Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

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Dealing with his newfound fame as the whistleblower of the recreation of dinosaurs, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is forced to return to Jurassic Park after its founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) reveals that the neighboring Isla Sorna is where the dinosaurs were bred in the wild before being taken captive to Isla Nublar. Malcolm’s girlfriend, behavioral paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), is already on the island as part of a four-man documentation team that includes photojournalist Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), field equipment expert Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff), and Malcolm himself. He reluctantly agrees to go, now calling the trip a rescue mission, knowing the danger such an experience would entail. True enough, all Jurassic hell breaks loose once again as they meet another InGen team on the island led by its CEO, Hammond’s nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard). Treating the dinosaurs as their company’s patented property, his plan is to bring some of them over to San Diego in an in-city recreation of Jurassic Park. But can man and dinosaur harmoniously co-exist?

The main question regarding these dinosaur what-if scenarios is what if they were indeed alive today. That question is answered by the first film. The next logical question after that is, how will the balance of power be if you bring two apex predators separated by millions of years of existence together in one habitat. The Lost World gives you a taste of that hypothetical scenario. They might as well have entitled this sequel as The Real Dinosaurs of the San Diego Suburbs. That would have been fun.

In any case, this installment struggles with the typical sophomore slump, as they always do. Neither Dern nor Neill returns to headline the sequel, which leaves the producers with Goldblum. Dr. Malcolm, despite not being the main protagonist of part 1, was definitely the crowd favorite. He got sidelined early on in that movie, making this sequel the most appropriate venue for him to stage a comeback. Perhaps the only downside is that Moore’s character seemed to be universally disliked by moviegoers back then. It's not Moore to blame per se, but rather the character herself who is borderline annoying.

Somehow, the storyline seems a bit recycled; the plot, rehashed. It's always the same formula. Visit a secluded setting where dinos reign supreme. Bring in a plot device that allows them to be their natural selves, the apex predator to the human who is now prey. How this sequel differs is by experimenting on bringing the T-Rex back to the heart of civilization, the shock factor being how would you react if you woke up in the middle of the night with a T-Rex devouring your dog in the backyard?

Lest we forget, though, this is not Godzilla. Terrorizing the city and the resulting casualties are treated as isolated cases. This is not an invasion, folks. Think of it as encountering a stray bear or fox in your backyard at midnight. That is the new aspect introduced in this sequel, but pretty much 2/3 of the film is basically a repeat of the one that came three years prior. Overall, you will still be amazed with the dinosaurs running around, brought to life by a strategic mix of CGI and animatronics.

And so, is The Lost World: Jurassic Park a worthy addition to the franchise? Well, I’d say it is, but just don’t expect much. Unlike the first film which had the shock-and-awe advantage of being these ancient creatures’ big budget Hollywood debut, we can argue that this sequel is just there for the obligatory cash grab. People want more dinosaurs. Give them more dinosaurs. That’s about it.

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