Friday, May 13, 2011

Steven Spielberg: The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Having filled my viewing gaps in Spielberg's filmography, the status of The Lost World: Jurassic Park as one of the director's weakest films, if not his worst film, has never been less in doubt. Other low points in the director's career have at least shown promise or intriguing premises: Hook may rely far too much on its regrettably hip version of the Lost Boys' hideout, but it sports two great performances and a high concept floated it through many of its glaring flaws. 1941 showed the director's first major, explicit attempt to revive the films of his youth for the modern multiplex, an approach that would soon bear fruit with the Indiana Jones franchise. Even the forgotten Always, with its too-broad combination of haunting movies A Matter of Life and Death and Only Angels Have Wings, had moments of beauty worthy of those wrenching melodramas.

In comparison, The Lost World seems such a cynical cash-in for Spielberg's biggest hit that hardly any visible reason exists as to why he would do it. It's not like the world's richest and most powerful director needed to do this to get approval for another film. His previous two films, the first Jurassic Park and Schindler's List, eradicated whatever sliver of doubt remained that Spielberg was King of Hollywood. The knowledge of the uselessness of the sequel makes its wretched, slapstick construction all the more grating.

The first major transition—is it trying to be a wry match cut? Because to designate it so—sets the whole tone for this film. Awkwardly cutting from a scene so stiff it defeats its own horror to Ian Malcolm on a subway, this poor segue demonstrates the total absence of the director's usual skill; I can't even bring myself to bring his grace into the equation.

Instantly, we get a sense of how simplistic the film will be. The first film certainly didn't display a richness of character and theme, but Malcolm goes from being a collected, smarmy scientist who knows that everything will fall apart to a panicky buffoon, a collection of tics and frantic sarcasm with even less personality than he had in the first film. And once again, he's the most complicated person in the movie; imagine how awful the others are, then.

Malcolm finds himself back in the thick of it with dinosaurs thanks to a series of developments made up out of whole cloth: as it turns out, InGen had a whole other island where they made the dinosaurs, and after a storm they just vacated the place and let the animals run free. 'K. John Hammond, reduced from a showman blind to consequences to an environmentalist…blind to consequences. He casually sends a team of researchers to head off the new board of directors from finding a way to exploit the dinosaurs, ignoring the obvious danger. The only reason Malcolm agrees to go to Site B is because Hammond convinced his girlfriend, Sarah (Julianne Moore) to go, which she does despite hearing Malcolm's tales of his time on Isla Nubar. If this film has any real commentary to impart on the human condition, it is in our ceaseless inability to respond to the statement "Don't do that" with "What, this?" We are a race of scab-pickers.

The convolutions, inconsistencies and outright retconning of this film pile on so fast that no remote connection to the story can ever take hold. The team arrives on the island and promptly set up camp at the edge of a cliff for no reason, and we soon learn that Malcolm's petulant daughter Kelly stowed away in the trailer. Soon, InGen forces arrive with the intent of capturing specimens and bringing them to a park being erected in San Diego, truly one of the stupidest ideas to ever test one's cynicism. Misanthrope that I am, not even I can comprehend anyone approving of such an outrageous idea after the pure catastrophe of the events at Isla Nubar—an island designed from the ground up to contain these creatures.

And then, Spielberg and writer David Koepp actually succeed in making the team sent to stop this madness from occurring worse than the ostensible bad guys. When the director lays a particularly maudlin track over shots of these mercenaries subduing genetically engineered beasts that should be firebombed for the safety of mankind, you know you're in for a tedious bit of moralism. As it turns out, one of the researchers, photographer Nick (Vince Vaughn), is an environmentalist saboteur who promptly releases the captured animals to wreak havoc on the InGen camp, destroying all equipment and stranding dozens of people on a deadly island. Later, when Nick makes the stupefyingly dumb decision to take a wounded baby T-Rex back to their trailer and the parents naturally follow, the "baddies" arrive and lend a helping hand and allow the four remaining members of Hammond's party to accompany them.

But it doesn't stop there! Nick continues to mess with the hired guns, stealing the shells out of the shotgun of Roland (Pete Postlethwaite), the hunter leading the InGen operation for the company's head, Ludlow (Arliss Howard). (It is yet another sign of lazy writing that an experienced professional like Roland wouldn't check his weapon before firing.) This is after Ludlow gives Nick coordinates to a radio station to call for help and largely lets bygones be bygones for being indirectly responsible for the deaths of many people.

Nothing in this movie makes sense. Why does Malcolm deliberately go out into a wild habitat looking as if he's going to stand in front of the nearest brick wall and tell jokes? Why can't the "heroes" put aside their superiority to work together to get as many people off the island alive as possible? Is the well-being of creatures whose existence poses a direct threat to the stability of the natural ecosystem more important than the lives of a people paid to come to an island, some of whom surely must have had no idea what they were getting into? How does the captured adult T-Rex kill everyone on-board the boat as it heads to San Diego yet leave the ship itself unscathed? And, again, WHY would you bring that goddamn baby rex back to your trailer? Kelly's presence is a nuisance and nothing more than a laughable play for easy audience tension (which fails, since the girl is so selfish and unlikeable) and a means to shoehorn in the director's absent parent theme, but even she's smart enough to see what a horrible idea this is.

Suspense is founded on some basic sense of logic. Though I've cooled on it since my childhood, the first Jurassic Park creates genuine suspense because the characters find themselves in plausible situations within the film's suspension of disbelief; here, everything is so blatantly staged that you just keep waiting for the obvious thing to go wrong instead of searching any corner guessing at where the next scare is coming.

Not that scares seem to be high up on the director's list of priorities here, though. Replacing the already thin characterizations of this franchise is a load of broad comedy completely incongruous with the film's haughty moralism and its fleeting attempts to feel darker than the first with the open antipathy of humans to animals compared to the snowblind optimism of Hammond's original enterprise. Goldblum does everything but break out the jazz hands in his hammy performance, and awkward one-liners dot the film. A brief line about Kelly being a gymnast comes into play late in the film with a run-in with a velociraptor that borders on the offensive in its howlingly bad staging.

By far the biggest flaw, however, is the total absence of magic and wonder, especially because the film still attempts to trade on the awe of the first film. Instead of scientists like Grant and Sattler being overwhelmed by the sight of dinosaurs and framing their discussions in moral terms, we get eggheaded chatter that sounds as if some of the actors were reading from an encyclopedia. When we first meet Sarah, she runs through dinosaur theory so rapidly and flatly you can almost see the off-screen lines reflected in Moore's eyes. One of the InGen crew, Burke, speaks solely in expository jargon about the dinosaurs, as if he's less a scientist than a tour guide in a museum. There's no insight, no discussion, only the relaying of facts in a desperate bid to suggest some kind of research went into this slapstick farce that ends with a rampage in San Diego so tacked-on it seems someone threw it in on a whim.

I typically don't jive with the Nostalgia Critic's brand of loud, cloying humor, but his video on The Lost World actually serves as a solid summary not only of the incessant plot holes and disregard for continuity but the laziness of execution. The only memorable shot in this film is of the raptors closing in on panicked humans running into a field of long grass, tails raised like shark fins, but Spielberg ruins even this moment by picking off the runners by having them slip out of view. It's a completely nonsensical method of raptor attack considering how tall they are. This is but one small example of the rampant incompetence and lack of care put into the film, a monumental step backward for Steven Spielberg. The only film in his canon I can think of to match it is the fourth Indiana Jones film, and at least the director tried to find a fresh angle for that film. The Lost World exists to educate what handful of people out there might have thought Jaws 2 could have been good if Spielberg directed it. A cash-in is a cash-in, and not even the finest populist director of his time could find any spark in this overwhelming redundancy.

14 comments:

  1. Great post (though I actually dig this film). For me it stays pretty good until they all get off the island. That's usually when I like to grab the remote and say "The End!!"

    If you think this is the man's worst effort, I double-dog-dare you to track down 1941.

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  2. I've been going through Spielberg's filmography chronologically, so I hit 1941 a long time ago. I think there are flashes of promise to that, though like this film I wonder what Spielberg thought he was making and what he thought the point was.

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  3. Everything about this movie is rushed, rushed, rushed. Fake. Soul-less. The Nostalgia Critic's review is, indeed, right on the money; having Goldblum's daughter shout "HEY!" when she swings into the raptor? I mean, my God.

    Great review, Jake. Like you said, this movie seriously lacks a sense of wonder. The opening words of Ebert's review underline it perfectly: "Where is the awe?" Whenever I watch The Lost World Jurassic Park--and I've seen it, oh, I dunno, five or six times in the last decade--I always leave with the same feeling. I'm thinking, why am I sitting here watching this when I could be watching something more fun... like the first JP movie? Or even the third one? There are many "lesser" Spielberg movies I could defend if I needed to. I could easily defend 1941, Always, Hook, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and even the "Kick the Can" segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie if called for. At least those films give you the sense that Spielberg, and only Spielberg, could have directed them.

    That's one of the things that's so fundamentally wrong with this film: it's so revoltingly anti-Spielberg. It feels like it was directed by a 1990's hack, i.e. a Spielberg wannabe (Bay, Emmerich, Ratner) who gets the man all wrong. It's all sound and fury. At times it feels like one of James Cameron's lesser films: artfully-directed at times, with a faithfulness to the ways characters argue and survive in the middle of bloody sci-fi catastrophe. So, I guess, it feels a little like The Abyss in that sense. Cool CGI, but vile characters, a wooden story and an altogether nasty atmosphere.

    For starters, why such a high body count? Why does a Jurassic Park flick need to have sequence after sequence of torn body parts in order to be entertaining? Do we really need that shot of Peter Stormare getting his nose torn to bloody bits by those Compies? Why the grotesque image of gore in a waterfall? I don't mind heavy gore in Spielberg's movies as long as he knows what he's doing -- Jaws was intense. So were Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich. And so was Amistad, released the same year. Actually, that might have been Spielberg's problem on the set: he was so preoccupied with filming a movie about slaves getting tossed over a ship to drown that he accidentally incorporated those gruesome sequences into a summer entertainment vehicle.

    But the worst thing about the carnage in the film is how it disgustingly punishes the film's "villains". When Arliss Howard gets eaten alive by the baby raptor at the end, and the swelling up of John Williams' music score indicates that we're supposed to cheer at his death... that's awful. Spielberg should know better than to dispense with such crass manipulative techniques -- and I'm the guy who always defends his talent for audience manipulation.

    Golblum tries too hard to be an action hero when he's supposed to be comic relief. Vince Vaughn = superfluous. Julianne Moore, who should be making more sophisticated films with Spielberg, is completely wasted in her grand opportunity to work with the king of Hollywood. I love Pete Postlethwaite as Roland Tembo, however, and his "company of death" farewell at the end always moves me. It was the first scene in Postlethwaite's career that came to mind for me after he passed away.

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  4. I meant to put something in about Pete's performance as Roland but I was so overwhelmed by how bad this movie was. As I said in my brief obit for the man, he takes a part that is honestly stupid -- he's made a career on helping spoiled corporate fat cats and upper-middle-class buffoons kill to feel in touch with their primitive selves, but he has a change of heart here? -- but he sells it so well I can believe it.

    I'm with you 100% on the gore. Like Temple of Doom, I just spent the whole time wondering "is this necessary?" And to position the same ethical quandaries that made John Hammond a sympathetic fool who could unleash more than he could ever comprehend as mustache-twirling evil just doesn't work. To be honest, I'd much rather see Vaughn's character killed for his constant, life-threatening sabotage than to be made to feel happy about Ludlow getting eaten.

    I've cooled on the first JP, but it has awe and suspense, a respect for the creatures if not really the humans. There's no consideration for anything in this film, just empty moralizing and grim excitement in death that undercuts the simple bullshit of the film's moral anyway. And I remember as a dino-freak kid all the toys rolled out before this film, and I think it's obvious this was just a merchandise movie all the way.

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  5. Well you all have shredded the 'tween and preteen fare of it's time pretty well I must say. What I wonder is what you expected from something so obviously written for kids!?!? Come on I mean really I bet you thought the use of primary colors in Dick Tracy was a bit over the top right? Yes it was full of flaws and of course did NOT meet the discerning taste of adults over 18, well duh! Adam I expected better from you than wasting your time on films obviously meant to be for someone else much younger than yourself. Come on guy there is plenty of adult fare for you to rip into!!

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  6. I don't know big words.

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  7. Michael GiammarinoMay 17, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    I've always found The Lost World: Jurassic Park a compulsively watchable, fun-as-all-get-out popcorn action movie.

    This isn't an anti-Spielberg film, Adam. If it's anti-anything, I'd call it an anti-Jurassic Park movie, but that isn't exactly a bad thing.

    This is a giant monster movie, more Arthur Conan Doyle than Michael Crichton. It doesn't commit the crime of reminding us it's a Jurassic Park movie in such an inopportune way like Joe Johnston did in Jurassic Park III. Spielberg's influences for Jurassic Park (Gorgo, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla, Hatari!, among significant others) become the basis for The Lost World: Jurassic Park -- a big budget B movie. (The gore in the film can be attributed to Spielberg sticking to his B movie roots.)

    And I wouldn't call the movie rushed, rushed, rushed. It has a faster pace, to be sure, but that's because the characters on the island are in danger at every turn. Meaning there's also not much time for the kind of character development you and Jake seem to be used to. We get it in chunks of rapid-fire dialogue, and in a Hawksian manner. (I'd say The Lost World: Jurassic Park is much more Hawksian than Jurassic Park could ever be said to be.) Sarah Harding is our Hawksian female in this picture. (Think Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell rather than Bogie and Bacall.) Plot is even dispensed in overlapping, rapid-fire style between Ian and Sarah during an extended tracking shot in the jungle.

    There's tremendous fun to be had in this picture's setpieces, and in the way John Williams' score compliments them. The raptors-in-the-tall-grass sequence is one of my absolute favorites for this very reason. There's an overhead shot where all we see are the trails being made by the raptors through the grass that directly references a similar shot Franklin J. Schaffner's Planet of the Apes that I find really, really cool.

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  8. Michael, regarding your defense of this movie as "Hawksian", I would certainly have agreed with you about six months ago, when I said the same thing about the first film. But a friend then reminded me that the Jurassic Park movies simply don't give you the same sort of pleasure you get from Hawks: the majority of Hawks' movies favor character development over plot, which is why his movies rely less on plot and more on scene after scene of characters just... talking. And The Lost World Jurassic Park, despite its rapid-fire dialogue, is just too over-reliant on plot to qualify as truly Hawksian.

    And the thing is, it's not strong on plot, either -- so ultimately it fails to satisfy in either camp. It doesn't have much in the way of story, and yet it doesn't have much in the way of inspired Hawks material, either. Oh, I dig the Hatari! references for sure. But again, the characters don't have that Hawksian charisma: we get a glimpse of it with Roland Tembo, but not as much as we got from John Hammond (a pathetic billionaire straight out of Come and Get It) in the first film. I also don't think the comparison of Moore and Goldblum with Russell and Grant works that well: in His Girl Friday, Russell takes up a role usually reserved for males; whereas in The Lost World, Moore starts sobbing at the roar of a T-Rex and ends up having to be rescued by Goldblum from falling through a window. She does get to tranquilize the T-Rex at the end, but it's a small moment in her otherwise thankless function as a damsel-in-distress.

    The movie's homages to old serials are definitely cool, and like you, I love the shot of the raptors in the fields. But all the movie-within-a-movie references in the world simply don't make much of a difference if a filmmaker doesn't have a gripping story. Both War of the Worlds and even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull contain references to other flicks as well, but at least with those movies Spielberg was armed with a smooth narrative and seemed to be enjoying what he was doing. With The Lost World it's fairly obvious -- as it was with "Kick the Can" -- that he just kind of went through the motions.

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  9. Michael GiammarinoMay 18, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    Adam, thank you for responding.

    I read your Jurassic Park piece during the Spielberg Blog-a-Thon, and I enjoyed it very much. Spielberg is my second favorite director of all time, so I appreciated the turnout greatly. What really disappointed me was with all the blogs circulating throughout the event, and with some of his films receiving monumental attention by being written about two, three, or perhaps even four times by different people, I was sad to see The Lost World: Jurassic Park got not a single regard, whether it be good or bad. It was just simply ignored.

    My intention was not to promote the picture as Hawksian, because truly, it isn't. Although that doesn't stop it from having Hawksian moments, of which Goldblum's and Moore's banter in the film is one example. And in those early scenes, Moore does inhabit the posture and the attitude of a Hawksian female, if simply to counter Goldblum's arguments. I referred to His Girl Friday because when one discusses the Hawksian female, usually Bacall springs to mind. Now, I understand the characters in this film do not have that Hawksian charisma. But they don't have to have that kind of charm to share a Hawksian moment or two. And in one such moment, Moore becomes very Hawksian. "I love you. I just don't need you right now." And it comes within the crux of one of two scenes of truly Hawksian rapid-fire dialogue between our two leads, the second of which dispenses a whole lot of exposition and in a well-expedited way, if you ask me. Quick and on the move.

    Sarah may start sobbing (and even lets loose an ear-piercing scream) at the roar of a T-rex, but she also has the spunk to crack jokes whilst hanging for dear life. I must also note I love the way Spielberg blocked the shot of her screaming, framing her between the teeth of the roaring T-rex. As for her damsel-in-distress situation: anybody in her position would need help. Even a Hawksian female like Marion Ravenwood needed a helping hand once or twice. (And there's no disagreement that Marion's a hell of a lot more Hawksian than Sarah Harding!)

    The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a genre picture so by its very nature it will favor plot (i.e. formula) over character. Of course this negates the film from being truly Hawksian -- which really was never in contention -- but it does not prevent Spielberg from having these Hawksian homages sprinkled around.

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  10. Michael GiammarinoMay 18, 2011 at 11:33 PM

    Damn. I must sound like a broken record quibbling about Hawks, Hawks, Hawks. Just thought since you've discussed Steven's affinity for the man's work I'd point out how there was so much more emphasis given to him in this film than there was in Jurassic Park. Regardless that you hate it.

    I went the Hawksian route when you called this movie rushed, rushed, rushed. But you've also called this film soulless. When our "gatherers" are witnessing the inhumane treatment and capture of the animals by the hunters in one key scene, I can say I was moved. There's also a strong parental theme to the film. How has this been ignored?

    I do agree with you about the narratives of War of the Worlds and Crystal Skull being quite smooth (we may be the minority when it comes to Crystal Skull, but I'm happy to share that opinion with you), but I would also say I feel that way about this picture too.

    I find it interesting you picked both War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as comparisons since David Koepp wrote all three, and War of the Worlds borrows from both Jurassic Park films during some of its setpieces, and all three are chase films -- they involve our leads on the run to/from something.

    You don't think Steven had any fun making The Lost World: Jurassic Park? I'm positive he'd had as much fun making it as I had watching it. I just dug the hell out of it. It's a movie about movies and I love it. He's made movies wih meatier narratives to them and there's no disputing that. That doesn't mean I'm gonna hate on this one or like it any less because it's narratively svelte.

    After my initial viewing of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, my very first observation of the film was, "You can definitely tell the man that directed The Lost World: Jurassic Park directed this picture." And I still stand by that observation.

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  11. I gotta hand it to you, Michael: this may be the first time I've ever enjoyed discussing The Lost World. While I've met some devoted fans of it, you're the first one I've met who's been able to mount a convincing defense of it in the face of the criticisms the movie usually receives.

    You've got me sold on the Hawksian side of the movie; I completely forgot about Moore's "I love you, I just don't need you right now" line. It's been a handful of years since I've seen the movie, and that line slipped my memory.

    Moving on to your other points. Regarding the sequence in which the heroes stare mournfully at the animals as they're being rounded up... I was certainly moved by that sequence when I was a preteen. But looking back at that scene today (through Jake's review and through a recent, hilarious online review uploaded by the Nostalgia Critic), my feelings about it have changed drastically. I'm all for a movie that promotes a Green message, but the heroes of TLWJP kind of come across as naive, clueless tree-huggers. When the Vaughn character opens up the cages and allows the Triceratops to smash up those tents--that's pretty asinine of him. It's unfortunate that the Arliss Howard character is abusing the animals like that; but when the heroes of a JP movie care more about the well-being of the dinosaurs than the lives of the other people on the island, that's a sure sign that something's wrong. And because Tembo's men are the ones who save Malcolm, Harding and Co. from falling over that cliff, Tembo's men come across as the much more sympathetic characters in the movie--regardless of the ways in which they mistreat the animals.

    To play Devil's Adocate on myself, however, I suppose a case can be argued that the humans "learn" about each other on the island. The tree-huggers and the macho-industrialists end up having to band together in order to survive. In other words: bipartisanship saves the day. It's sentimental, sure, but it might have actually made a swell JP picture... if Spielberg and Koepp had remained true to that theme.

    But just when we think the movie's going somewhere profound with Tembo's "company of death" farewell, we wind up in San Diego in the third act... and suddenly it's back to heroes and villains!?? Suddenly we realize that the Arliss Howard antagonist is truly a villain after all, is irredeemible and is only in the movie for one purpose: to be killed off at the end. This is why I'm not that impressed with the "parental" aspect of the movie, as relevant as it is to Spielberg's mark as an auteur--because in this movie, the "parent" is the mother T-Rex who teaches her offspring how to kill a human being, and it's meant to be the movie's inspirational highpoint. The fact that the Howard character is a weak and pathetic villain, and not a charismatic or professional one (like one of the villains in the Indy series), doesn't make his demise any more enjoyable. There is none of the emotional sadness to his death that we got from Steamboat Willie in Saving Private Ryan or Lamar Burgess in Minority Report: it's just a crass way of killing off the movie's Capitalist Enemy No. 1 as a way of warning audiences that there are consequences when we tamper with nature.

    That's my interpretation, but I'm definitely remaining open to more views, if there are any. Believe me, I desperately want to enjoy this movie more than I do.

    By the way, I'm happy you enjoyed our Spielberg Blogathon last year! Did you submit any pieces or post any comments? Forgive me for asking... we got such a large turnout.

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  12. Michael GiammarinoMay 24, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    I'm enjoying our conversation about The Lost World also, Adam. I never submitted a piece or a comment to the Spielberg Blogathon. I just enjoyed it. I thought it was fabulous. Kudos, sir, and to all those who submitted their work.

    I'm not sure if I want to watch the Nostalgia Critic's treatise on this picture. I've seen his recent review on Star Wars Episode III and it gave me a chuckle, however I am a fan of the film. Who knows, maybe I'll give his Lost World review a shot. I'll let you know.

    I don't find Vince Vaughn's release of the animals in the hunter camp particularly threatening. I've always considered that Nick Van Owen never expected the animals to harm the people in the camp. They would cause destruction and pandemonium, but I always felt that Nick expected the people to just get out of their way. Because these animals wouldn't distinguish between our hunters or our gatherers in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It's just as likely that the animals could've unintentionally harmed our leads as they would our villains.

    "Bipartisanship saves the day." I like that. But just because the hunters are such good samaritans to Ian and his group doesn't make them bleeding hearts.

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  13. Michael GiammarinoMay 24, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    Tembo saw where his obsession was going to lead, which is why he made his "company of death" farewell. Arliss Howard did not have the same epiphany and it cost him his life. And that's pretty much the point of his death. When the T-rex begins its stampede on San Diego, Ian makes his comment to Ludlow, "NOW you're John Hammond." Ludlow makes roughly the same mistake John Hammond made in the previous film without the turnaround. When you try to control the uncontrollable, it will do you in. There isn't any emotional sadness in Ludlow's death because there shouldn't be. There was no buildup for it like there was for Steamboat Willie in Saving Private Ryan or Lamar Burgess in Minority Report. It is, as you put, and quite simply, as a way of warning audiences there are consequences when we tamper with nature. No more, no less. It's not meant to be some poignant or bittersweet demise. Just a case of playing with matches and getting burned. He's that one-note villain from the B movie that gets his just desserts. But we also see what would have befallen John Hammond if he hadn't had his change of heart.

    I love how the opening shot of the movie and the opening shot of the third act are the same kind of crane down, differentiating the two subgenres of the giant monster movie (Man in the Monster's Domain and the Monster in Man's Domain) with day and night. There's a moment where we have a static shot of pure white in the opening and pure black in the opening of the third act, and then the camera moves down to reveal the locale and the aesthetic. (The helicopter actually coasts into the frame as the camera makes its move and at the same time we reveal the cityscape of the urban jungle.)

    Another observation I've made about the final act of the film is what other exploitation picture it reminds me of -- Lewis Teague's Aligator, written by John Sayles. Looked at as an homage of Teague's film, Goldblum is playing the Robert Forster part, and Julianne Moore is playing Robin Riker's. When Teague was completing his picture, in fact, he garnered advice from Mother Cutter herself, JAWS editor Verna Fields, giving both films, in my eyes, an interesting kinship. JAWS influenced Alligator, and I'd like to think Alligator influenced the third act of The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

    There are two scenes I must comment upon from The Lost World: Jurassic Park: the massacre of the crew on the Venture and the final shot of the movie. It is well documented the attack on the Venture was scripted to be the work of raptors that got aboard, in tandem with the T-rex, which was supposed to have escaped earlier and then become re-enclosed in the cargo hold before the Venture crashed in the harbor. This scene ultimately was not filmed, thus making the attack ambiguous. My interpretation of it relies on the final shot of the movie. Yes, I know what Spielberg's intention WAS, but since the scene was not shot, I don't put credence in it. The last shot of the movie is a tracking shot of our rogues gallery of dinosaurs, all of the animals that appear in the film. I don't take this shot literal. Raptors and our T-rex family appear in this tracking shot and they aren't attacking any of the docile species included in the shot, which lead me to believe this is just a kind of a final curtain call for the animals. The tracking shot ends on a tree limb which becomes the perch for a pteronodon which lands, spreads its wings and lets out a soft cry, backlit by the sun. If this is a shot of our rogues gallery of dinosaurs, where does this pteronodon fit in, since this is the only moment we have seen one in the entire picture? I take it as a reprise of the final shot of Jurassic Park, but also as a reveal to what may or may not (I prefer the former) have attacked the Venture.

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  14. I have never understood the indifference to this movie-- to me it was clear from the opening moments that this was Spielberg in cartoon mode, like 1941, or Joe Dante's GREMILNS 2: THE NEW BATCH (surely some kind of inspiration to Spielberg?). I had a great time watching this in the theater, although I haven't seen the entire thing since.

    As a De Palma fan, I have noticed that Spielberg and De Palma have engaged in a dialogue of sorts here, mediated perhaps by shared screenwriter David Koepp. In De Palma's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, in the break-in at Langley sequence, the drop of sweat on Tom Cruise's brow (caught in his gloved hand) is milked for suspense that reminded me of the water drop suspense scene from JURRASIC PARK. In the MI scene, Cruise begins to drop the floor, but is stopped just inches-or-less before hitting the floor. Cruise has to balance himself from touching the floor, which would set off the alarm and put their mission in chaos. Spielberg stages an incredibly sly homage to this scene in THE LOST WORLD, when Julianne Moore falls onto the camper's rear windshield, which is hanging off a cliff, and has to stay as still as possible in order to keep the glass from completely giving way, or she will fall straight down to her likely death.

    And that moment in Spielberg's film, which is played for great suspense, comes after an incredible amount of other playful ingenuity leading up to the trailer's fateful fall. It seema as though Spielberg must have had a blast inventing each sequence in this movie.

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