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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly rant about one of the many movies I own.  Today, we tackled Jurassic Park's lesser sequel, The Lost World.  This is originally in my notes at June 7, 2015.

While Jurassic Park is still heralded as a milestone, its sequels...not so much. 

Let's be honest, 1993 was Steven Spielberg's  year.  Jurassic Park made ALL the money, then Schindler's List won ALL the Oscars.  After being so dominant, Spielberg took a few years off...a much-earned sabbatical.  But, when you make a film that makes ALL the money, Hollywood wants a sequel.

The Lost World does represent a few firsts.  Because of the overwhelming public demand, Michael Crichton wrote the novel The Lost World.  That was his first sequel.  Because of the overwhelming public demand, Steven Spielberg signed on to adapt The Lost World, making it HIS first (non-Indiana Jones) sequel.  But I'm not sure Spielberg's heart was truly in it.  Maybe he did really want to do it.  On the Blu-Ray bonus material, Joe Johnston (director of #3) said he offered to direct The Lost World, but Spielberg called dibs.  I did read a recent interview with Spielberg where, in his old age, he kind of regrets turning down Jaws 2, because in doing so, he "lost ownership of the franchise."  Maybe he only decided to do The Lost World so it'd still be his.  Maybe after making the first one he thought, "Now that we know what we're doing with the special effects, we can REALLY make something grand."  But according to Wikipedia, he recently revealed that he became disillusioned about halfway through filming. 

Spielberg lost interest, and I think that maybe the movie-going public did, too.  While it was a giant hit when it came out, reviews were mixed at best.  Was the four year gap between the first and second film too long?  Did people look at the dinosaurs come back to life and say, "Yeah...but what else you got?"  In such situations, we need to rely on the plot and characters to hold our interest. 

The one character who comes back to be a main character is Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm.  (The kids from the first film put in a gratuitous cameo, and John Hammond returns just to set the story in motion.)  Malcolm was the only one who turned down the hush money and ignored his confidentiality agreement to go public with what happened on Jurassic Park, but since no one backed him up, he was dismissed as a nutjob and his professional reputation was ruined.  But, thanks to the recent discovery of Site B, things are about to go very public.

For you see, Site B, on the neighbouring island of Isla Sorna, was where the bulk of the genetic research and cloning took place.  When they reached maturity, they were shipped off to Jurassic Park.  Which kind of explains one plot hole from the beginning of Jurassic Park:  when the raptor is being delivered to its pen in that giant shipping crate, where was it being shipped from?  Anyway, when the shit hit the fan at Jurassic Park, Site B was abandoned and the dinosaurs left for dead.  But, despite the genetic safeguards built into their DNA, the dinosaurs somehow lived and thrived.  Hammond is sponsoring an expedition to the island to observe and catalog before word gets out and humanity descends on the island.  And, of course, he wants Malcolm on the expedition.  Malcolm initially refuses, until he finds out his current girlfriend, paleontologist Dr. Sara Harding, is on the team and has already gone ahead on her own. 

That's one of the main problems...we get introduced to a lot of new characters, but they don't get much to do.  Our villain is Peter Ludlow.  John Hammond's nephew.  He's now taken control of the company, and figures the best way to recoup their losses is to capture some dinosaurs from the island and build a dino-zoo on the mainland.  So he leads a rival expedition to the island.  Leading this expedition is big game hunter Roland Tembo, and his only request is that he gets to bag a T-Rex. 

Ya know...I have to agree with another critique that I recently read online.  THAT would make a great Jurassic Park film.  A group of big game hunters descends on the island to hunt some dinosaurs, but they soon discover they're woefully ill-equipped and it turns into The Most Dangerous Game with dinosaurs. 

Joining our heroes are Nick Van Owen, a photojournalist/environmentalist whose secret mission is to sabotage the evil team.  I always forget he's played by Vince Vaughn.  it was the mid-90s...any actor who just made a splash in an indie film eventually popped up in one of the blockbusters of the time.  And we also have Kelley, Ian Malcolm's daughter, who stows away to accompany her dad and possible future stepmom on this trip.   She's pretty much only remembered for her cheesy gymnastics battle against a raptor. 

And let's not talk about the ending.  I know Spielberg gets a lot of crap for the extended ending on A.I., and how he could have cut the last 20 minutes.  It's the same thing with The Lost World.  Like the first movie, it should have ended when our heroes leave the island.  Instead, we're treated to 20 minutes of the T-Rex on a rampage in downtown San Diego, because Spielberg just really, really wanted to do it.  Some of it is fun, but we really didn't need it. 

Summer of 1997 was when it came out.  My summer job that year was working the night shift on a gravel crusher.  I missed it when it came out at the start of summer because of work.  I quit my summer job halfway through August, so I'd have a couple of weeks of summer vacation before going back to school.  And while doing some back-to-school shopping, I saw it was playing in the loonie theatre.  Oh, how I miss the loonie theatre.  Actually, by then, I think it'd gone up to a toonie.  Anyway, I took a time out from back-to-school shopping to finally see it.  And...I was disappointed.

Don't forget, still riding the high that was the first film, I got Michael Crichton's The Lost World as soon as it came out, and I LOVED the book to pieces.  And the movie...barely resembles the book.  That RV they set up on the island?  That the T-Rexes push off the cliff?  In the book, that RV has enough gadgets on it to put James Bond to shame, all to defend themselves from the dinosaurs.  In the book, there are TWO kids.  Because of that aforementioned "ruining of his professional reputation," Malcolm's day job is now teaching at a school for the gifted, and the stowaways are his two top students.  But they got mushed into one character for this film.

I geeked out greatly when I saw the trailer for Jurassic World.  Everyone rolled their eyes when we saw Chris Pratt riding his dirt bike with a bunch of raptors, but I loved it.  Why?  BECAUSE THAT SCENE IS IN The Lost World!  It was my favourite part of the book.  The kids were trapped in the high hide and the raptors were dragging it off to their nest and another raptor had the key dangling from its neck and...it was awesome.  And not in The Lost World

Re-watching The Lost World tonight made me sad, because it made me remember how much I loved the book, and how much the movie let me down.  I think I need to re-read the book.  I'm certain it's back home in Entwistle somewhere.

Of course I'm going to be watching Jurassic Park III next, but you probably won't see a write-up about it.  Why?  Because I did it when I first got my Blu-Rays 3 years ago.  Yeah...if the long gap between 1 and 2 made people no longer impressed with the dinosaurs, then by the time #3 came along, things were pretty much forgotten.  Well, with #4 about to come out, enough time has passed that they can start preying on nostalgia. 

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