Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): The Lost World

by Ben Martin

Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)]

This time around I’ll be examining the Jurassic Franchise! The fifth installment in the series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is in theaters now. With that in mind, let’s go back to the film that kicked off the franchise; The Lost World: Jurassic Park!

Jurassic Park (1993) was and still is one of the biggest movies of all time. Therefore, it’s no surprise that folks were clamoring for another trip to the proverbial park. And for better or worse we would get both on the page and the screen. Following the success of the original novel and film, author Michael Crichton kept getting asked if he would be doing a follow-up to his book. Once he cracked the story, Crichton announced that he would indeed be doing another novel, and he had no doubt that there would be another film too. The Lost World was published in Fall 1995. As expected, it was a hit and a number one bestseller for six weeks.

By that time Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One) and screenwriter David Koepp (Spider-Man) had begun working on the film sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The director had taken a two-year sabbatical after having pulled double duty on Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Both of which were released in 1993. Spielberg had been saying he wanted to do a Jurassic sequel and was finally ready to do so. Having used Crichton’s manuscript for The Lost World novel as a template, Koepp and Spielberg developed the film’s screenplay.
The film picks up four years after the events of its predecessor. We find that Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) has become a bit a disgrace in the scientific community. Feeling the public should know the truth, Malcolm wrote a book about the events of the first film. Sadly, for the Chaos Theorist, his tome only made him look crazy to the majority of the public and his peers. Despite all this, he pays a visit to a bed-ridden John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) who reveals to Malcolm that a nature reserve where dinosaurs roam free, has been set-up on an island nearby the original park. Hammond dubbed this particular island as “Site B,”; and has sent a group of scientists and photographers to document the animals. One of these scientists is paleobotanist and Malcolm’s girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore). Infuriated, Malcolm sets off to save his lady and the other researchers. Unfortunately for and unbeknownst to all involved, another InGen team has been sent to Site B with the intention of taking dinosaurs back to the states to open a new Jurassic Park.

Doing a sequel to a beloved film is no small task; particularly when you take into account that Steven Spielberg considered this movie to be his first (and if you agree with his opinion, only) true sequel. As a result, it seems that he and Koepp tried to play it safe. The Lost World’s screenplay follows a similar structure to that of its predecessor, almost down to the minute. However, the story here just doesn’t work as well, probably as a result of playing it safe. For one thing, this sequel holds little to no suspense.

One of the significant reasons the original entry worked is because it held back on showing us the dinosaurs in full for a while. The Lost World, however, doesn’t take that tactic as we get dinos, in-full, almost immediately. Koepp cites such a decision with this anecdote about how when he was writing this screenplay, he kept a note from a child who had written him concerning Jurassic Park. While the kid loved the movie, she thought, “It took too long to get to the dinosaurs.” This note from a young film enthusiast must’ve weighed in the screenwriter’s mind as this picture seems to lack most, if not all, of the mystery of the first film. Yes, I realize we already know what the dinos look like. However, that doesn’t mean the filmmakers should still play the hell out of that particular cinematic card!

Instead, it seems that everyone making The Lost World wanted to make it “A darker sequel.” If that was the goal, I think it was achieved, both visually and narratively. Visually, this film is much darker, due to a change in cinematographer. No longer do we get to see Dean Cundey’s (Hook) beautiful and crisp cinematography. Instead, Spielberg reteams with his Schindler’s List cinematographer Janusz Kaminski; who has remained the director’s DP since that point forward. There’s no doubt that Kaminski is a talented cinematographer, but I don’t love his style.
Yes, Kaminski’s films look good enough, but are drained of color, be it in collaboration with Spielberg or otherwise. Frankly, I feel that a film’s cinematography needs to complement its narrative and vice-versa. That isn’t the case with The Lost World as it’s too dark, to the point of looking muddy at times. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that neither the animatronic dinosaurs nor the visuals look as good here as they did in Jurassic Park. In fact, all those components may look a little worse. This is especially the case in daylight, computer-generated dino shots. The fact of the matter is that certain shots in this movie have not aged well in the twenty-one years since it was released; which comes as no shock, I’m sure. However, what is shocking is that 99% of animatronic, daylight, and CG shots in Jurassic Park look just as good now as they did in 1993.

Now, for all my criticisms; The Lost World does have some positive attributes. Chief among them being Jeff Goldblum (Hotel Artemis) reprising his role as Malcolm. While it may be biased,  Mr. Goldblum is one of my favorite actors and has been since I saw these first two Jurassic films. I like his performance in this film, though it seems his character lacks the same amount of charisma as before. Although, I suppose that’s understandable given the events of the previous picture. However, I can’t help but get the odd feeling that some sort of dramatic re-write on Malcolm’s character was done in the interim, either. Goldblum is surrounded by a talented cast; alas all of them play characters about which I couldn’t care less.

Beyond the acting, The Lost World also features some excellent, entertaining set pieces. Alas, even they suffer from the same problem the rest of this movie does. That being that this follow-up completely lacks the fun and magic of its predecessor; elements which I believe are essential to this franchise. I enjoyed the movie in review as a kid. To my chagrin though, it just hasn’t held up over the years, though.

Looking back on it, I guess it was impossible not to disappoint with a sequel to Jurassic Park. Ultimately, I don’t feel that The Lost World is a bad movie. No, it’s well-made, but just mediocre, and I believe I know why. Frankly, I don’t feel that anyone involved really wanted to make this movie. Perhaps they thought they owed it to the fans or worst case scenario, their wallets. Either way, such dispassion radiates through the screen and that dark cinematography. The Lost World makes a lackluster attempt at expanding the franchise mythology. However, it ultimately fails due to what seems to be the lack of its creators’ interest. As such, I declare The Lost World: Jurassic Park to be a Franchise Implosion!

Can this franchise find its way from The Lost World? Find out when I review 2001’s JURASSIC PARK III, COMING SOON!

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