By contributor Patrick Zabriskie
Review: Steven Spielberg is best when he mixes the fun and the profound effortlessly. His most classic works take the popcorn themes of B-movies and blend them with a depth and wonder typical of only the A-list elite. By doing so he has made classic after classic: ‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters of Third Kind’, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘, ‘E.T.’, and ‘Jurassic Park’ among them. This is also why ‘Jurassic Park’s ill-executed sequel, ‘The Lost World‘, fails. There’s plenty of B-movie, but no sense of weight and drama. It’s a piece of eye candy that turns out bittersweet.
The problems become clear right from the beginning of the film. Only two of the main characters from the original return in the sequel, neither of them are Sam Neil or Laura Dern, who were the leads. Instead, Jeff Goldblum, who plays the sarcastic mathematician Ian Malcolm, is left to carry the film, while Richard Attenborough is resigned to an almost cameo status as the billionaire who funded the project to genetically clone dinosaurs, appearing only at the beginning and the end.
A good rule of thumb for Jeff Goldblum’s acting is that it is best relegated to supporting roles. With the exception of 1986’s ‘The Fly’, his style of dry and ironic humor fails to win him much sympathy from the audience. He seems out-of-place in this movie. He isn’t helped by the rest of the cast either, all of whom are either underwritten or completely stereotypical and uninteresting.
The film’s plot centers around Site B, another island that happens to have dinosaurs on it (for reasons too lengthy to delve into, this island’s existence contradicts half a dozen plot points from the original Jurassic Park) and the “evil corporation” trying to capture these creatures to bring them home to the mainland. Ian Malcolm leads a team trying to stop them, though it is never really justified why he, a mathematician who knows next to nothing about dinosaurs, is qualified to do this.
The entire plot is very forced and superficial. It ignores much of the established story from the original just to show off the film’s computer generated dinosaurs. Yes, these creatures are well designed and a marvel of special effects, but the rest of the film feels so dreary and shallow by comparison. The all-important depth and wonder isn’t present here in the least. There is no strong theme running through this film, no moral lesson about the dangers of science (something the original film at least touched on before showing off its creatures) or mankind’s arrogance. Characters don’t seem bedazzled in the least that they are looking at creatures not seen on the planet in eons. And if they aren’t impressed, why should the audience be? In short, this is just monster movie and nothing else; a B-movie that is watched once and quickly forgotten.
This is the failure of ‘The Lost World’, a fact made worse by the otherwise outstanding resume of Steven Spielberg. The man clearly understands how to make good films out of traditionally corny subject matter, so why he failed here is something of a mystery. It is possible that he simply wanted to make a movie that was fun; not wanting to go anywhere serious with it. For Spielberg, though, if his goal is to make good movies, then he’s better off-putting real weight into the story and leaving the true B-movies to the likes of Roger Corman and Michael Bay.
In short, not even dinosaurs can save this poorly casted, thinly plotted ship from sinking. Spielberg could’ve made something brilliant, insightful and jaw dropping. Instead, he made ‘The Lost World’.