The 1993 smash ‘Jurassic Park’ represented a quantum leap in how dinosaurs are depicted on the big screen.
Instead of shooting actual lizards or resorting to stop-motion magic, director Steven Spielberg’s team used CGI to render the most dynamic dinosaurs ever captured on film.
Those stunning creations are the main pleasure to be mined from ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park,’ the 1997 sequel to Spielberg’s monster mash. The film just hit Blu-ray as part of a ‘Jurassic’ trilogy, a hefty collection including all three films (so far) as well as a copious array of extras and 7.1 surround sound.
What’s even more obvious seeing the film anew in High-Def is how little Spielberg brought to the project. It ranks as one of the weaker films in his otherwise exemplary canon, a pedestrian affair not worth the master’s attention.
‘The Lost World’ breaks the land speed record for setting a sequel plot in motion. The film opens with cagey chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (the droll Jeff Goldblum) learning the dinosaurs who almost ate him for lunch last time aren’t as extinct as he hoped. Dino researcher John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) also deposited some dinosaur DNA on a second, formerly unknown location. No fences. No theme park attractions. Just an undisturbed locale where the creatures could live – and be studied – in a natural setting.
John assembles a small research team to do just that, including Ian’s paleontologist squeeze (Julianne Moore). That forces Ian to swoop in with the hope of getting her out of their before she ends up as T-Rex food.
The team, including a brave photographer (Vince Vaughn) and tools guru (Richard Schiff), initially rebuff Ian’s warnings about their expedition.
“Ooh, ahh … that’s how it all starts. And then there’s running and screaming,” Ian says in that Goldblum speak which makes any line reading better. But John’s greedy nephew (Arliss Howard) has other plans in mind for the dinosaurs. He wants to bring a few back to the states to populate a new exhibit at the San Diego Zoo and make a mint in the process. Darn those greedy capitalists!
A more committed Spielberg should have barked, “re-write this … and this … and this” long before cranking up his camera. Giving Ian a daughter smacks of demographic desperation, and it doesn’t help that she’s so transparently plugged into the narrative. But so much here runs afoul of common sense that you’re forced to shake your head while waiting for the next cool dinosaur dust up.
For instance, why would the researchers let several dinosaurs loose to thwart the nephew’s team? Don’t they know people could get killed? It’s just one example of a script which doesn’t waste a droplet of sweat on the details that matter.
The best sequence arrives mid-film, as our heroes are trapped in a vehicle dangling off a cliff. It’s the kind of jaw-clenching excitement we got in spades from the first ‘Park,’ and nothing else in this ‘World’ can compare.
The ‘Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy’ set includes a six-part ‘Return to Jurassic Park’ documentary series with new interviews, a feature on special effects wizard Phil Tippett and a discussion with the author whose work inspired the franchise, Michael Crichton.