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SpielBLOG – The Lost World: Jurassic Park – A Steven Spielberg Retrospective

“Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming,” so says Ian Malcolm, chaotician and franchise survivor. It’s a nice note of Jeff Goldblum’s smooth self-awareness and although there’s something unnecessary about the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a thoroughly enjoyable old fashioned piece of entertainment.

​Following Schindler’s List, Spielberg took the longest break in his career thus far but would return with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a sequel to his Michael Crichton inspired blockbuster. The film features a chop up of Crichton’s sequel novel and missing scenes from the first novel, but ultimately it feels like a wish list of set pieces strung together by a lot of knowing humour, a throwaway plot and the pure charisma of its cast – specifically the brilliant Goldblum.

So following the discovery of dinosaurs on another island, neighbouring the Isla Nublar of the original, Malcolm is recruited to go and study the new batch of dinos, but in fact, his main motivation is to rescue his girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore). The team has West Wing‘s Richard Schiff and Vince Vaughn, fresh-faced from his breakout film Swingers. Pete Postlethwaite had caught Spielberg’s eye and takes the plum role of the big game hunter Roland Tembo, who wants to bag himself a T. Rex.

The inclusion of another child – Malcolm’s daughter Kelly (Vanessa Chester) – is irritating, but at least there’s only one of her. In fact, if I wanted to really put this up as a hot take, click-bait post, I might even claim that this is better than the original.

For one thing, there’s one less kid. Secondly, grumpy Sam Neill and dorky Laura Dern had zero chemistry. Goldblum, on the other hand, is a strutting libido. Plus, there’s the feeling Spielberg – untethered by plot – gets to film sequences he enjoys – the cliffhanging drama and the Tyrannosaurus loose in San Diego.

However, what we don’t have is the shock of the new and the CGI dinos are less convincing than their earlier counterparts. Though the velociraptors cutting through the long grass to takeout the Ingen team that shows up halfway through are truly menacing.

The thrills and spills are efficiently played out but I never feel there’s any real danger – though Schiff gets offed in a pretty nasty fashion. By his own lights, Spielberg had made a good creature feature which had far more in common with the kind of serial films that had also inspired Indiana Jones, but there’s something about this nostalgia that is blinding. His career had often peaked when he took a topic that was considered fairly trashy – UFOs and shark attacks – and elevated the material with style and wit and sincerity. Here, it feels more like Spielberg trying to make a popcorn blockbuster and the result has diminishing returns.

​1997 saw James Cameron’s Titanic knock Jurassic Park off the top earner list, even as The Lost World came in second. ​The film wasn’t critically lauded and Spielberg wouldn’t return for any of the sequels. In a repeat of 1994, he would choose a serious subject matter for his next film: Amistad.

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