The Lost World- Not Quite as Perfect of a Movie, Part 3

14 Sep

Looking at The Lost World through a Harry Plinkett lens, I noticed a lot of weird, random mistakes, including things that even bothered me when I was a kid. In fact, a video review would probably be a better move than a three part blog post, but I ain’t got time for that and I don’t wanna copy Plinkett. He’s a serial killer. But some examples:

-Throughout the film they tell us multiple times that the herbivores stay on the outer ring of the island while the predators stay on the interior. Roland makes sure Ludlow doesn’t set up camp in a game trail, then goes off to hunt the male rex. He and his semi-racist Indian sidekick find the nest and capture the infant to lure the daddy into a nice killzone. Hey idiots!! WHAT IF BOTH REXES COME FOR THE BABY? That’s exactly what they do like, an hour later. Hope that’s a good elephant gun.

Meanwhile, dickhead Vince Vaughn frees the captured herbivores who lay waste to the inGen camp and inexplicably send a flaming humvee hurtling into the tree where Roland is chilling. Wait… WHAT?? Okay, the first time I watched this I thought they were still near the nest because it’s dark and the editing made it seem like they hadn’t moved. They’re in the nest, and then there’s a jarring jump cut to the baby rex chained to post and crying for help. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t really notice they had moved out of the nest, or at least that they had moved far away from it.

You really are a dick, Vince Vaughn.

But now I realize they’re hiding near a creek close to the inGen camp, which still makes no sense. So your plan is to use the baby rex to lure just the male so you can kill it, mere feet away from a camp filled with undisciplined mercenaries and a dozen or so herbivores in cages. Roland makes this big deal about not setting up in the game trail so the team aren’t sitting ducks waiting to be chomped, but then decides to lure “the greatest predator the world’s ever known” (which isn’t even true, scientists believe the T-rex was likely a scavenger and other carnosaurs like carcharodontosaurus were the real kings of the Cretaceous) right next to a tasty collection of hapless prey. Brilliant.

"I was nominated for an Academy Award, you know."

Not to mention that there’s really no logical reason to leave the nest, unless Roland is some idiot who thinks only one of the two parents will come looking for their baby if they take. And if he thinks that, wouldn’t it be more logical to assume that just the femalewill come, and not the male, a la modern day predators like lions? I’ll buy that t-rexes took care of their young until they were grown, but something tells me that in real life male rexes, and all male carnosaurs for that matter, were probably more like lions in that they plant their seed and then peace, leaving the female to lay and care for the eggs. But whatever. What’s the point of taking the baby out of the nest? Maybe there’s a line explaining it, but I don’t remember. Why not just hide out in the nest and wait for the rexes to return, which they definitely will, rather than banking on the assumption that they’ll come looking for their infant, which they may not even do because this is an extinct animal whose motivations and actions you have absolutely no way of predicting?

-During the film’s first climax, Sarah avoids being killed by two raptors, falls through a window, then through another window and then Malcolm and Kelly are like, right there, waiting to pick her up. How did they know she was going to be there?

-Something that bothered my dad that I have to now agree with is Eddie using a 4-wheel drive BMW SUV to haul a ten ton trailer off a cliff in a rainstorm, in mud. I don’t think there’s a 4-wheel drive in the world that’s THAT good.

Oh yay. It's in the city.

-Nothing about the S.S. Venture sequence makes sense and this always really bothered me as a kid. Okay… so they put the sedated rex in the hold, but it’s in a coma. So they inject it with something to counteract the sedative and now it’s like a t-rex on PCP. Fine. But how did it escape the hold? When the S.S. Venture arrives it’s trying to get out but can’t until some dumbass presses the hold release button. How did it get out in the first place? Did someone let it out? Why? And okay, it gets out and eats EVERYONE? Even the guys in the cabin? How did it get its big fat head in there? And how did that one surviving guy who’s arm is stuck on the control for the hold lure it back into the hold? And if he’s dead, how did he manage to seal the hold? Was he like, wounded and died after sealing it? How? Is there even a body connected to that arm? Did a severed arm seal the rex back in the hold? Nothing… nothing makes any sense here.

And what, they didn’t have anyone guarding the hold? They didn’t chain the rex down? Last time we saw it it was encased in a steel harness that even an animal of its strength wouldn’t be able to break out of. Nobody on the Venture had another tranq gun prepped and ready, or an elephant gun or something? What about that super fast acting nerve agent Eddie loaded his rifle with? No? Nothing? Let’s just unbuckle the rex from his harness, give him PCP, lock him in the hold and hope for the best. NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

"Okay guys, so this is the part where the movie's going to start to suck, so you don't really need to act too hard."

And that’s partly why the whole San Diego sequence is so terrible. There’s no logic to it, it’s just a series of contrivances to get the t-rex in the city, because you know, they needed to do something different in the sequel. So right off the bat I’m not invested, because I’m still scratching my head wondering how the rex escaped the hold, ate the crew and then subsequently went back into the hold. The film stops following the characters and follows the dinosaur instead, and then transforms into some silly comedy, like the scene where the kid wakes his parents up to tell them there’s a dinosaur in their backyard, or the random shot of Japanese people running away a la Godzilla, or the 76 ball thing. It feels really out of place and is a piss-poor climax. Plus, it goes against Spielberg’s ultimatum from the first film, that the dinosaurs should be portrayed as magnificent and terrifying animals and not as monsters. In the special features on the DVD he repeatedly speaks of his desire to not have the dinos come off like Godzilla or Rodan… and then he references Godzilla in the sequel…

I hate kids. They smell. SOME OF THEM SMELL!!!!

Ugh… and then there’s Kelly using gymnastics to kill a raptor and save her dad. I honestly cannot fathom how that got into the movie, or how Koepp and Spielberg thought that was a good idea. I get a similar vibe from Spielberg here that I do from Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Deep down he knows it’s going to suck, but he just has a lot of fun making these kinds of movies, so if his friends, e.g. David Koepp or George Lucas believe in the material, then he’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and just go through with it. I’m not even really sure why Kelly’s in this movie, other than to have another kid. The same goes for the third film, the plot of which literally surrounds a missing kid. Why do these movies have to have fucking children in them? Why is there a “kid mandate” for the Jurassic Parkseries? It’s not like kids won’t go see these movies if they don’t star a kid because THERE’S FUCKING DINOSAURS IN THEM and kids fucking LOVE dinosaurs.

In the first movie it made sense because there was logic behind it. Hammond is essentially market testing his theme park and seeing if the target audience- children -will enjoy it, so he invites his grandkids to come get a sneak preview. I can get behind that, and having Lex and Tim there also heightens the tension because now there are children in danger and not just adults. Plus, Tim is actually kinda lovable and he and Lex tie into Grant’s arc of learning to love kids. But in The Lost World there’s no reason for Kelly to be in the film other than to keep with the previous installment and have a kid character. It’s also kinda hard to swallow that a kid her age, who seems pretty independent and smart, would be dumb enough to stow away on a trailer headed to an island chain in the Caribbean when her father explicitly told her not to.

Also, what- no one noticed she was there? In the 20 or so hours it took Malcolm, Eddie, Nick and all that equipment to travel from New York to a remote island off the coast of Costa Rica (which they get to via shitty Hispanic fishing boat or something), no one noticed there was a girl in the trailer? Nobody went in there? Didn’t they drive it to Florida first before getting on that boat? Was Kelly like, in a closet THAT WHOLE TIME? Did she shit her pants? Did no one smell it when she shit her pants?

James Cameron recently revealed that he almost made the original Jurassic Park but was beaten to the rights by Spielberg. He explains that his vision was much darker, and thus, probably truer to the book, an Aliens with dinosaurs. He now acknowledges that Spielberg was the better man for the job as he made the film appeal to children, and I agree. Jurassic Park is a film that should be enjoyed by kids because the kids going to see it are exactly like Timmy- obsessed with dinos. But I’m not sure that really applies for the sequels, or that having a kid is a necessity for appealing to kids. By the time they got around to the third film, all the fans were either in their 20s or in high school like me, and didn’t need some little twerp to relate to.

HRRMMMM?????

As you can see, repeated viewings and the wisdom of quarter-age has given me a fresh perspective and I now realize what an utter mess this film is. It’s got some great action moments, but in the last few acts they come at you almost non-stop and you become numb to the impeccably crafted CG imagery. There’s no emotional core or a definitive protagonist with an arc or an inner conflict who you can get behind. In fact, as sad as it is to say, the most compelling character in the whole film is probably Roland, because he’s the only person who has any real passion. He’s an almost metaphorical embodiment of the Great White Hunter and the t-rex is the greatest predator he’s never killed. And he actually kinda has an arc. His hubris costs him his best friend, and he realizes that he’s sort of wasted his life assisting assholes like Ludlow in their self-involved quests. And when the most likable character in your movie is the douche who wants to kill the dinosaurs for sport, well… then you’ve got a problem.

The Lost World is a perfect example of how studio meddling can ruin a franchise. When a tentpole film like Jurassic Park is such an immense success, studios are afraid to take any risks with the sequel. They’re afraid that if they tamper with the formula, even in the slightest, audiences will shy away, which simply is not the case, at least with a series like JP. Sure, when it comes to a franchise like Transformers or G.I. Joe, audiences want the same thing over and over because it’s mindless, visceral entertainment. But at the heart of the Jurassic Park franchise are deep, moral questions that the sequels largely avoided. There’s substance to the series, even if it isn’t on the surface. Audiences will come to see a Jurassic Park film just because it has dinosaurs in it- you don’t have to have Sam Neill or Jeff Golblum in it for it to sell, nor do you need to hit all the story beats of the first film. What you need is a great story, some ruminations on the morality of cloning and genetics, and a central protagonist that is relatable and interesting, like Alan Grant.

Reading about the long-gestating fourquel, I have some very faint hopes that Spielberg, Joe Johnston and the producers have realized this and are pushing the franchise in a new direction with new characters. It’s also got some good writers behind it, Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. That being said, Johnston’s hint that a new trilogy is in the works, one that will take the franchise in a whole new direction, is disconcerting. Hype like that implies, for me at least, that it will be dinosaurs in New York, or dinosaurs in space, or worse- people actually going back in time to the Cretaceous period. What they really need is a superfan like me, one with original ideas that would actually make for a good film, to help them out. If only I were famous…

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