Jurassic Park Retrospective (Part 2) The Lost World
By John Hussey.
With a lot of movie blockbusters a sequel is inevitable. Many film fanatics are either excited by this prospect or dreading its arrival, fearing it will taint the original product. The question is: was The Lost World a success or a flop trying to grab onto Jurassic Park’s success? The answer is, it was a success. I will now go on to explain why.
The Lost World: Jurassic World did what all good sequels should do and that is develop upon the original and become, essentially, a better product. As with the likes of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens, The Lost World: Jurassic Park took what its predecessor did and adapted accordingly to take the narrative into a whole new direction. Jurassic Park told the story of dinosaurs being contained in electrified fences for a theme park whilst this sequel decided to turn this on its head by having the dinosaurs out of their enclosures and free to roam around. This brought about the neat idea of Site B, the island Isla Sorna in which InGen grew the dinosaurs before transferring them over to Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar.
Like with Jurassic Park, its sequel was based upon Michael Crichton’s work (his very own sequel The Lost World). Crichton’s second novel came about through high demand by both fans and Spielberg himself, who encouraged Crichton to write the book during discussions for the film’s sequel. Having had a little read of the book it’s fair to say that Spielberg didn’t do a respectful adaptation and took bits and pieces that he liked in order to craft his version. This wasn’t a bad thing and the film does stand up well, providing some interesting leaps forward from the original narrative, namely with Ian Malcolm’s character development (reprised by Jeff Goldblum).
Like with the novel, Ian was the protagonist and led the events of the narrative. The circumstances in which he was driven to Site B were clever through John Hammond (again played superbly by the late Richard Attenborough) wanting to redeem himself by allowing his creations the peace of isolation away from the harm of human interference, having learnt his lesson from the first film. This showed a massive step forward in terms of development. It also allowed for the themes of the original film to be adapted further, allowing them to become part of the franchise’s design and structure. Obviously Ian felt that Hammond’s ideals of having people on an island filled with free roaming dinosaurs, in order to lend to Hammond’s support through documentation of the animals, was a step backwards instead of forwards. He went on to regard his journey to Isla Sorna as a rescue mission after learning his girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) was already on the island after being sent there by Hammond.
This structure worked so well and contrasted itself against the original because of its tone. The tone of the original, as stated in my last retrospective, was magical to say the least because of the characters, and us the audience, delving into Hammond’s vision. Now that the vision is gone we are left with this emphasis of mortal danger and threat, reflected by the number of deaths involved throughout the gritty narrative. Gritty is the best way to represent the change in direction. The Lost World: Jurassic Park became a story about pure survival and the characters were put through hell in order to earn their happy ending.
One of the great ways the danger levels increase was shown was through the inclusion of a small army, supposedly trained for combat. They were eventually cut down by the dinosaurs. Also we had the great privilege of having the return of the Tyrannosaurus, the icon of the franchise. The killing machine was given a mate and a child, tripling the threat and additional narrative involved within them. The T-Rex parents became almost sympathetic characters through trying to protect their young but it didn’t stop them from being rampaging beasts that killed everything in sight. On multiple occasions they killed characters that you sympathised with, regardless of them being on the good side, the bad side or simply being minor characters. They were all tragic, especially Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) who received, without a doubt, the worst Tyrannosaurus death within the franchise to date as well as the poor dog towards the end of the film.
The narrative was bleaker and far more serious than its predecessor which I enjoy. It makes this sequel stand out because of its bold approach to say “things are worse this time round” and this was shown through the gritty imagery, the countless deaths and the sheer survival presence throughout. One of the darkest additions to the plot was the Compsognathus. Like with the original having the terrifying Dilophosaurs, The Lost World: Jurassic Park incorporated a new terror that would stalk its enemy. The scene in which the Compsognathus stalked character Dieter Stark (Peter Stormare) and viciously kept attacking him until the point where he was unable to defend himself served as the most horrific imagery the film threw at us (and to date the most horrific within the franchise). The simple off-screen imagery of him screaming as they moved in for the final attack followed by a river of blood was truly unsettling. What makes the scene even more disturbing is the fact that the Compsognathus are tiny in comparison to other Dinosaurs which means their victim’s death will be slower and far more painful as they are slowly ripped apart. The film’s opening went as far as to use these deadly creatures attacking a little girl which was a bold way of establishing what kind of movie the audience was in for.
As for the themes, they continued the idea of a businessman trying to control things that are out of their control. John Hammond’s story-arc in Jurassic Park was more conventional and simplistic because he had, to all extents and purposes, good intentions and through the first film and this sequel his character evolved and learnt from his mistakes. By the end of the film he wished to establish Site B as a sanctuary for his creations in order for them to develop away from humanity interference.
These themes pass over to a new character, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), creating an antagonist for Ian and his friends to face throughout the narrative. Peter was Hammond’s nephew and wished nothing more but to take InGen away from his uncle and seize the profits for himself. Through careful planning the out-of-his-depth businessman wanted to reopen Jurassic Park. The difference between him and Hammond was that Peter wanted profit and glory, rather than bringing something to the world like Hammond wanted.
Peter was somewhat unhinged, especially since he wanted to bring the dinosaurs to our shores resulting in prehistoric animals living amongst humans and potentially risking everyone’s safety. His disregard to life was what made him despicable. He only cared about his plans despite everything that happens on Isla Sorna (i.e. the death of all but one of his team). The mad businessman had a Tyrannosaurus brought to San Diego, resulting in the creature rampaging through the city were multiple people are killed. Despite all the chaos and destruction he still insisted on keeping the young Tyrannosaurus for his attraction. Unlike Hammond he didn’t learn his lesson and constantly came across as a money-grabbing prat with disregard to his consequences, even after Ian had the glory of proving him wrong. In the end he got what he deserved and the baby T-Rex he wanted so badly ended up eating him whilst its parent watched with a proud face.
I loved how Ian Malcolm got so much development and attention, after his minor role within the original. I also loved the idea of his daughter being brought into the narrative, allowing us to see him as a father throughout trying to protect her, bringing about a similar vibe we had with Alan protecting Hammond’s grandchildren in the original. The film was filled with twice as many intriguing characters, such as Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite) the game-hunter, a character that came across as self-centred through his own personal goals but gained redemption after he realised that his goal wasn’t worth the glory after he lost his best friend at the hands of Pete’s insane ambitions.
We had twice as much dinosaur action, a much needed darker tone that explored further the consequences established within the original as well as the glorious notion that Site B served to allow the Dinosaurs their freedom, becoming a lost world untainted by man and stood almost out of time through the existence of these prehistoric animals. Spielberg once again brought about a masterpiece that I still love watching to this day. Yes the part with San Diego can be seen as a little bit of an unnecessary extension to an already uneasy film (as well as it appearing like something out of a Godzilla movie) but I think it added a new layer to the franchise and allowed Peter’s mad ideas to appear all the more insane because of how far he was willing to go and the devastating consequences because of them.
The Lost World: Jurassic World was a superior film to the original which is exactly what you want from a sequel. It moved into some really dark areas and delved into the consequences of becoming God by showcasing nature having its own ideas against humanities greed on multiple occasions. Sadly a lot of innocent lives paid the price. I find this a rich film filled with many interesting themes and ideas that explored the great narrative Jurassic Park had and took them one step further in interesting and satisfying ways.