RECAP: The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997): Steven Spielberg
Four years since the events of Jurassic Park, the world does not know what happened on Isla Nublar. The beans were spilled, but the public doesn’t believe in said beans.
ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: Dr. Ian Malcolm tried to get out, but the dinosaurs pull him back in, plus his girlfriend and daughter, and the people of San Diego.
Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) has a problem. He’s about to be sued by the corporation, InGen, that nearly killed him. It’s been four years since he and some prominent paleontologists were nearly eaten by dinosaurs running amok on a jungle island near Costa Rica.
Problem is, no one knows about it. Malcolm spilled the beans to the world, violating the non-disclosure agreement he signed. Since no one else did, the world thinks he’s crazy.
Malcolm doesn’t realize that his life is about to get much worse, again. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), CEO of InGen and architect of the original disaster showcased in Jurassic Park, wants to send a team to Isla Nublar’s neighboring island Isla Sorna, a.k.a. Site B, where the dinosaurs bred for the park lived without fences.
Hammond wants the dinosaurs left alone, not exploited, as he had planned to do with Jurassic Park, but has since had a change of heart. Hammond assembles a team to document the creatures in their native environment, so to speak, to sway public opinion on matter. He believes it his “last chance at redemption.”
Malcolm balks at the idea that anyone would go to this dangerous island. Hammond then asks if Malcolm would go. Malcolm balks at that idea. Then Hammond tells Malcolm that Malcolm’s girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is already on the island. The fenceless, dinosaur-full island. Malcolm goes.
Malcolm, Harding, a photographer named Nick (Vince Vaughn), and the gear guy Eddie (Richard Schiff) arrive on one of The Five Deaths, as the locals are calling the five islands that might or might not have dinosaurs roaming them. They soon meet some friendly stegosauruses, at which they ooh and ahh. “Ooh, ahh, that’s how it always starts,” Malcolm says. “But then later there’s running and screaming.”
Of course, there’s plenty later. Malcolm never comes out and says “I told ya so,” to anyone; it bubbles on the surface for most of the movie’s second half. When the acting CEO of InGen tries to capture a Tyrannosaurus rex to transport to San Diego, Malcolm tells him, “Taking dinosaurs off this island is the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas. And I’m going to be there when you learn that.” Not exactly “I told ya so.”
In Jurassic Park, Malcolm famously explained chaos theory to a charmed Laura Dern. Malcolm’s worldview, hardened here in the sequel, finds that whatever can happen will happen, more or less Murphy’s Law. Specific to dinosaurs–nature finds a way. Malcolm always assumes that humans will screw up dinosaur containment, and he’s right every time.
The world experienced peak Goldblum in 1997. He starred in the top two movies released between July 4th weekend in 1996 and 1997. And he was on fire in The Lost World. Case in point: late in the film, he’s driving his girlfriend and a baby T. rex through San Diego while the father chases them. Harding thinks he’s driving too fast, that they will lose the dinosaur. She tells him to slow down. He says, “I don’t think so.” His deliver is not emphatic or final. He responds as if Harding had asked him, “Should I turn the heat down?”
Maximum Goldblum, and that’s why we love him and why he’s a weird spokesperson for Apartments.com.
Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is the head of InGen’s board of directors. He’s also John Hammond’s nephew, but he ain’t got time for that. InGen is bleeding money, thanks to nearly $200 million dollars in lawsuits related to the Jurassic Park, uh, incidents.
Ludlow wants to remove Hammond from his position as CEO, which he does, before embarking on a mission that will reinvigorate the company. Why open a dinosaur park in the faraway Pacific Ocean when you can set up the dinosaurs in a zoo in San Diego, California, and for 1% of the cost?
Well, the answer to that question presents it self later. For now, know that Ludlow might be in charge of the mission to capture some dinos, but no one listens to him. Not his employees, not the hunter hired to capture the T. rex, probably not his kids or his dog.
Let’s get to the big set piece of The Lost World. It starts when Nick and Harding unwisely bring a screaming, injured baby Tyrannosaurus rex to their hi-tech trailer to fix its leg. You know what the thing about baby Tyrannosauruses is? They have parents.
It doesn’t take long for these parents to show up. They streak through the jungle before Nick and Harding know it. Malcolm is on hand, because he’s heard them coming, and he must warn the two budding veterinarians, struggling to fix the baby’s broken leg.
Malcolm arrives at the trailer in time for the other two to ignore him, until a jeep parked nearby is sent rolling over the nearby cliff’s edge into the writhing sea below. The three humans fall silent, watching the violence. Malcolm breaks it. “Mommy’s very angry.”
Suddenly the trailer’s large windows are filled with not one, but two T. rex heads. At first they are gentle, nudging the trailer, searching for their baby that they believe is inside. The three humans come to their senses and carry the baby, its leg set, outside the trailer. Harding stares down one of the adults. Together the tyrannosaurus family returns to the jungle, and the humans breathe relieved sighs.
They got fooled. Two T. rex return, for revenge. They bash the trailer, rolling it twice, onto its back. This flip is captured from the inside, as the three humans struggle to stay upright in a rotating trailer, stuff careening down on them. It’s a stellar shot.
One dinosaur slides the trailer over the cliff edge. It’s been raining for a while, so the mud is easy to slide through. The trailer is in two connected pieces. One dangles above the sea while the other is stuck, for the moment, in the mud. The humans are in the dangling section.
Harding loses her grip when the refrigerator door she’s clutching falls open. She smashes into the glass pane that was the back of the trailer and is now the bottom of it. The window slowly cracks with each motion, with each breath, and if anything falls it will break.
Malcolm climbs down the trailer to grab hold of Harding’s hand, or any part of her, because a satellite phone is about to break the glass. The phone hits the glass, shatters it, just as Harding grabs hold of her lucky pack, which Malcolm is also holding. Lucky them.
Now it’s time for Eddie to drive back from his outpost to agonizingly attempt to save his colleagues. First, he loops a rope around a stump. As Harding climbs the rope, it slips from the stump. Eddie then struggles to attach a cinch to the trailer, because that is also sliding in the mud and rain. He gets the rope reattached, so the humans can resume climbing.
Now the trailer is sliding over the edge. Eddie gets in the truck and shows what a Mercedes engine can do. He floors the thing in reverse, sliding all over the mud, trying, pulling the trailer from the edge.
The slipping rope is doing more harm than good. Malcolm, Harding, and Nick are all below the trailer, hanging on the rope. “Increase your rate of climb,” Malcolm says, perhaps the most Malcolm thing he’s ever said.
When you thought things were working out–surprise, the tyrannosauruses are back. One of the adults attacks Eddie’s truck, tearing it apart. Eddie heroically continues to push the gas pedal, even as he cowers from the dinosaurs and struggles to free a dart gun that might save his life.
Eddie loses that battle. The two dinosaurs tear him in half. The trailer loses its grip on the cliff and slides over, exploding on the rocks below. The three surviving humans climb the rope; they’ve shown herculean upper body strength in this sequence.
This is a classic Spielberg action sequence. The camera work is superb, especially when Eddie shows up. It slowly follows him as he arrives on scene, exits the truck, grabs rope, ties it to the stump, and throws it down the trailer dangling from the cliff edge. Clearly this was all one set, and Spielberg wants you to know it. There’s rain and mud and backlighting, and the best dinosaur robots working in the biz. No director has mixed spectacle with personal like Spielberg, and his skills are on display here.
Sarah Harding is a delightful, confident naturalist so eager to engage with living dinosaurs that she treks to Isla Sorna on her own, before the rest of Hammond’s team arrives. She didn’t even tell Malcolm where she was going.
We meet Harding on the island. She greets Malcolm with a breathless monologue of observed dinosaur activity, using terms like “pair bond,” “sub-adult,” and “egg clutch.” It’s a terrific introduction. She’s discovered that the dinosaurs eat lysine-rich foods to allow them to process amino acids and survive after their genetically-programmed seven days are up.
Harding is perfectly capable on her own, a point she makes clear to Malcolm. “I love that you rode in here on a white horse,” she says. “I love you, I just don’t need you right now.”
But she kind of does. They all need Malcolm, because he’s the only one with any sense around here, dammit! Malcolm has seen what living dinosaurs can kill, and what they can eat. He knows they will again. So, when he learns that Harding and Nick have taken a baby T. rex to their trailer to play vet, he’s quite fearful.
After her first rex encounter, Harding tamps her enthusiasm, developing a healthy sense of fear for the greatest predator that ever lived. It’s a wise move from a wise person.
Malcolm plays father to a teenage girl named Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester). Malcolm is a distant, chill dad, as evidenced by his wearing of leather jackets and her insistence that he discipline her every so often. Might be nice to have a normal childhood, eh, dad?
Kelly claims that Malcolm likes kids, he just doesn’t want to be around them much. That hurts Malcolm. He then gives her fatherly advice: don’t listen to him. Fast forward to Isla Sorna, where Kelly has stowed away. She believes Malcolm advised her to join him on his expedition to save Harding from the nasty dinosaurs. Now he’s got to save his increasingly scared daughter.
I can’t remember what happened to photographer Nick.
Dinosaurs are demoted to henchmen in this sequel, the human element being raised.
Dinosaur action in The Lost World walks two lines: jaw-dropping and ho-hum. It’s not this movie’s fault. The final Jurassic Park dinosaur image of a T. rex roaring among dinosaur skeletons as a banner proclaiming “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” flutters down is perhaps the single most adrenaline-pumping movie image of the 1990s.
Watching The Lost World, it’s impossible to ignore how awesome the dinosaurs were in the first movie. They are still awesome here, but not more awesome. And I mean “awesome” in its literal sense. The characters in the first movie spend the first act in awe of Hammond’s achievements.
Characters in The Lost World hunt and capture the dinosaurs. It dilutes the dinosaurs’ power.
Nevertheless, the animatronics are still top notch. Dinosaur heads are nudging and poking all over the place, and the terror of that does not dissipate. The scariest image takes place in a grassy field, as a half dozen velociraptors converge on frightened humans, where only the moving grass indicates the raptors are even there. The men are cut down and killed below the grass line.
The raptors nearly kill the main characters, showing digging skills we didn’t know they had. They also crash through glass like they’re clad in chain mail.
All the hallmarks are present for dinosaur kills: hunting, people being torn in half, blood flowing in water, dinosaur silhouettes and breath, and quaking water puddles. The movie wants to outdo its predecessor, but how can you outdo perfection?
Any Jurassic Park movie must have a good dinosaur chase scene, and we get one late in the film.
Malcolm, Harding, and Kelly have followed Nick into the abandoned village on Sorna, where they will await chopper evacuation. Chasing them into the village are three velociraptors.
Malcolm, separated from the women, runs into a gas station and immediately runs out when a raptor crashes through the plate-glass window. The raptors do a lot of crashing into stuff. It appears to be their favorite activity.
Kelly and Harding run into a shack and lock the door. They try digging their way out the back as a raptor tries digging its way in through the front. Another raptor gets wise and tries breaking through the back, forcing the women to climb to the rafters.
Soon Malcolm joins them, somehow escaping his raptor pursuer. Kelly shows off her gymnastics skills by swinging around a pipe and kicking a raptor through the wall. And she was cut from the high school team?
Harding is the next person in mortal danger. She makes the roof and then leaps onto another. But so does a raptor. The roof is covered in Spanish tiles, which Harding causes to slide by tearing them away. Below is another hungry raptor.
The roof raptor can’t balance on the sliding tiles, and it falls onto the other. They fight long enough to allow Harding to escape. Then they run away to a helicopter to return them to San Diego and, they think, safety.
Hey, we had fun with dinosaurs on isolated tropical islands, didn’t we? After 1.75 movies, a dinosaur finally makes its way to a population center–San Diego, California. What could go wrong?
Ludlow gathers the press to announce the arrival of the T. rex, highlighting its cost efficiency. The old park, at 100 times the cost, was, like Hammond, “outsized.” Is he calling his uncle fat? He’s large, sure, but maybe not fat.
Anyway, Ludlow is called aside to learn that the ship coasting into the docks can’t be raised and won’t slow down. Ludlow, watching the radar screen, seems to realize that the blue-green blip of the ship represents the end of his professional life. He looks at it as if he can’t fathom a tiny group of pixels having such a profound impact on one’s life. But it does. And it’s about to impact many people’s lives, and literally impact many people.
The S.S. Venture crashes into the docks. InGen employees storm the ship, finding the crew “all over the place.” Malcolm figures out what’s inside the malfunctioning cargo hold–the, as Roland the hunter would say, greatest predator to ever walk the Earth. So when some jackal releases the button to open the doors, we know what’s coming.
Malcolm runs, but he takes time to creep up behind Ludlow and tell him, “Now you’re John Hammond.” The biggest insult you could deliver, I guess.
The T. rex calmly walks down the ramp, nipping at a person but missing. It crashes through a Welcome to the US: No Animals sign and walks into a new type of jungle–urban. It walks posh neighborhoods until it stops at a pool to drink and snack on the family dog.
Ludlow, meanwhile, has mentally checked out, leaving Malcolm and Harding to clean up his mess. InGen brought the baby rex back on a plane and left it in a secure facility. Perhaps its mother will come for it again. Malcolm drives his slick red convertible to the Jurassic Park arena (under construction) to steal the sedated infant. He fears angry recognition from the mother. Harding asks how they will find the mother. “Follow the screams.”
Cue screams. People are flipping their cars to get out of the T. rex’s way. The lizard is eating stoplights and sideswiping buses that crash into Blockbuster Video locations. People are running, even a group of Japanese businessmen. Running from a giant, city-terrorizing lizard Japanese men? Act like you’ve been there. The rex finally eats a guy, one wearing jeans.
Malcolm and Harding drive to a 76 gas station and spot the rex, who spots his baby and is very mad. It knocks the giant 76 ball past the car. Malcolm drives away, but too fast. Harding asks him to slow down. Goldblum delivers a hilarious “I don’t think so.”
They arrive at the docks again and Malcolm carries the baby back to the S.S. Venture wreck. Ludlow is still there, ordering people to shoot the adult but not the infant, which he wants alive. For money purposes. After Malcolm and Harding drop the baby into the ship’s cargo hold, they leap into the water. Ludlow, the idiot, walks into the cargo hold. The dude even asks the baby, “Are you there?” Can you believe this guy?
Ludlow tries to chase the baby, but he’s getting chased from behind. The adult rex nibbles on him a little bit, enough to wound him and let the young rex notch its first kill. Awww.
Harding, topside, loads a tranquilizer gun and darts the adult as Malcolm closes the cargo doors on it. They send the dinosaurs back to Isla Sorna.
CNN plays an interview with Hammond. In it, he says that the dinosaurs “require our absence to survive, not our help.” He’s dead on, but will the world listen?
There’s a few choice lines in The Lost World, but Goldblum doing his thing makes this baby purr.
I enjoyed seeing the lush temperate forest on tropical Isla Sorna.
LOLz aside, The Lost World stands out for its enormous sets, a Spielberg hallmark. The dangling trailer sequence, the abandoned village sequence, and the Jurassic Park arena were all built on a huge scale, its nooks and crannies explored by humans and dinosaurs. It seems they even built a giant dock just for a huge ship to crash into it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they built San Diego and populated it just for the movie.
“Nature finds a way.” This eternal truth includes nature finding a way to scare the shit out of San Diegans. Dinosaurs quickly found a way to replace an essential amino acid with their diets. In a few years they carved out territories on the small Isla Sorna. They found equilibrium.
“Don’t trifle with a baby.” The T. rex parents go to great lengths to protect their offspring.
“Capitalists make unethical decisions.” Hammond’s idea for Jurassic Park was a failure. He turned naturalist, to save the dinosaurs. His nephew tried to bring a dinosaur to San Diego, and that failed as well. Those motivated by profit will die for profit.
White Malcolm has a black daughter, a fact never mentioned. That’s pretty good. We’re not sure if Kelly is adopted or not.
- One of the movies advertised at Blockbuster was Arnold Schwarzenegger in King Lear.
- Why did they have bus crash into that Blockbuster? I didn’t get the metaphor/symbolism.
Summary (41/68): 60%
The Lost World was another hit for Spielberg, and rightly so. The action is big, the sets are enormous, and the acting is swell. But it’s Jeff Goldblum’s Goldblum-ness that sets this movie, if not above, then apart.
Oh, and the dinosaurs.