nephew and the board of directors have come up with a way to try to recoup their losses: they're going capture dinosaurs on Isla Sorna and take them away to San Diego, where they're opening a dinosaur zoo. They attempt to do this in the worst way possible, raiding the island in loud vehicles, going after dinosaurs with nets and catch poles. There are cruel men on this team, men who will hurt creatures on purpose, one who's there just to kill a T. rex. This is all a very bad idea, as InGen's team discovers while they're on the island and continue to realize when they get back to San Diego. Most of these characters are quite despicable, it's easy to root for them to get eaten.
Revenue is climbing on a yearly basis at Jurassic World, but so is the cost of operation. All the most popular species of dinosaur are already accounted for at the park, and while other species are being cloned all the time, the powers-that-be have decided they need a special attraction to bring in more visitors. So they have created a hybrid dinosaur, the Indominus rex, by splicing together the DNA of multiple species. This bloodthirsty creature isn't Jurassic World's saving grace, it's the park's downfall. There is a villainous human around as well, but he didn't have anything to do with the hybrid making. He's the head of InGen Security and thinks dinosaurs could serve a military purpose. Pursuing this idea, he doesn't accomplish much other than getting himself munched. The main villains here are greed and stupidity.
ADULT PROTAGONISTS
Hammond sends his own small team to the island so they can document the existence of the dinosaurs and turn the public against InGen's plan to exploit them. His team just arrives too late. It's quite a feat to have characters so bland that not even Julianne Moore, Richard Schiff, and Vince Vaughn can do anything interesting with them, but THE LOST WORLD somehow achieved that with this bunch. Moore is the paleontologist who's overjoyed to get to observe living dinosaurs, Schiff is the tech guy who talks about tech stuff, and Vaughn is the photographer/saboteur who doesn't do much at all. The film's greatest benefit is that Jeff Goldblum returned as "chaotician" Ian Malcolm, who is very unhappy to be dealing with dinosaurs again and anxious to get all of this over with. It's amusing to watch him make his way through scenes with the knowledge that terrible things are about to happen at any second.
Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire Dearing, operations manager at Jurassic World and a business woman who has no life beyond her work. She can't even find time to spend with her young nephews when they come to the park, she assigns an assistant to babysit them. She's the type of character who will have to learn the error of her ways by the end of the film, and get her nice clothes dirty in the process. Navy veteran and Raptor expert Owen Grady is the sort of character we can enjoy spending time with from the start, because he cares about the dinosaurs, he's sensible about how situations should be handled, and most importantly he's played by the charismatic Chris Pratt. Claire is a drag for most of the movie, but I like the Owen character. While the animal trainer connection he has to the Raptors may be questioned by some viewers, I find that it's handled well for the most part and adds some emotional content to the dinosaur scenes.
CHILD CHARACTERS
Ian Malcolm mentioned in JURASSIC PARK that he had three kids, and in this film we get to meet one of them, Vanessa Lee Chester as Kelly - and through their interactions with each other, it's pretty clear that Malcolm is not a great dad. He hasn't been there for his kids, he doesn't keep his word. In an act of defiance, Kelly stows away on the expedition to Isla Sorna, putting herself in some serious danger. Luckily for her, she has some gymnastics skills which, while not good enough to keep her on the gymnatics team, do come in handy when she uses them to save her dad from prehistoric predators in one of the worst, most groan-inducing scenes in the entire JURASSIC franchise.
We see the Jurassic World park from the perspective of Claire's nephew Gray (Ty Simpkins), and while the movie says people don't care about dinosaurs anymore, that's certainly not the case for Gray. He has that same sense of awe and enthusiasm that was present in the first JURASSIC PARK, and that the viewer would feel if we were to have the chance to see dinosaurs walking around. Eventually he just becomes a kid in distress, but his outlook on the park is important at first. He's accompanied by his older brother Zach (Nick Robinson), who isn't nearly as interesting, being the typical distant, moody teen character. At least he takes care of Gray when trouble hits.
DINO ACTION
There's quite a lot of dinosaur action throughout THE LOST WORLD, from low-key and creepy, like a scene in which Peter Stormare is swarmed by small creatures, to ridiculous, like the aforementioned "gymnastics vs. Raptors" scene. There's the "rounding up species" sequence, and a climax that has a T. rex rampaging through the streets of San Diego. The T. rex is involved with the best action scene in the movie, but it's not in San Diego. It's on Isla Sorna, when T. rex parents punish our heroes for helping their wounded offspring by pushing the trailer they're in off the edge of a cliff. The trailer dangles there, with nothing but a cracking window keeping Julianne Moore's character from dropping to her death. That moment is standout greatness in a film that is lackluster overall.
For the majority of JURASSIC WORLD, the dinosaurs are just going about their peaceful daily routine at the park. The action is dominated by the Indominus, which makes its way across the park killing or attempting to kill every person and dinosaur that crosses its path. Some put up a fight, others aren't able to do anything against the creature, which kills for pleasure. Its antics do cause some incidents with flying and aquatic dinosaurs along the way, including a death that has been called out for being unnecessarily cruel. The highlight, though, is the climactic battle between the Indominus, Owen's star pupil Raptor, and JURASSIC PARK's original T. rex. A fight where we have reason to worry about the good dinos being hurt while rooting for them to kick the bad dino's ass.
JURASSIC WORLD
THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK managed to take the win in a couple categories, but in the end JURASSIC WORLD comes out the winner. For me, THE LOST WORLD has always been a disappointment; it's not what I was hoping for in '97, and I still don't get much enjoyment out of it. JURASSIC WORLD seems to be more divisive, but I found it to be an entertaining revitalization of the franchise after it had two lesser sequels and spent more than a decade in development hell. It brought the series back in a big way, and I'm interested to see how the story will continue in FALLEN KINGDOM.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or would you have given the victory to THE LOST WORLD? Share your thoughts on these films and on the JURASSIC PARK franchise in general by leaving a comment below. If you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to [email protected].

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