Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Lost World: Jurassic Park 20 Years Later

by Adam Riske
Adam’s very angry.

It’s well-documented on this site that the original Jurassic Park means a great deal to me. The first time I saw that movie in a theater was the most magical moviegoing experience of my youth. The Lost World: Jurassic Park earned its own superlative to me. It’s the most disappointing first viewing I’ve ever had in a theater. Such is my love for the original (and the idea of this IP) that I have probably seen The Lost World: Jurassic Park more than ten times in the subsequent years since its debut on May 23, 1997. I know I saw it in theaters twice in its first-run and once in its second run, each time refusing to believe the evidence that appeared in front of me: the thing that I love can also be the architect of my pain. I would later experience this phenomenon in multiple romantic relationships. Introspective baths were taken, restless nights were had, junior novelizations were read. I rationalized that my disdain for The Lost World: Jurassic Park was just me or my expectations; that I wasn’t seeing the movie for what it is. I was afraid to say it was bad out loud because only then these feelings became real. It felt like part of my identity was taken away. I was the Jurassic Park guy (the girls used to call me T. Risk). Who is the Jurassic Park guy who doesn’t like The Lost World: Jurassic Park? Just a guy.
Revisionist history and think-piece authors would lead you to believe that The Lost World: Jurassic Park is an underrated Steven Spielberg movie. I find these articles invaluable because they help me identify people I should never listen to again. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion on The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I am entitled to know that the people who like this movie are on the opposite side of my personal film spectrum. Virtually all movies have wiggle room of opinion (e.g. I love Congo); this one does not. You can’t even fall back on the “I had fun” defense because there is no fun to be had in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Munich is a more joyful experience. That’s not a joke. It’s the truth.

I have a theory that every movie has its own perfect day and time to watch it. For example, Jurassic Park is a Saturday at 1pm movie – a rollicking adventure matinee. La La Land is a Saturday night at 8pm movie – a delightful dessert of a movie to watch while you’re on air over that tiramisu you had an hour ago at Maggiano’s. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a Sunday at 4:30pm movie, while it’s raining outside and you’re dreading Monday morning because you work at a job where you’re 50/50 on whether it’s better to go to the office or drive your car into the expressway divider because you’re out of sick days. Jurassic Park is Hawaii. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is the shittiest part of Wisconsin where people are still happy to see Paul Ryan.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park begins its full-throttle fuck you assault on its audience by being the first movie to use the (at the time) new Universal Studios logo, which looks like a buffering computer virus has attacked your globe wallpaper. Anytime I see it in any Universal movie I’m tempted to turn the film off. If I had tens of millions of dollars, I would hire someone full-time to remove that logo from every one of my DVDs and Blu-rays.

The first scene of the movie epitomizes what a mean, shitty movie you’re about to watch with little Camilla Belle being attacked by a pack of Compys who don’t have the foresight to know that Camilla Belle will grow up to be a total babe if left unmauled by dinosaurs. This scene is such a miscalculation and here’s why. You need a sense of awe about Site B (the titular “Lost World”). The whole premise is predicated on the idea that John Hammond wanted to document the majesty of the dinosaurs in their natural habitat and is trying to protect the island, so why not give the audience a sense of awe and wonder from the jump and let Camilla Belle have a good moment with one of the nice dinosaurs? You might say “But Compys are carnivores, they can’t be nice,” to which I reply “Than use a different species or have the Compys be nice. You didn’t know they were mean until you looked it up or saw them in this movie anyways. We all accepted Gizmo as a house pet even though we all are aware that a Mogwai would rip your face clean off if you met one in real life!” As evidence of this opening scene, yeah blow up Site B for all I care. The dinosaurs have won the game on Isla Sorna, but the humans can win the fifth quarter if you catch my drift.
The next 15 to 20 minutes are scenes where I’m convinced no one watched the dailies, because if they did they would know that none of this shit was working and they should start over. Matters aren’t helped by the change of cinematographers from Dean Cundey in the first film to Janusz Kaminski (in his first collaboration with Steven Spielberg), who shoots many scenes with lenses that look like they were extracted from a butt hole, smeared with Vaseline and aimed directly into a window curtain during sunset. I hate the way this movie looks so much. So many Kaminski-Spielberg collaborations are ugly looking. Others are not. They keep you on your toes, these two. It helps that Jeff Goldblum (invaluable and at his peak hotness) is on hand to openly deride the movie’s plot and characters. Once the mission is set into motion, we get the “packing for the trip” sequence where we’re introduced to high-tech gadgetry (yawn), the great lie that is Vince Vaughn and the subplot of Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm and his too-cool-for-school/too-shitty-for-the-gymnastics-team daughter, whose talent is so foreshadowed that she casts multiple shadows in the frame. P.S. Why are kids always smarter than adults in movies? Who in Hollywood originally decided that this is the trope of the child-adult dynamic? I just want to see one scene in a movie where a kid vamps and says the dumbest thing that’s meant to be profound and their parent is like “You don’t know what you’re talking about, buddy. I love you.” Also, Arliss Howard’s bad guy character in this movie...Why? Why? Why have a character only to be on hand to be wrong, smug and actively irritate the audience? You don’t need it to have an antagonist. You have velociraptors to be antagonists.

Once the main players get to Site B, we get the perfunctory awe at the benevolent dinos scene, which is too late in a movie where the dinos have also mauled a child at the onset. We also meet Julianne Moore’s character, Sarah, which is a character so insufferably irresponsible and dumb that it tricks you and leads you to believe it’s a bad performance instead of bad writing. Thankfully, Moore had Boogie Nights right around the corner so The Lost World: Jurassic Park wasn’t a longer-lasting memory for me. What follows is a few scenes of bickering and calling attention to the fact that Malcolm and his daughter don’t have the same skin color (#WhoCares) and then the mercenaries from InGen, the world’s leading company in expenses with no revenue or profit earned, show up to make this movie even worse! G-D bless them. Added to the film is the only other decent character, Pete Postlethwaite’s big-game hunter, who temporarily gives the movie its much-needed smelling salt. We also meet human BBQ grill basting brush, Dr. Burke (Thomas F. Duffy), whose sole purpose is to be wrong and disposable so we can watch him get eaten later without sadness or remorse. The actor would go on a couple years later to play Moxon’s dad in Varsity Blues. In both films, you don’t want his life! After the shitheads from InGen beat up and cage some dinos, they set up camp because they have an after-hours Webex meeting with corporate. Luckily, our heroes decide to sabotage this plan by setting free the dangerous creatures and putting humans in danger because you can’t put a stock price on dinosaur freedom. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I could continue, but I don’t want to re-watch any more of this movie. I don’t like the centerpiece T. Rex trailer attack (THEY’RE A FAMILY!), I don’t like the drawn-out Stormare death. I’ll never understand why there’s a cut in the middle of Postlehwaite’s line “Let’s get this moveable feast underway” (it’s bothered me for 20 years). I don’t like the raptor action or the way the bulk of the surviving supporting characters are jettisoned so we can get to the dumbest climax in a ‘90s tentpole that somehow blows subbing in the T. Rex as King Kong or Godzilla and having it rampage through San Diego. All of this is wrong. Jurassic Park III is better but still garbage (e.g. Laura Dern marrying a treaty lawyer…give me a fucking break) and my enthusiasm has cooled for Jurassic World since 2015, which was, at the time, the Jurassic Park sequel I think I actually wanted back in 1997. I’m looking forward to Jurassic World 2, but that’s only because I like the director (J.A. Bayona of the great A Monster Calls) and Goldblum is returning to bounce off Chris Pratt.

This is such a goofy series anchored by a remarkable landmark film and one of the least audience satisfying sequels ever made. I saw on Twitter yesterday a criticism of people who didn’t like Alien: Covenant because it wasn’t the film they expected. The argument is that it’s not a filmmaker’s responsibility to live up to your inflated expectations based on previous installments. My rebuttal is shouldn’t the filmmaker and the audience meet each other halfway? Once you put a movie out into the world and it becomes beloved, it seems nonsensical to me to strip the property of its spirit or original allure. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is the prime example of that.

Something has survived. It’s my contempt.

54 comments:

  1. Keep on keeping it real, T-Risk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's also fitting because I have short arms.

      Delete
  2. As a former Wisconsinite, I can tell you that the Paul Ryan love runs far and wide there : (

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I worked there for about a year. It was not the best year of my life.

      Delete
  3. holy freakin' christ, it is Camilla Belle!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, she's smoking hot now. Not a terribly good actress though (like that matters...she's smoking hot!). I only know her from 10,000 BC, which I liked way more than I should have.

      Delete
    2. For a while I actually thought she was Tom Cruise's daughter, just based on looks. I'm not really up on the hot Hollywood haps.

      Delete
  4. People call The Lost World an underrated Spielberg movie? I'm wrong about movies a lot, including being wrong about Spielberg movies (there's a solid middle hour in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) but I don't think I've ever been that wrong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw a few articles saying as much. If I had to pick some underrated Spielberg it would be The Color Purple, Munich and The BFG.

      Delete
  5. I'm with you Adam on everything and I thought I was the only one that hates the Universal logo we should do a poll best Movie studio opening logo I gotta go with 20th Century Fox the fanfare puts it on top

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After a quick Google search... I liked the old Tri-Star logo, Cannon, Carolco, Disney (old and new), old pre-WB New Line Cinema, the Universal one from 1990 to 1996, MGM, Marvel, Touchstone, Castle Rock, Amblin, 40 Acres and a Mule...I'm not hard to please :-) Hard to pick a favorite.

      Delete
  6. Munich is a great movie. I didn't realize it's underrated? It has a fucking ton of heart and soul in it, and while treading the fine line between the jews vs everyone else narrative, it really shows some of the fault of the argument (on both sides) while showing why it's so important (from the Jewish side, at least). Yeah, it's a great movie. One of Spielberg's best, imo.

    The BFG I want to see. My kids saw it, while I napped under the duress of a severe hangover. It'll get watched again sometime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. dammit, posted with my son's account, again.

      Delete
    2. Munich was well reviewed but it didn't do very well financially and didn't win any Oscars or make most top 10 lists if I remember correctly. I think it's terrific and, as you say, is complex and mature and also exciting in its thriller aspects. As a Jewish person, it was exciting to see Jews onscreen portrayed with that much dimension. We're usually looked at in arch terms or as saints or victims.

      The BFG is very strange but I loved that about it. The beginning scenes are beautiful and reminded me of some of the best of early Harry Potter.

      Delete
    3. agreed on both movies. with The BFG, i'm happy he made it and i saw it. i won't ever rewatch it again, but it has nice scenes.

      Delete
    4. Maybe I need to revisit The BFG while its on Netflix. I saw in the theater and it left me super cold.

      Delete
    5. Michael GiammarinoMay 23, 2017 at 11:14 AM

      Munich was on 163 top ten lists, 23 of them in the top spot.

      Delete
    6. I was speaking more anecdotally. Metrics are stupid :-)

      Delete
    7. Michael GiammarinoMay 23, 2017 at 12:26 PM

      Okey dokey,then.

      Delete
    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    9. I always felt that Munich was Spielberg doing Michael Mann. It looks like a Michael Mann film and is the Michael Manniest of Spielberg's movies. I loved it, too.

      Delete
  7. This was terrific, Adam. This came out when I was 10, and I remember being baffled by how a dinosaur movie could be so boring. I rewatched it maybe 10 years ago, and found even less to like. I can't hate it tho, because it does give us a reaaly great bad scene. Of course I'm talking about gymnastics vs. raptor. The best part is the girl gives the raptor a "hey asshole" call, and the raptor actually falls for it. It's the best. I just picture Steven Spielberg like on endless conference calls "we need a petite gymnast, this is a pivotal scene" and reviewing the script with the stunt coordinator. Like, a lot of work went into making the stupidest thing I've ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the Dream Warriors moment. When I was stretching to find things I liked about the movie I remember thinking "Wow, that tire shot up really high in the air after the trailer fell. It almost hit them." When a tire excites me more than, you know, dinosaurs...it might not be a great dinosaur movie.

      Delete
  8. It's not a great movie, but I think it's by far the best sequel in the series. It's pretty dumb at times, but I think it's a fun monster movie with a lead actor I love and some genuinely intense scenes. Far more intense than anything in Alien Covenant, that's for sure. But hey, that's just me. Unpopular opinion! haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael GiammarinoMay 23, 2017 at 1:23 PM

      I'm a fan of it too. (Shhh, don't tell Riske!) I approach the sequels like drive-in movies. There's some Gorgo flavor, some Howard Hawks flavor, some Hatari! flavor. To me, the movie turns into the movie Alligator during the San Diego sequence, with Goldblum playing Robert Forster and Julianne Moore playing Robin Riker.

      Delete
    2. I respect you both for your bold stance on LW:JP

      Delete
    3. Fthismovie is nothing if not a place for bold movie opinions. ;) Respect back at you.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A statistically significant proportion of mogwais have chlamydia; in some parts of the world it's as high as 90%. Fact. Please, F This Movie listeners, get your mogwai checked for this disease.

    Camilla Belle's pappy in The Lost World: Jurassic Park II was played by Robin Sachs, who was also Ethan Rayne in a couple of episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rayne turned Giles into a Fyarl demon. That's not cool; don't turn Giles into a Fyarl demon. He had a little tail that hurt when he sat down.

    When the Tyrannosaurus Risk escapes from the cargo hold of the boat it's being transported to San Diego in, how does it kill the crew? I'm sure there's a scene where we see someone's dissevered arm still holding onto the boat's steering wheel, but the cabin itself is intact. There's a similar thing in the Matthew Broderick Godzilla abortion where at the end we see Godzie has laid an egg inside a utilities room or something in Madison Cube Garden..

    I do prefer this movie to the second sequel. It has the Goldblum line "Hey, when the adult sees us once again with his baby, uh, isn't he gonna be like, 'You!'?" Classic 'blum. Super-psyched he's going to be in Jurassic World II.

    Die Hard had terrorists as antagonists, but just about every authority figure in that movie was an idiot who managed to almost get John McClane and the hostages killed. It's not enough for the hero to be battling eviltons; he also has to go up against incompetent and callous bureaucracy. War Games is another film in which very nearly every adult is a fool whose actions almost bring about massive destruction before Broderick (him again) uses his superior kid nous to save us all. Young people aren't going to ask their parents to take them to see something in which the kids are told to sit in a corner and play with their Atari Space Invaders console while the grups sort everything out.

    I've owned Munich for years, but never watched it. I might give it a go today. It seems appropriate given the events of yesterday. Real life rarely provides justice, but movies do. I think I need some filmic justice thanks to the actions of that dickless piece of excrement in Manchester. Even if there were a heaven, you waste of a life, you wouldn't make it there by murdering children. Unless God is the vicious, soulless fuckwit I've always suspected he'd have to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Per IMDB trivia...

      The script called for a scene where the Velociraptors got on board the Venture as it was about to set sail. As chaos ensued, the T-Rex also got loose, and killed everything else aboard. This explains why many of the crew members are dead in places the Rex cannot reach. The scene was never filmed.

      Delete
    2. Michael GiammarinoMay 25, 2017 at 1:16 AM

      The "raptors on the Venture" sequence may have been scrapped at the last minute, but I came up with my own way around that. The very last shot of the film, that panning shot where we see all of the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, couldn't be literal. There's no way those species would coexist in the same expanse. I see that shot as a curtain call for dinosaurs we've seen in the film. And then we get to the end of the shot-- a pterodon lands on a tree limb and lets out a little screech. But... we never saw a single pterodon in the film up to this point. So I've come to the conclusion that the Venture was attacked by pterodons. Pterodons could have gotten onto the bridge and bitten off the captain's hand, left pieces all over the place, and carried crew away. It's the only way I can see that scene working without that actual raptor sequence.

      Delete
    3. Nice theory, Michael, and one that makes a lot of sense. But unless we see it on the screen, all it is is extratextual speculation. I'm not having a pop at you; it shouldn't be up to the viewer to plug holes like this one.

      Doctor Hibbert's diagnosis: Bad moviemaking.

      Delete
  11. Riske, you did it again! I am kind of a longtime listener and I love F This Movie - yet have never reached out... apart from when you wrote your piece on Stu /Matthew Lillard and I finally HAD to comment. And now I was just about to write the almost exact same lines again that I wrote back then, because once again I feel like no one understands my feelings for movies better than you guys! And here's the fun fact: I came across F This Movie after having attended a screening of THE LOST WORLD at the best place in the whole wide world: the Cine Doré movie theater of the Spanish filmoteca in Madrid. Once again disappointed by the movie, I wanted to hear how others felt about it (I DO have friends, but you know...) so I downloaded F and another podcast, the latter being an absolute disaster. Those guys only rattled off the trivia page of the imdb, pretending to knowing these things instead of just quoting them, and then went into a five minute argument about Jeff Goldblum’s ethnicity, finally coming to the serious conclusion that „he must be black, cause of the daughter and he is also really tall.“.
    What??? Well, at least now you know #WhoCares...
    Anyway, I liked the F This Movie episode about the movie much better and have been listening to the podcast ever since.
    It’s really fascinating to me how „random people“ can have such an impact on me, which could be creepy (as in me being the creep) or charming, idk. But apart from providing great entertainment, smart discussions and information on what I love most and lots of great humor, fun and laughter, you guys really also made me care on a personal level, even though I don’t know you personally. I was really sad when Doug moved to L.A. for example and don’t even get me started on Patrick’s post from last Friday. So what I am trying to say here in a message that’s probably way too long for the comment section: please keep on doing what you do, because it’s fucking great work and all of you guys really are amazing! And while I could definitely do without THE LOST WORLD I could never do without F This Movie! Greetings from Munich (the city, not the movie).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww. Thanks Katharina! A comment like that makes my day. If you ever have a column or show request, let us know :-)

      Delete
    2. Welcome, Katharina! This is indeed a great site.

      And, Adam, I gotta ask: how do you feel about The Mask of Zorro? I've requested it several times over the years, to no avail, and think it could be particularly interesting to revisit as a classic superhero-type movie from before our current superhero movie boom. :)

      Delete
    3. I promise we'll get to it someday! My memory is that I like that movie.

      Delete
    4. And thank you for the lovely words, Katharina. Great to have you here and I hope you'll stick with us for a long time!

      Delete
    5. I'm ashamed. I have never seen The Mask of Zorro. I'm down to cover it at some point. But first, lunch!

      Delete
    6. My goodness! Well, then, that settles it. A PB/Riske Mask of Zorro podcast, stat!

      (... and by "stat", I mean, "at some point this summer, perhaps, if it's convenient for the two of you.") :)

      Delete
    7. Michael GiammarinoMay 25, 2017 at 12:58 AM

      Legend of Zorro, on the other hand... yikes!

      Delete
  12. I can't really defend it, other than on production values and sheer directorial competence, but I don't hate The Lost World. I'm sure it helps a great deal that it was the first JP movie I saw in theaters, and I will absolute debate myself hoarse that the total POS Jurassic Park III is the worst of the bunch. (Seriously, it's such a nothing movie it doesn't even have a real title.) And then Jurassic World came out and was/is beautiful, perfect fun. Also, I like both Crichton's Jurassic books. Plus, The Lost World has Toby from The West Wing in a non-bearded role, which, c'mon, that's hilarious. (What the hell is Toby Ziegler doing on Isla Sorna?!)

    I'd still love to see a more or less faithful adaptation (period setting and all) of Conan Arthur Doyle's excellent novel The Lost World, and my personal fantasy is that Universal will make it, so they can use Williams' scores and proprietary JP creature designs/sound effects. They could call it Jurassic Park Presents: The Lost World. (I know - needs work.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like Richard Schiff. Should have said that in the article.

      Delete
  13. It was so great to see this article on my Facebook wall just below an AV Club article suggesting that "The Lost World" might be better than "Jurassic Park." Maybe in Trump's America, but not in my reality. While "The Lost World" is fascinating in all the ways it purposefully undermines what's good about "Jurassic Park," it is also a mostly miserable viewing experience. It's a mean movie with an occasionally funny Malcolm quip. That being said, I've probably seen it 30 times. Partly because my favorite dinosaur as a kid was the Stegosaurus, and it didn't make it into JP1. Mostly, though, I've watched it 30 times because I hate myself. Great article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just read the AV Club article. I don't think the author could have skewed common logic, to fit his own narrative, more if he tried.

      Delete
    2. Michael GiammarinoMay 25, 2017 at 12:56 AM

      I saw that article too. It just made me shake my head. I know I'm a Lost World fan, but even I can recognize Jurassic Park is the superior film. I mean, how is that even in contention?

      Delete
  14. Great article!... I, as a great JP-fan, have experienced the same in 1997.
    "This is such a goofy series anchored by a remarkable landmark film and one of the least audience satisfying sequels ever made."... This is especially true. None of the sequels could live up to the wonder we experienced in the first film. We hope to find the wonder again, but there are only some sparkels in every sequel.

    Best wishes from Germany
    Michael

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michael. Have a good day :)

      Delete
  15. This made me laugh - as the only person I know who loves it as much or more than me, I like to think of you as my Brother-in-T-Rex-Arms when it comes to Jurassic Park, and I had a similar "I Want to Believe" relationship with The Lost World: Jurassic Park (even the title is obnoxious) but, yeah, it's bad, like really kinda very bad. The dinosaurs are still amazing - I'm glad they continued to spare no expense on those - but damn near everything else is garbage. Ugh, and you didn't mention the Tim and Lex cameo - how sad was that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, I'll bite - why is it sad? They're safe, not endangered again, and happy to see one of their fellow survivors, who just happens to be Goldblum. Surely it's one of the movie's bright spots?

      Delete
    2. I feel like they were exploited to create a deeper sense of connection to the original. It's kind of an awkward scene and then it's like, "Okay, kids, you're not that cute anymore, see ya!" I mean, can you imagine how much freakin' fun it was to have been in Jurassic Park? And then they get a tiny little taste and then back to relative obscurity. I could see how much they wanted to be in the whole movie in their eyes, El Gaith, in their eyes. On the plus side, Joseph Mazzello has said that scene paid for his college education so, I guess it's probably not all that sad afterall!

      Delete
    3. Fair enough, and I do remember wanting more of them when I first saw the movie as a kid. Now, though, I'm glad they're not dragged back into the action - though that's not to say Malcolm's daughter character (an awkward mix of a boy and a girl from Crichton's novel, neither of whom were related to him) was an improvement. And then there's that scene in The Pacific when Mazzello's eyes go cold as he recalls the horrors of combat, and you think, I've seen that guy make that expression before. :P

      Delete
    4. @Sol

      Girl at a college party: That was a great party Joe! Why don't you call me later and we can watch Jurassic Park and hook up?

      Joe: Yeah, definitely. A little pizza. A little music. Maybe double bill it with Star Kid? I can even call Uncle Steve if, I don't know, you want to talk to him...

      Girl: OMG...you can do that?

      JM: Please. He's basically putting me through college.

      Delete