Recap Supplement: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
[Webmaster’s note: Special thanks go out to Joshua Hutcheson for helping to proofread and edit this recap!]
Before reading any further, I strongly recommend you read the recap of the movie, which can be found right here.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park was the first film I saw in the summer of 1997, opening weekend, and it was also the worst one I saw that summer. And bear in mind, this is coming from a man who paid to see Con Air. Twice. Our own Ryan Lohner has already gone into the meat of the film’s problems, so I’ve take it upon myself to pick at the little bits left on the skeleton by way of the special edition DVD that came out in 2000.
Incidentally, I highly recommend you pick up the disc for the first film, it’s a pretty solid special edition, as one tends to find with deluxe versions of Spielberg films. You can also pick up the box set that has all three films, assuming, of course, you don’t mind owning the sequels.
The special edition for the second movie? Well, on the plus side, it does have a nice 53-minute documentary on the making of the film, as well as some deleted scenes. Outside of that, it’s a ton of photo galleries, storyboards, design models, conceptual drawings; basically, the entire bulk of the pre-production brainstorming is on display here.
Probably the only gallery really worth my time, at least, is the one for the posters. I’m a bit of an advertising junkie, and anytime a DVD decides to include a gallery of rejected poster concepts, I’m a happy guy. Needless to say, this section got more attention from me than the actual movie.
Since we really only have two sections to go into, I might as well shamelessly pad things out by adding my take on the movie. To begin, I’d like to direct your attention to the third movie, which, to be fair, is much better than this one. It’s about thirty minutes shorter, the preachy tone is diluted, and generally speaking, the characters are a hell of a lot more likable.
That being said, when a fairly cheesy B-movie sequel is eons better than the huge spectacle tentpole that preceded it, I don’t know whether that’s more of a compliment to the third movie, or an insult to the second.
As I said earlier, I saw this in the theater, and while I didn’t quite hate it, it underwhelmed the crap out of me. The only parts of the film I can actually say I kind of like are the two Tyrannosaurus rampages in the middle of the movie, and the beast running wild in San Diego.
Even then, my enjoyment is negated by the lousy characters, and when a guy like me (who can find enjoyment in pretty much anything) isn’t able to glean any satisfaction from a giant monster wreaking havoc, something has gone seriously wrong with your movie. This is one of those films that works just fine when the special effects are in control and nobody is talking. But when they do talk… Jesus.
Since there’s no commentary track, as is the case with all of Spielberg’s films, I’ll provide some random observations.
Notable Notes on the Movie:
Is it me, or is the tracking shot along the water the sci-fi horror equivalent of the pan across the city at night from every thriller made in the ‘80s?
It turns out the little girl who gets attacked by compys in the first scene is a young Camilla Belle. She would later make a repeat appearance on this site thanks to Roland Emmerich.
I sort of like the transition from the screaming mother to Jeff Goldblum. It’s cheesy, but that’s certainly better than the preachy bullshit that’ll be ladled on later.
As for Goldblum, I don’t mind him that much in the movie, though the fact I like him as an actor in general might have something to do with it. And the fact that I do a spot-on impression of the man is totally irrelevant.
Richard Schiff is interesting to watch as Eddie, especially if you follow this movie up with a few episodes of The West Wing. If nothing else, his delivery here shows why he was cast on that show; It fits Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue rhythms perfectly.
It’s actually a tossup for me as to what makes Vince Vaughn’s character more annoying: His natural dickhead personality, or the fact that Vince Vaughn just does his usual motor mouth routine. It works fine in a comedy like Swingers or Wedding Crashers, but for (what should be) a fun movie about dinosaurs eating people? Not so much.
Thirteen years later, the CGI effects still look pretty damn good. It would be better if the movie were good, but still!
I like Julianne Moore, generally, but once she and Vince Vaughn are on the scene, the film manages to pull off the amazing feat of taking an actress I generally enjoy and an actor I can only stand under certain circumstances, and making me wish I was watching Planet of Dinosaurs instead, where even though the characters are just as unlikable, the actors are lousy and unmemorable enough for me to not give a shit.
It also helps that Planet of Dinosaurs is available from RiffTrax. But I digress.
Once our human villains enter the movie, I have to admit I tend to use the fast forward button the way it was intended—just to get to the dinosaur scenes. It improves the movie, actually. Of course, if you polish a turd, you’re still left with a turd, but I’ll take whatever I can get.
As has been said before, the Roland Tembo character is pretty much the only guy in the group remotely interesting. He has a scene that was deleted that we’ll get to later, but I have to say he makes things at least a little lively. At least more so than the mix of quirks, grumbling, and stupidity that makes up our batch of heroes.
About an hour in, the T Rexes finally attack, and I can honestly say I’m entertained. I can overlook quite a bit in a movie as long as it simply entertains me. When Spielberg sticks to this stuff, the film works just fine. Granted, it’s pretty hard to top the T Rex attack from the first movie, but at least this movie tries.
While it makes for a great visual, the offing of Eddie does come off as rather wrongheaded and arbitrary. In a better film, the Vince Vaughn character would end up on the menu at some point, and Eddie would vanish for a while only to return with help. Not sure why Spielberg chose to do things this way; it leaves the viewers with sort of a bad taste in their mouths. Not what you want to do when trying to put on a spectacular thrill ride.
And I really couldn’t care less about the political slant of the movie; at the end of the day, it really just serves as a way to kill time between effects scenes. That being said, chop those scenes out and you end up with a movie that’s about twenty minutes shorter and ten times more entertaining.
In light of Dieter’s death scene, I’ve decided that if I had to be killed and eaten by a dinosaur, a compy would be at the bottom of my list. That’s a pretty crappy way to go, if you ask me.
The T Rex attack in the camp/waterfall sequence is one I get a bit of a kick out of. In spite of this being the culmination of Vince Vaughn’s character’s idiocy, the visual of the huge dinosaur sticking its head into the tent is pretty damn cool. The ensuing action scene is also pretty good. Sadly, this is about as close to a genuine positive as you’ll find in this movie.
Okay, I do have to admit I find it darkly funny that the guy who’s an expert on dinosaurs is so freaked out by a snake he basically runs right into the jaws of a T Rex.
I’m actually a bit bored by the raptor sequence here. They were pretty damn cool in the first one, but they’re sort of a one-trick pony as far as movie monsters go. The first film pretty much used them as much as humanly possible, and it shows. Here, we end up with some gimmicky stunt work and not much in the way of an interesting payoff. The raptors are just there because they were in the first movie.
Actually, I think I would have liked it more if instead of the raptors, we had gotten a different predator threat. Hell, even Roger Corman’s Carnosaur gave us something a little different!
The San Diego sequence really only works when the T Rex goes on its rampage through the city, and even then it’s really not enough to make for a worthwhile finale. Still, it beats the hell out of anything in the Godzilla film that came out in 1998.
In the end, the film is an unfortunately dull experience, save for a few bits here and there. It’s not Spielberg’s worst movie by a long shot, though. At least, not as long as Hook and 1941 are still available.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the rest of the disc.
The Making of The Lost World:
This is a really good 53-minute look at the making of the movie. As with most featurettes like this one, everything is very upbeat and positive, and we hear from a good cross-section of the cast and crew.
It’s pretty heavily focused on the special effects end of things, and does a good job of showing the various teams at work, with some great behind the scenes footage. That being said, it doesn’t hold a candle to some of the other documentaries on Spielberg’s films. I’m thinking the ones on Close Encounters, the Indiana Jones films, Jaws, and shockingly enough, the one for 1941. Seriously, that documentary alone makes owning the movie a worthwhile investment.
At one point, this movie was supposed to end with a Pteranadon attack, but that was scrapped midway through production. Given how good a similar scene was in the third movie, and how cheesy the San Diego sequence is, I find myself torn on whether or not this change was for the best. Yes, this does say more about me than the movie, I confess.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to view the two deleted scenes individually—meaning I’ll have to come up with my own names for each scene—but what we get is fairly decent. In fact, both scenes were used in the initial airing of this movie on FOX.
Peter Ludlow and the Boardroom Meeting of All-Encompassing Corporate Greed
First off is a boardroom scene with Peter Ludlow and his board of directors, that basically gives us a good idea of just how deep into some financial shit the company has fallen.
The scene is really just Ludlow delivering the exposition and helping to remove John Hammond from his position as CEO. It’s the perfect example of why some scenes are cut, as it really doesn’t tell the audience anything they’ll need for later in the story, and it just slows down the pace.
Roland Tembo and the Unnecessary Fight Scene of Vaguely Sympathetic Characterization
This is actually a pretty decent scene. It introduces us to Roland without directly tying him to the “villains” of the movie. In it, he and his friend Ajay are having drinks in Kenya, and Tembo ends up beating the shit out of a few assholes with one hand tied behind his back (literally). It ends with a rather dumb gag, but apart from that, it’s pretty good.
It’s a surprisingly good scene, as it depicts a hunter tired of the game, drawn back in for the thrill of hunting a T Rex. The acting is good, and if the fighting is what kept it out of the movie, I think the scene could have been cut a bit shorter and made to work in the release print. If nothing else, it would give the character a bit more actual depth than he has in the final cut.
Apart from the aforementioned image galleries, we also get some trailers and miscellaneous stuff that isn’t really worth getting into. All in all, a decent set for a staggeringly disappointing movie.