There was an island in the South Pacific where a major disaster occurred, involving the genetic recreation of dinosaurs destined for the theme park of billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) right there on the site, but ended very quickly when the beasts went on the rampage. The message, or so thought scientist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), was one the corporation behind it would have learned the hard way: don't mess with Mother Nature, but now he is summoned to Hammond's bedside to be informed that there was another island, and he really should go there in spite of his reservations...
Thus begins a whole lot of clunky exposition heralding the screenwriter David Koepp tying himself in knots adapting Michael Crichton's sequel novel to his bestseller Jurassic Park. Somewhat difficult when book and subsequent blockbusting movie were rather different to one another, but more importantly because this second instalment needed a lot of explanations, both to make it all sound terribly scientific, and to come up with the reasons why the same situation was happening twice. But as Joe Bob Briggs once memorably said, if you're making a sequel you really have to make exactly the same movie.
Something taken to heart by Koepp and his producer-director, a certain Steven Spielberg, who went on to admit his heart really wasn't in The Lost World, That was likely why it came across as a masterful technical exercise as the field of special effects continued to advance like a leaping velociraptor, but emotionally the results were barely two-dimensional, with the concerns voiced by the characters no surprise to anyone, each and every one led by the necessities of the plot. This for example had Julianne Moore, no slouch in the acting department, reduced to reciting swathes of scientific jargon alternating with screaming and running, not the best use of her talents.
She played Malcolm's girlfriend Sarah Harding, taking a break from Girls Aloud to indulge her fascination in paleontology - here, wait a sec, not that Sarah Harding, but more an instance of The Lost World's cardboard personalities. Pete Postlethwaite also showed up as a Great White Hunter, one of a pair of baddies who think little of ecology which was a big no-no in movies of this era, though why he and corporate bigwig Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) had to be English is left unexplained other than cultural laziness. It was clear the main criticism the filmmakers took onboard was that there were not enough dinosaurs in the first movie, so to fend off any similar moans the production was fairly stuffed with them this time around.
This was setpiece-led, blockbuster cinema, a style Spielberg had ushered in with a clutch of fellow Hollywood directors of this generation, which for a talent who liked to appeal to the heart as much as the head, if not more, would appear to make The Lost World a soulless experience, with gimmicky tricks (gee, why did she mention gymnastics earlier?) and constantly bowing to the mastery of the effects and stunts teams. But there was one emotion Spielberg had not given up on, the one which had made his reputation back in the mid-seventies, and that was fear. The first two Jurassic Park movies were the closest thing we got to horror films from him, and the singleminded intent to frighten the audience, never mind his characters, was never more apparent in the succession of shocks served up here. This being a PG-rated movie, he wasn't going to pile on the gore, but there was enough to let us know the T-Rexes weren't simply nuzzling their victims, and saw the director at his most bloodthirsty. Nice tribute to Gorgo at the end, but it was the attack at the trailer which most engaged. Music by John Williams.
His best films combine thrills with a childlike sense of wonder, but when he turns this to serious films like The Color Purple, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and Bridge of Spies these efforts are, perhaps, less effective than the out-and-out popcorn movies which suit him best. Of his other films, 1941 was his biggest flop, The Terminal fell between two stools of drama and comedy and one-time Kubrick project A.I. divided audiences; Hook saw him at his most juvenile - the downside of the approach that has served him so well. Also a powerful producer.