When setting out to make the sequel to the full-on masterpiece that was 1993’s Jurassic Park, I imagine that returning director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp’s first issue was figuring out how they were going to get another group of people (and a child) to another island full of dinosaurs.
Spielberg and Koepp threw out almost all of Michael Crichton’s novel The Lost World when they created The Lost World: Jurassic Park (still an absurdly structured title) and I’ve already gone on record as saying that I think that this was a good move. They keep some of the big set pieces, but for the most part the film is very different from Crichton’s problematic book. I seem to be in the minority here— I found the book to be pretty boring when I read it, and thought that the film was an improvement. I’m not on crack, but I may definitely be crazy.
Was I completely wrong about this film? Only one way to find out— give it a fresh viewing. Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm is back, and this movie finds the very much alive John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) recruiting him for a trip to a second dinosaur island, one that had its facilities wiped out by a hurricane after the events of the first film. The dinosaurs on this “Lost World” are now flourishing, and Hammond needs a team to document them in order to make sure that humanity stays away. As Malcolm says, he’s gone “from capitalist to naturalist in just four years.”
Malcolm’s animal expert girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is already there, so Malcolm has no choice but to personally lead a rescue mission. He’s aided by Equipment Guy (Richard Schiff), Mr. Big Camera (Vince Vaughn), and wouldn’t you know it... his daughter Kelly (Vanessa Chester) has stowed away to join them, because these movies really like to put children in danger.
The mission of documentation and preservation lasts all of six seconds before Hammond’s jackass nephew Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) arrives with a team of walking dinosaur food as well as a plan to capture and transport the dinosaurs to a San Diego theme park. Both groups end up sabotaging the other, and soon everything devolves into one singular mission: get the hell off the island. They do exactly that, but this sequel takes things to the next level, for better or for worse.
I saw this film in the theater when it came out in 1997, and I liked it just fine. It didn’t come close to matching the first movie, but I wasn’t expecting it to. I particularly loved the added character of Roland Tembo, a big game hunter played by Pete Postlethwaite. From his incredible introduction to his incredible exit, I was in the bag with this character.
I also, believe it or not, enjoyed the unexpected third act which involved a T-rex getting loose in San Diego. I liked that the movie didn’t end with our heroes flying to safety once again— it followed through on Ludlow’s stupid plan, and havoc ensued. How stupid and greedy can humans be? Let's find out. What fun!
THE OFFICIAL REWATCH
For some unknown reason, this thing holds up for me. It still doesn’t come close to the first one... but once again, I had a really good time watching it.
Let’s get this out of the way— the bit where Kelly yells “Hey, you!” at a velociraptor before gymnastically kicking it out of a window is a general low point in cinema. I didn’t like it in 1997, and I don’t like it in 2018. I found the entire scene surrounding this moment to be fairly silly this go-round, as Ian, Sarah, and Kelly maneuver through some kind of junkyard that could have been called Rube Goldberg’s Velociraptor Adventure. It’s a highly unnecessary sequence, but I suppose they wanted to get more raptor action in there.
Some references along the way really date the film, too— the CD-ROM line in the original is always gonna get a laugh, but this one mentions Dr. Quinn, landlines, and phone booths and shows the interior of a Blockbuster Video. Hammond’s initial plan is also dated, as these days they’d probably just send in a drone camera squad.
NOTABLE MENTIONS (IN SILLINESS)
They include but are not limited to:
-The second T-rex attack, where Sarah suddenly loses all of her expert survival knowledge and hangs a bloody jacket in a tent, which also contains a lot of opened food, and a child
-The T-rex smashing through customs while several rooms of humans are being detained
-The T-rex strolling through suburbia
-The group of Asian businessmen running from the T-rex
-All right, I admit it—most of the “T-Rex in San Diego” sequence is silly. It’s entertaining… but ridiculous. I like the idea of it a little more than the execution.
NOTABLE MENTIONS (FOR REAL)
One central theme in the film struck me much more on this rewatch than it ever has before— parenthood, both in the human and dinosaur world, is difficult business.
Malcolm is having his parental issues, and so are the dinosaurs. Sarah remarks early on that she believes the dinosaurs are “caring parents” and not “vicious lizards,” and she’s pretty spot-on in that assessment. The stegosaurus and the T-rexes mostly only get violent when their babies are involved—the rest of the time, the humans really have it coming, or the “we’ll eat anything” raptors are in the scene.
Trailers, roundups, and long grass
The truck over the cliff sequence is still a classic, especially the moment where Sarah finds herself face down on cracking glass. The Ludlow team’s first arrival to the island is gorgeous, and the long grass sequence is terrifying.
The Talented Mr. Williams
Last time I looked, the score was still written by the legendary John Williams. His jungle trek themes merge wonderfully with the limited use of his original themes.
Now that's my Tembo
In case I haven’t beaten this drum enough, Pete Postlethwaite is flat-out awesome as Roland Tembo. Always has been, always will be. "SADDLE UP, LET'S GET THIS MOVEABLE FEAST UNDERWAY..." is a line that will never age for me.
The Goldblum Factor
I’ll watch Jeff Goldblum do anything at this point. His tics and mannerisms are on full display in this film, and I’m not complaining. One does not complain when given a gift.
I still say that this movie is treated unfairly, and I'm still not on crack. For me it's the second best of the four Jurassic movies that we have right now.
My favorite part of the film is still the message given by a greatly changed John Hammond. He’s no longer the huckster who ran the flea circus on Petticoat Lane— he’s one of the only people around who realizes that these dinosaurs, whether they were genetically bred or not, really need to be left alone.
Hammond finally understands Ian’s “life finds a way” thesis, and has come around to the truth—humans and dinosaurs do not belong together. As he says in the film’s closing, “These creatures require our absence to survive, not our help.”
Too right, Mr. Hammond— humans turn everything (in these movies and in real life) into a circus. Good thing the mad scientists of these films haven’t started creating mutant dinosaur hybrids, because that would truly be silly.
Speaking of made-up dinosaurs and weird hybrids, keep a look out for our rewatch of Jurassic Park III, as well as our continuing coverage of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It's almost ready to roar into cinemas on June 22, and Doctor Ian Malcolm will finally return.