LIFE FINDS A WAY
Confession time… I don’t like any of the sequels to Jurassic Park half as much as I do the original film. Given the sheer depth of my feelings for Jurassic, that’s admittedly not saying much, but I think it’s worth putting out there all the same — especially as I begin talking about those sequels. With the park itself being — as I explained in this article’s predecessor — at the core of those aforementioned feelings, I’m not a huge fan of the direction the various follow-ups took.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love them — well, the first two… — but it’s a different kind of love… and this is especially true in the case of The Lost World.
In fact, for me, The Lost World is a distinctly acquired taste. For a long time, I didn’t much care for it at all. What was this film? This dark, gloomy affair with its unfamiliar music and inexplicable main character?
As a kid, with no knowledge of the novels other than a vague idea that they existed, I couldn’t fathom why Ian Malcolm had been brought back over Alan Grant or Ellie Sattler, why we’d been taken to foreboding Sorna over warm, welcoming Nublar. I remember watching The Lost World time, time, and time again — using the same VCR that had so often taken me to Jurassic Park — trying my hardest to fall in love with it, but never quite managing to.
A peculiar irony, though, is that — despite my feelings about it — I spent a lot more of my childhood with The Lost World than I did Jurassic Park.
At some point, my copy of the first film was lent to a relative who somehow managed to break it, so any time I wanted a Jurassic fix during the subsequent years, it was to The Lost World that I was forced to turn. In fact, that I spent much more time with it than Jurassic Park holds true outside the film, too; toys, books… I was infinitely more engaged with the ‘world’ of The Lost World than that of its predecessor.
But the film itself remained at the centre of it all, and perhaps the biggest irony here is that much of those things I once considered to be off-putting negatives have, in relatively recent years, become resounding positives.
It wasn’t until I managed to get the original trilogy on DVD at some point during my teenage years that I began to warm to The Lost World, but warm to it I did. Life, you might say, found a way — and though Jurassic Park has once again well and truly overtaken it in terms of times watched, I’m more than happy to sit down every now and then and revisit Jurassic’s first foray into Site B.
THIS… THIS IS MAGNIFICENT
I still wish there was more of a Jurassic Park ‘feel’ to it, but I’ve come to greatly appreciate the look of The Lost World in particular. Perhaps due to Sorna’s more cloudy, overcast nature, I’m not overly fond of the daytime stuff, but Janusz Kamiński’s darker cinematography makes the film an often-spectacular affair by night.
And that unfamiliar soundtrack? There remains, predictably, a part of me that laments the relative absence of the first film’s themes, but there’s simply no denying that John Williams’ score is one of the foremost highlights of The Lost World. If the film merely embraced the concept of being different from Jurassic Park, then its soundtrack took the idea and ran several miles with it (at thirty-two miles-an-hour, of course).
When it really gets going, The Lost World’s soundtrack is intense, frenetic, and wonderfully textured. Though the — again, relative — absence of Jurassic’s original themes sways my overall preference towards Jurassic Park’s, on a track-by-track basis, I can safely say that I enjoy more of The Lost World’s score.
Sorna’s sweeping theme; the dark, fast-paced, percussion-heavy music surrounding much of the film’s action; the warm, melancholy embrace of nostalgia as Nick finds that wonderful mural and sees Hammond’s park for the dream it was; the exciting, propulsive statement of what might’ve been as Ian and Sarah race towards Jurassic Park: San Diego; and, of course, the quiet beauty of the original theme as it underscores Hammond’s closing speech — the heartfelt conclusion of a character arc that, for me, makes The Lost World’s the best ending of the series. (So far…)
RUNNING & SCREAMING
As for what takes us to that ending… with my newly discovered fondness for The Lost World on the whole came a willingness to appreciate some of the individual scenes that comprise it, to embrace that which I’d previously shunned.
It’s the quiet moments, far more than those packed with action, that I’ve come to enjoy most. The aforementioned ending is, of course, one of these moments, but the opening conversation between Malcolm and Hammond, the subtly amusing moments after a certain stowaway is discovered, the subsequent back-and-forth between Ian and Sarah, and the scene in which Roland rejects Ludlow’s offer of a job are right up there, too.
That’s not to say I dislike the action, though. In the roundup, the attack on the trailers, the tyrannosaurs hunting the hunters, and the infamous long grass sequence and what follows, The Lost World has some of the best action the franchise has to offer — not to mention, in Ludlow’s demise, some of the most credible, with the male Rex using the situation as an opportunity to teach its infant how to kill (and inadvertently allowing said infant to exact revenge upon the drunkard who, though we don’t see it in the final cut of the film, is responsible for breaking its leg).
Despite these moments of excellence (and a few notable others), though, The Lost World also features what I unfortunately consider to be among the worst scenes in the series.
I don’t deny that Kelly kicking that raptor to its death works on a technical level. Being set up towards the beginning of the film, it doesn’t just come out of the blue — but that’s about all it has going for it. It’s not that the concept couldn’t have been explored somehow, but the way it’s actually handled is just too much.
‘The school cut you from the team?!’ Oh, the irony!
Of course, when talking about the worst scene The Lost World brings to the table, there are those out there who might’ve expected me to point to something else, but the truth is that I don’t have much of a problem with the San Diego sequence.
Would I have preferred the InGen village-set sequence that was scrapped in favour of it? Probably — but the tyrannosaurs’ family trip to the mainland leads to some of my favourite moments in the film.
True, I absolutely could’ve done without the cheesier elements of the whole, ‘There’s a dinosaur in our backyard!’ business, but I love the race towards Jurassic Park: San Diego that follows it, and — as I’ve mentioned — Ludlow’s eventual demise ranks amongst the highlights of the entire series.
ANOTHER LOST WORLD…
In talking about things that might’ve been, however, I must also touch on Michael Crichton’s novel.
As with Jurassic Park, The Lost World’s origins lie in the pages of a book, and, as with Jurassic Park, the version presented in the pages of that book is significantly better than what made it to the screen.
Unlike with Jurassic Park, however, the difference between Spielberg and Crichton’s visions of The Lost World is night and day. They are worlds apart, and the simple truth is that some of the novel’s elements would’ve made for a vastly better film. Mysterious corpses washing up on the mainland… the vicious, genuinely frightening raptors… the incredible motorcycle sequence… the circumstances of Dodgson’s demise… the list goes on.
Just as various sequences from Crichton’s Jurassic Park have been spread, in some form or other, throughout the existing films, I hope a few more of The Lost World’s best passages make their way into future entries. Think Owen Grady’s ride alongside the raptors in Jurassic World was the best possible raptor/motorcycle set-piece? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet…
SOMETHING HAS SURVIVED
And then, of course, there’s Dr. Malcolm.
I can’t deny that some of my old bitterness at finding Malcolm in The Lost World rather than Grant or Sattler still lingers, preventing me from feeling quite as strongly about him as some — seemingly most — members of the community do, but just as my feelings towards The Lost World have softened, so too have my feelings towards everyone’s favourite chaotician.
Mirroring my sentiments about the soundtracks, I much prefer the ‘hipper’ version of the character presented in Jurassic Park — with his not-so-deplorable excess of personality — but can point to more specific moments of his I enjoy in The Lost World.
These moments, though, aren’t enough to make him my favourite character found there. That distinction is split straight down the middle between Julianne Moore’s Sarah Harding — who I sincerely hope shows up again sometime — and Pete Postlethwaite’s tremendous Roland Tembo.
As much as I love Sarah, though, the ‘second-greatest predator to ever live’ well and truly steals the show. In fact, one of the foremost shortcomings of The Lost World’s is that there’s an excellent deleted scene between he and Ajay that, though brief — and momentarily straying into ridiculousness — adds a tremendous amount to his character. Each and every time I see that scene, I’m hit with a fresh wave of disappointment at its exclusion. I wonder anew why it was cut… and that, invariably, brings me back to the many ‘What ifs…?’ of The Lost World.
Ultimately, if Jurassic Park is being between the ages of four and ten, staring up at an old TV and hoping against hope that everything will work out this time, then The Lost World is being slightly older, staring up at that same TV, and wondering: ‘What if…?’
What if we’d gone back to Nublar? What if Grant had come back rather than Malcolm? What if things had been different, and why are they not?
But it’s also learning to appreciate those differences, looking past the fact that The Lost World isn’t what I would’ve wanted from a sequel and seeing that, despite that, there’s still a pretty great film there.
It’s that final scene, that soft piano, and John Hammond changing his tune.
It’s hearing, for the sixty-five millionth time, that life will find a way… and wanting to believe it.