The villains in The Lost World: Jurassic Park are corporate meanies who use high-tech toys to capture dinosaurs in the hopes of soullessly putting them on display. Which begs the question: Do Steven Spielberg and Co. have any idea how thoroughly they’re satirizing themselves? Seen in movie theaters last summer, The Lost World was an acceptable thrill ride — you burped up memories of the more artful scenes for a few days, but otherwise it was out of your system within hours. Home video, however, has the less-than-special effect of downplaying the visual magnificence and revealing the Jurassic Park sequel’s crass marketing imperative.
The evidence isn’t just the cassette box that features a cheesy fake hologram — excuse me, ”removable 3-D Dino-Motion Card!” — it’s in the existence of a Site B dinosaur island that directly contradicts the original Park’s plot, in the demographically calculated casting of Ian Malcolm’s (Jeff Goldblum) teenage African-American daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester), in the way Goldblum tries to vamp his way around the weak dialogue. Occasionally, the script even winks at its expository contortions — ”You went from capitalist to naturalist in four years,” blusters Malcolm to John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) — as if that made it any less lazy.
Some critics have ascribed the sequel’s lack of impact to the fact that brilliantly animated dinosaurs are a little boring the second time around. That’s just silly. Take a look at the original King Kong, a movie that Lost World evokes in many ways. Sure, characters like Kong’s Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), the adventure filmmaker with the soul of a carny barker, may be cartoonish, but they’re also more vivid than anyone in Lost World except the big-game hunter played by Pete Postlethwaite. Yes, Skull Island’s stop-motion dinosaurs are crude by SGI-workstation standards, not to mention paleontologically incorrect, but they still have the junky wonder of a kid’s daydreams (as does the original Park).
The most damning comparison? Kong straddles the Empire State Building, and even a ’90s viewer shivers at the image’s primal power. Lost World’s T. rex bellows against the San Diego skyline, and we feel zilch. By then, it’s clear Spielberg feels more comfortable with a different kind of Kong: The climactic velociraptor attack is structured as — and has all the emotional impact of — a game of Donkey Kong. Lost World: C King Kong: A+