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The UnPopular Opinion: The Lost World: Jurassic Park

06.28.2018

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Like many of you, prior to watching JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, I revisted the four films in the franchise that came before it. Now that I have seen FALLEN KINGDOM, I decided to watch THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK again to see how the second film in each trilogy truly fared in comparison. There are a lot of parallels between THE LOST WORLD and FALLEN KINGDOM, namely the decision to take the action off of the island. Personally, I found myself utterly despising THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK when it initially hit theaters in 1997; lamenting it as a cash grab and one of Steven Spielberg's weakest movies. But, three sequels later, I have found myself growing fonder and fonder of THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK with each subsequent viewing. Sure, there are glaring issues with the film, but it is a lot more fun in hindsight than I ever gave it credit for.

Whereas the original JURASSIC PARK was built upon a solidly framed story, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK is merely a collection of brilliantly conceived action sequences which are barely held together by a coherent plot. JURASSIC PARK III would later fall prey to the same problems as THE LOST WORLD did in the eyes of critics, but as fans we have the capacity to shirk what consensus tells us and enjoy things for ourselves. There is something to be said about expectations, especially when you are trying to follow up one of the best summer blockbusters of all time. In comparison to the original, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK is an abyssmal failure that does not manage to improve upon any of the narrative groundwork laid by JURASSIC PARK. But, THE LOST WORLD does succeed in making dinosaurs even scarier and more tangible than it's predecessor.

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With the massive box office success of the first film, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK may feel like a cash grab of a sequel at first glance. Spielberg himself has even said that he began to lose the momentum or desire to complete the film during production. Much of this is evident by the fact that the rote story is very by the numbers and only shares high level similarities with the novel sequel penned by Michael Crichton. What both the novel and film have in their favor is the return of Dr. Ian Malcolm. In the original novel, Malcolm was presumed dead but returns thanks to the massive reception that Jeff Goldblum's portrayal brought to JURASSIC PARK. Here, Ian Malcolm is a different character who no longer has the smarmy and debonair attitude that existed prior to his run-ins with dinosaurs. Still, Jeff Goldblum gives a fun leading role that gives us so much more of his trademark delivery that single-handedly saves THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK.

The supporting cast are also up to the task of replacing Laura Dern and Sam Neill. Future Oscar winner Julianne Moore gives a fresh performance as Malcolm's girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding while VInce Vaughn plays the mutli-skilled photographer Nick Van Owen. Much of the frustration with the characters centered on the addition of Vanessa Lee Chester as Ian Malcolm's daughter. While Michael Crichton's sequel novel included two adolescent characters just like in JURASSIC PARK, film audiences were not as forgiving to this new character. I understand the on the nose inclusion of the character being a gymnast and then using those skills to fight back some dinosaurs, but it is all in good fun. The mere fact that these humans could fight off the vicious creatures populating Isla Sorna already requires a great amount of suspension of disbelief, so why is the gymnastic skill such a stretch?

What really struck me on repeated viewings of this film is just how similar Rafe Spall and Ted Levine's characters in JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM are compared to Arliss Howard and the late Pete Postlethwaite's roles in THE LOST WORLD. Playing a greedy businessman related to John Hammond and a big game hunter contracted to retrieve the dinosaurs respectively, Howard and Postlethwaite feel like two dimensional caricatures here but ones that could have easily appeared in an Indiana Jones film. They are representative antagonists whose sole purpose is to get the film from point A to point B. They serve their purpose and the movie is able to move along. David Koepp's screenplay feels like broad strokes designed to showcase the technological advancements made in the short years between filming of JURASSIC PARK and this film. I can forgive the lapses in logic or character depth as that is not what THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK was meant to be.

What we do have is masterful work from the late Stan Winston who blended animatronics and CGI to even more convincing effect than in the first movie. JURASSIC WORLD and it's sequel employed so much CGI that any tangibility to the dinosaurs was gone and reduced the tension three fold. In THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, set pieces like the trailer dangling from the cliff or the big game hunt sequence are absolutely thrilling. Say what you will about any other element of this movie, but there are genuine moments of suspense here where you grip your seat in anticipation of what will happen to the characters next. Even the concluding arrival of the dinosaurs in San Diego is one of the best action sequences of Steven Spielberg's career and on par with the reveal of the shark at the end of JAWS. 

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From the stirring John Williams score to the innovative special effects, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK replaces the cautionary science fiction tale of the first movie with a roller coaster sequel chock full of set pieces and not much else. In an era where that is the status quo for summer fare, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK is a prime example of unattainable expectations. I have thoroughly enjoyed each film in the franchise for varying reasons, but of all the sequels, THE LOST WORLD remains the most in line with Spielberg's original style and tone. As much as it pales compared to the first movie, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, when judged on it's own merits, is a vastly underrated movie. If you are looking for fun, brainless pulp entertainment, you could do worse than this movie.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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