The Lost World: Jurassic Park

on May 23, 1997 by Joseph McBride
   After "Jaws," Steven Spielberg publicly scorned the making of sequels as a "cheap carny trick." His decision to direct the inevitable "Jurassic Park" sequel himself, rather than assigning it to another filmmaker, was partly a protection against a cheesy followup to what is the biggest global blockbuster in movie history. Spielberg amply delivers the goods with Amblin Entertainment's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," a beautifully crafted series of nightmarish set pieces with no other goal in mind than to scare and delight the audience. If the film ultimately seems more efficient than inspired, with less emotional and visceral impact than such classic Spielberg suspensers as "Duel" and "Jaws," its popular appeal vindicates his return to escapist entertainment following "Schindler's List."
   Perhaps it's a spillover effect of "Schindler's List" that makes this dinosaur movie much darker in look and feel than "Jurassic Park." "Schindler's List" cinematographer Janusz Kaminski gives "The Lost World's" jungle scenes the subtly fantastic haze of Corot paintings. Spielberg makes no attempt to replicate "Jurassic Park's" awestruck contemplation of the majesty of prehistoric beasts, concentrating instead on unrelentingly creepy and horrific images of genetic engineering gone awry.
   The unruly dinosaurs on Site B, the island where the beasts of Jurassic Park were bred, have far more interaction with the human characters than did their predecessors. Dinosaur creators Dennis Muren, Stan Winston and Michael Lantieri outdo themselves with astonishingly believable creatures moving and breathing with utter physical dexterity and abandon.
   The dialogue and structure by screenwriter David Koepp ("Mission: Impossible") substantially improve on Michael Crichton's dull and perfunctory source novel. But, with the exception of the edgily heroic Malcolm (a returning Jeff Goldblum) and an enigmatic big-game hunter ("Dragonheart's" Pete Postlethwaite), the characterizations remain stubbornly two-dimensional. The film occasionally exhibits a winning strain of self-satire, as in Malcolm's running stream of ironic asides and an uproarious finale in San Diego that plays like a spoof of a 1950s monster movie.    Starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite, Arliss Howard and Richard Attenborough. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by David Koepp. Produced by Gerald R. Molen and Colin Wilson. A Universal release. Fantasy/adventure. Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence. Running time: 129 min
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