Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Lost World - Jurassic Park

The Lost World - Jurassic Park is a nastier, more overtly comedic sequel that cuts the dimwit awe of the original film to jampack the setpieces. Framed by an expedition straight out of King Kong, Steven Spielberg's film also takes a few basic structural cues from Aliens. As with James Cameron's follow-up our lead is a reluctant survivor, in this case Jeff Goldblum's Dr Ian Malcolm, being forced back into the fray. Like Ripley, Malcolm is (eventually) flanked by a team of experts armed with military hardware that kind of looks like lightly dressed filmmaking equipment.

Spielberg's tonal approach is largely impartial. The Dinosaurs aren't demonised, no matter who they gobble up. It is understood that the humans are trespassers wandering into the realm of the animals. That makes them fair game. Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp construct a never-ending attack factory to whittle this army down to something more dramatically manageable. Jurassic Park had action sequences that revolved around surviving in close proximity to prehistoric monsters. Spielberg played the moment, trusting that the effects were a big enough presence to maintain interest. Lost World presumes this element of surprise has been lost, these dinosaurs are therefore demoted to a further, spikier layer of threat in a series of minutely composed catastrophes.

Consequently, the film's joys are more to do with technique than anything organic. Characters do have arcs but for some reason they all terminate around the 100 minute mark. The San Diego finale that follows this resolution therefore feels tacked on. Key characters are absent for no stated reason and the two leads have picked up incongruent action abilities between scenes. The film also stops dead in its tracks for several minutes while we cycle through some lame suburban skit about night terrors. Lost World's best stretch then is the breathless charge towards an extraction point that caps the second act. During this gauntlet the dwindling survivors have to dodge both a pack of Velociraptors and the twin Tyrannosaurs.

Pete Postlethwaite's Roland Tembo is an interesting presence in this section, another Great White Hunter testing himself against these ancient titans. Tembo lugs around a double-barrelled cannon and hopes to blast a hole in the Bull Rex. When he finally fells his quarry, Tembo slips into a depressive funk. He may have successfully brought down the greatest apex predator in history but he's lost too many friends. He doesn't feel the victory, he's burnt himself out. Simultaneously, Malcolm and pals are scrambling all over a dilapidated techno-shack, pursued by Raptors. Although they haven't really clashed, at this point every major character has had their objective converge and conclude. Shame there's another twenty minutes to go. Still, if nothing else, those superfluous minutes do offer the audience a chance to see a crowd of millionaires getting a collective concussion.

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