Wed
Mar 27 2013 2:30pm

Why Doesn’t Anyone Like The Lost World: Jurassic Park?

The Lost World, Jurassic Park T. Rex

I maintain that if The Lost World was not automatically pitted against Jurassic Park by virtue of being its sequel, people probably would have gotten a kick out of it.

That doesn’t change the fact that the movie couldn’t beat its predecessor without blindfolding it, hogtying it, and sending it into the raptor cage first, but come on—there’s nothing wrong with letting Dr. Ian Malcolm carry a film with a baby T-Rex in it. So why all the hostility?

Jurassic Park entranced us for many obvious reasons, but so much of it was bound up in structure, in its conceit. It was frightening because the protagonists were isolated, because they were forced to deal with a threat the likes of which no human being had ever encountered. At the end, everyone is safe but traumatized, and what’s worse, no one in the world knows what has happened to them. Even if we had not found out about the InGen gag order in The Lost World, it’s not exactly difficult to extrapolate that scenario as the helicopters are leaving the island. In that respect, Jurassic Park has all the qualities of a good horror film—no one can hear you scream and they will never know (or believe) what you saw.

The Lost World, Jurassic Park

The problem with The Lost World is that it eliminates that sense of isolation. It is a film that culminates in an homage to King Kong and Godzilla—an unstoppable force coming into hard contact with a modern world that it has no hope of joining. The idea of creating that homage is not terrible in and of itself, it’s just unfortunately handled too tongue-in-cheek to make the kind of impact it had the potential for. Between drinking from swimming pools and goofy shoutouts to Gojira made by a Japanese expat, we cannot take the chills seriously. It doesn’t help that bringing in the outside world automatically takes fear out of the equation; modern weaponry and military force might make it hard to sell the rampage.

On the other hand, if someone had tried to pitch you this screenplay with the words “Tyrannosaurus Rex charging through San Diego,” would you have been able to say no? Let’s be fair here.

The Lost World, Jurassic Park Baby Stegosaurus

But what about what works in this movie? Taking the funniest character from the first film and handing the reins over to him was a pretty brazen move that paid off in more ways than one. If The Lost World was always destined to be the campy cousin of Jurassic Park, then putting Ian Malcolm center stage guaranteed all the wit and sarcasm that the movie required to make up for every groan. Though arguably the only smart person (smart meaning intelligent and practical) from the first film, that doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily a great guy. The Lost World does a good job of letting us know exactly why Dr. Malcolm is always, as he put it to Dr. Grant, “Looking for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.” Half of the enjoyment to be had from the film is all about watching the guy fail at handling every relationship he has, kid included.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that might irritate the Crichton fans out there—this movie succeeds where the Lost World novel failed utterly. It’s strange to realize that the book is actually more Hollywood than the film in this case, particularly in the manner with which it tries to reproduce its past success. The children in The Lost World novel are literally Lex and Tim flipped; this time the boy is a computer whiz and the girl, Kelly Curtis, loves dinosaurs. Instead, the film gives Kelly a relationship to Malcolm (as his daughter), making her choice to stow away much easier to buy. And while she is similarly situated in the plot to save the day once or twice, she comes off as a wonderfully real teen, though one clearly related to Malcolm—you had to know the moment she uses words like “troglodyte” to describe a babysitter, and his instant response is, “Cruel, but good word use.” That’s family, right there.

The Lost World, Jurassic Park

The supporting cast of The Lost World frankly sell the film in every place where it falls down: we’ve got Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Richard Schiff, and Pete Postlethwaite, who are all more than capable of picking up narrative slack. It’s impossible for Postlethwaite to be bad at any part he plays, and his hubris is delicious in this film, his insistance that he understands the animals when he really is just another white guy in the jungle. What’s more, I’d argue that the edible members of the journey are actually more likable on this rodeo than in the previous film. (No one wants to defend a “bloodsucking lawyer,” after all.) Julianne Moore as Sarah Harding provides exactly what we didn’t get from Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler in Jurassic Park; they spent so much of the movie being understandably terrified that we got little chance to see them do what they do best—geek out about dinosaurs. Harding is fun to follow because curiosity outweighs her sense of self-preservation, and that’s what essentially moves the plot forward.

Again, I would like to point out: a woman, who is a scientist, cares so much about said science that she essentially guides us through the whole movie. That alone is reason enough for applause, no matter how much Ian Malcolm wants everyone to believe she’s crazy.

The Lost World, Jurassic Park

And at the heart of the film is a deconstruction of what Jurassic Park had worked so hard to build up in our minds. Rather than play the “scary beast” card, we spend The Lost World being made to understand that these big monsters are also protective parents. That what we often find inhumane is all-too-often the opposite if we take the time to look hard enough. It brings back the wonder of John Hammond’s initial concept where the park was concerned. It was meant to be a place that fueled your imagination, that renewed your sense of awe with creation. Sarah Harding’s research, her way of interacting with the dinosaurs is how we would all prefer to interact, not from behind the windows of a theme park-owned car on tracks.

For being such a lighthearted take on what Jurassic Park doled out, there are careful reexaminations of themes from the first film and beyond. Again we find Spielberg’s favorite conflict in fathers estranged from their children, but unlike Dr. Grant, who is learning how to be a father to someone else’s children, or Roy Neary from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who is abandoning his family over a calling and obsession, we see Ian Malcolm learn how to become a better father due to being forced to spend this harrowing time with his daughter. Father-daughter relationships get far less screentime in general than fathers and sons, especially rocky ones, so it’s a fresh dynamic. We also see another example of man’s disregard for the power of nature, though this time it is not only John Hammond who refuses to give the proper respect. And the post traumatic stress that Malcolm still clearly struggles with as a result of his time in the park is addressed roundly, making his anger toward everyone who ignores his warnings easy to key into.

The Lost World, Jurassic Park

Not to mention that when you break it down, the trip to San Diego offers a very clever twist on that King Kong rehash. What The Lost World chose to do was take Kong, itself a romanticizing of classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame or The Phantom of the Opera—the hideous, misunderstood man who is shunned by society and denied the woman he loves—and turn it into a story about protective familial love, a completely animal instinct that defines the lives of so many of us. In turn, The Lost World becomes a story that is utterly powered by the motivations of women; a scientist who wants to understand nature, a girl who wants to know her father, a mother—and father, as it is the male T-Rex stomping through California—who will do anything to get their child back.

You know what, all that stuff I said about how goofy this movie is? I take it back. The Lost World is awesome.


Emily Asher-Perrin will give the baby t-rex back in just a few minutes, she promises. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

32 comments
Bryan McMillan
1. bmcmolo
Hear hear!

(Or is it here here? Either/or)

I never understand the hate for this one, myself. Good points, all around.
Chris Hawks
2. SaltManZ
Don't look at me; I loved it (and the book.)
JOSEPH HOOPMAN
3. hoopmanjh
Get the torches and pitchforks ready -- I think that Lost World (the movie) is better than Jurassic Park (the movie) -- more dinosaurs, better dinosaurs, and a plot that doesn't depend on everyone being an idiot. (There's a giant storm coming! And the owner's en route with a lawyer, some experts hired by the lawyer, and small children! Quick! Send all of the non-edible staff to the mainland!) For the books I feel the opposite way, but that's mostly because Lost World (the book) is just terrible while Jurassic Park (the book) is a very well-constructed thriller. With dinosaurs!
Cold Drake
4. Cold Drake
This is a pretty poor movie even if it were a standalone. It's meandering, uneventful, and just not very interesting. The story is very thin and the action scenes are few and far between. I thought JP3, while admittedly silly, was more entertaining than this disappointment.
Robert Evans
5. bobsandiego
Sorry I had a really really hard time with this film.
I can't consider as heroic a character who considers the consequences of their actions as immaterial to the morality of the actions. Vince Vaugn's character is responsible for the deaths of many many people. Without his sumg and idiotic actions there would be no story.
While I loves the T-rex rampaging through my adopted town, how the hell did it get locked in the hold? It certainly didn't bite off that restraining hand on the controls. How did the ship navigate the bay? You can not go straight from the sea to the dock. That's the whole point of a bay you know.
grrrrrr
Margot Virzana
6. LuvURphleb
My only issue with Lost Island is that T. rex eats a dog. A cute adorable golden retriever that was only protecting his family. Which was a stupid family for keeping their dog outside. This reason this still bothers me so much is the fact that i was ten when this movie came out. Maybe 11 and have always been pro dog. If humans die in these movies who cares! But dogs? That's crossing the line. Lol.
Otherwise i enjoyed this movie. The tension i felt when Kelly was up in the box above the forest by herself in the rain! That terrified me! How torn i was between them taking the baby T. rex into the trailer to heal it. I mean first you think: you are CRAZY! that's how you become dinner! Than you think: aww save the baby- its hurt. Than you think dinner again.
When the one dude freaked out from the snake and ran right into the T. Rex's mouth?
All great moments. Now i have to watch this again.
Cold Drake
7. Alright Then
Had it been just Pete Postlethwaite (alone) hunting Rex, I think it would've been a great film---white hunter, black heart, and existential ruminations on InGen island.

The film we got, however, is too goofy to take seriously, with a story and characters taken straight from the hack screenwriter's playbook. Good environmentalists, bad corporate guys, noble savage beasts, yadda, yadda, yadda. Stop me if you've seen a dozen movies like this elsewhere....
J W
8. Susurrin
I can boil down the hate in one simple thought. Gymnastics killed the dinosaurs! I can deal with pretty much everything else this movie has to offer. The splintering glass scene being my favorite scene of the film. The problem is that you have a velociraptor, the smartest of the smart hunting dinosaurs, waiting patiently while a young girl spins around a pole to build up momentum to attack the dinosaur. It takes the teeth out of how smart the raptors are purported to be (as well as how dangerous), and undercuts the threat level).
That whole scene just kills my suspension of belief every time. Not only for what the raptor is doing, but also for this kid that decides to attack said dinosaur with gymnastics. If she were to use said skills to escape-great. Or some sort of last minute kill I could even understand. But the long setup of her swinging around the poles hurts my head.
Sol Foster
9. colomon
For me, the first big problem was that the basic setup blew my suspension of disbelief right away. It's one thing to screw up once (ie the first movie). But this movie is basically the evil corporation making all the same mistakes all over again, and then Ian joins them in the stupidity.

Then I share @bobsandiego's complaint about the ending: it makes absolutely no sense. Obviously they wanted a T-rex rampaging through a modern city; but they completely fumbled getting it there.

In between there were some really neat bits, but the bad start and the bad end killed it for my taste.
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
I've got nothing to add, not being big fan of the movies myself, but I LOVE picture #3 with Spielberg enthusiastically giving direction to the animatronic dinosaur.
Rob Rater
11. Quasarmodo
I knew this movie was in trouble from the moment the POV guy drives his bike between the legs of some brontasaur-type dinosaur. Follow that up quickly with Julianne Moore casually ducking beneath the swinging tail of a stegasaurus. The movie was just so dopey! Ian's constantly running around without a care in the world. He jumps out of the jeep with frickin' raptors running around, and tails a T-Rex alarmingly close, as there's about a 20 second difference between the T-Rex gobbling the guy in the cave to Ian sticking his head through in some lame attempt at drama. Add in probably my most hated comic cliche ever: someone stares in stunned horror as someone else stares at them yelling "What? What is it? What are you looking at? WHAT?"
Dave Thompson
12. DKT
It had it's moments...but the kid gymnast vs. the raptors was the red line of death for me.

I LOVE Alright Then's suggestion about how it should've been about Pete Postlewaite's character. That would've upped the intensity a ton, and could've conveyed quite a bit of depth. I'm not sure how you would get kids to the island, though, and there seems to HAVE to be kids in a JP movie...dang. That really would've been cool and interesting though!
Cold Drake
13. joelfinkle
One note about the completely different book: Reading it I could picture Chrichton talking to Spielberg:
"Steve! I'm writing the sequel to Jurassic Park. Do you think it would be OK if I have the kids in the story get eaten this time?"
"What?! Mike, I need a PG-13 rating here. No dice, we won't buy it."
"OK.... can I rough them up a bit?"
"Sure, Mike, sure."
Cold Drake
14. Alright Then
Thank you, DKT.

If kids are a must, I suppose they could've taken the rich family from the beginning, now lost on the island, and blended their story with the great white hunter's. Could have lead to some interesting commentary on class structure, inequality, etc. between the opposing sides.

In any event, I'd rather watch Postlethwaite walk around the jungle looking through his scope than any of the silly San Diego Godzillary on display.
Cold Drake
15. Shariq
The biggest problem with this movie is that when you boil it down to its purest, rawest form, it's all just one big build up to a lame Godzilla joke.
Tim Lewis
16. RaPToRFunK
Susurrin beat me to it. Save the day with...gymnastics?
Robert Evans
17. bobsandiego
I own the blu-ray trilogy set of these movies and on this film's disc there is a lovely deleted scenes with Pete's big white hunter character. I have my suspected that it was removed for making his chacater too likable and admirable cmpared to the others.
Cold Drake
18. The_Red_Fleece
The reason no one like this?

Because it has the wrong central character. In both the books and the first film Ian Malcolm's job is to rant about choas theory while lying on a bed. That works in the first movie because he isn't a lead character. In the second movie he is turned into a sub Dr Grant. Why not just get Sam Neil back? It isn't like they followed the book accurately anyway.
Cold Drake
19. Jaquandor
This movie has Toby Ziegler get eaten by a T-rex. NO NO NO!!!
Cold Drake
20. Jenny C
What I don't like about this movie is the villains. Basically they work too well, inspiring a sense of disdain so desperate that merely dying memorably at the tooth and claw of the very dinosaurs they try to hunt isn't enough, and I'm forced to disdain the movie for letting them off so easy instead.

Seriously, what kind of asshole goes to a paradisical island of wonder to drive around in the loudest possible car and punch the wildlife in the face just to make your balls feel big? To say nothing of the big time hunter guy who knows well enough to respect the animals and cares only to shoot them, presumably because serial murdering people would make the policemen flustered and stern. I mean the way he talks it's obvious he thinks killing a t-rex is going to be the culmination of his sex life.

Creepy, disturbing, depressing, and as far as I can remember none of the various dinosaur hunters at any point understand that there's anything wrong with what they do or why they do it. It's so frustrating with villains who just die without learning anything, like the heroes can't actually argue their point but only beat them up until they fall down. Or leave it for the dinosaurs to eat them in this case.
Cold Drake
21. a1ay
Again we find Spielberg’s favorite conflict in fathers estranged from their children, but unlike Dr. Grant, who is learning how to be a father to someone else’s children, or Roy Neary from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who is abandoning his family over a calling and obsession, we see Ian Malcolm learn how to become a better father due to being forced to spend this harrowing time with his daughter.


... Not saying anything.
Sky Thibedeau
22. SkylarkThibedeau
Thing that always gets me is How did the T rex get out of the hold of the Ship to Bite the Guys arm off and Kill the Crew?
Cold Drake
23. James Davis Nicoll
[i]7. Good environmentalists

Wait, aren't the environmentalists the direct or indirect cause of most of the deaths in the movie? At least on the island?
Alan Brown
24. AlanBrown
Why doesn't this film get respect?
1. Totally unlikeable main character.
2. Not terribly likeable love interest.
3. Prologue with totally different characters than rest of the movie feels tacked on.
4. The gymnastics scene.
5. Last act in totally different location than rest of the move feels tacked on.
And the first one was good but not great--I couldn't buy the contrived way that the few people were left behind on the island. Who leaves dry land and gets on a boat as a hurricane approaches?
Cold Drake
25. jeral
I liked. Still, is a much better movie than Jurassic Park 3.
Cold Drake
26. Ace Hamilton
I still can't believe nobody noticed how bad the first film was. Only a couple of good scenes, full of dumb characters doing dumb things. The Lost World was a worthier dinosaur film, like something Harryhausen might have done. Not profound but well made.
Cold Drake
27. Nadia
The gymnastics thing ruined this for me, too. I wince just to think of it. To me, it would be like having the movie Titanic exactly as it was, but with an extra scene where space aliens land on the ship and go for tea. Unbelievable and ridiculous. I did not like the kid anyway, but that scene was so dumb that I debated whether to see JP3 or not because of it.
Cold Drake
28. Jck
In my opinion, it's because the movie gets people tired through its monotone mood. 80% of the film happens at night, rainning and we struggle to explore the surroundings. That's what i like about the other 2 movies. On those one can explore the surroundings in which the things happen. Too much darkness is just tedious.
Cold Drake
29. Laya
I loved the book, but not the movie. The movie hardly follows along the plot of the book. Hammond wasn't even supposed to live, and Dodgson comes back trying to steal dino eggs. IDK, I like the book better.
Cold Drake
30. Chickality
Action scenes and dinosaurs were the main highlight of the movie. The rest was a bunch of rubbish. Its essentially the old hippie save the rain forest rhetoric and the old bad corporations. They managed to lose all their gear and not even have anything to protect themselves with. If this movie were made into real life, Malcom and his team would be sewed and thrown to jail for the destruction of their company. Of course, pretty much every one working for the company dies. The movie and pretty much all the Jurassic movies fail to explain why human technology can't protect the human beings from the dinosaurs. All they had was an electric fence with shot guns that miss three front of target. Its this artificial image and probably metaphor that humans are helpless against nature.
Cold Drake
31. OBAMARAMA
Good article on why its a stupid movie: http://www.jabootu.com/lostworldnugget.htm
It lists 92 reasons why the movie is pretty dumb. I agree on probably most of them.
Cold Drake
32. Darlus
Thanks so much for writing this! It is a very enlightening, enjoyable read. I have always found this movie ultimately entertaining, despite how everyone else seems to feel about it, which is really what movies are about. Entertainment.

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