You might remember that I occasionally subject myself to the worst film franchises have to offer in the name of science. But The Lost World should not be the worst movie in the franchise. It should just be impossible; you give Spielberg dinosaurs and a huge budget, that should be an amazing movie, right? And, yet, it isn’t. It might be Spielberg’s worst film. And it comes down to two problems.
The movie’s first problem is that you immediately start rooting for almost the entire cast to die. They’re either cartoonishly evil, unbelievably stupid, or, usually, both. The villains are literally introduced as animal abusers, which is immediately followed up with a sequence where the big-game hunters leading the team kidnap a cute baby T. Rex, break its leg and stake it out in the open. If there were some train tracks, they probably would have tied that baby dinosaur to them.
The heroes aren’t much better. Here’s what Sarah, Ian’s “free spirit” girlfriend, does in the first 30 minutes of the film:
- Fail to tell Ian where she’s going, because she knows he was traumatized by the events of the first movie and would freak out.
- Fail to alert the rescue team sent to save her, even though she’s just a few yards away, because she’s too busy taking photos.
- Walks right up to a baby animal and pets it.
- Nearly gets killed by a stegosaurus, thanks to the above idiocy.
- Proceeds to bitch out Ian for “never being there” during social events, despite the fact the guy trekked thousands of miles and swallowed his PTSD because he thought she was in mortal danger.
- Back up his idiot daughter, who snuck onto the expedition and is in the middle of a danger zone.
She’s got nothing on Vince Vaughn’s eco-warrior douche, though. Everything the guy does past the half-hour mark gets some poor bastard killed or makes the situation vastly worse. Granted, Jurassic Park as a franchise is built on human arrogance and stupidity going awry, but this is stretching that theme a little far.
The second problem is that this movie drags, painfully, in part because it fails to set the characters up in any interesting way and partially because Spielberg wants to remake Jaws with dinosaurs and it doesn’t quite work. It takes an hour for us to meet the whole cast, and only then does the actual plot of the movie get lumbering along. Even then, most of the dinosaur sequences are essentially little horror bits that have nothing to do with the actual plot or any characters we care about. The movie inexplicably spends fifteen minutes cutting between boring conversations and Peter Stormare getting eaten by compys.
The movie galumphs along until almost the end, when our plucky band narrowly escapes the raptors and gets on a helicopter and off that damn island. Spielberg suddenly remembers he’s making an adventure movie, and yeah, it’s full of shtick, but it’s also fun to watch and snappy in a way most of the movie just isn’t. Then, for no reason, the movie turns into King Kong with a T. Rex, right down to calling the ship it arrives on the SS Venture.
Structurally, this finale is really weird. It’s clearly where most of the budget went. Half the cast of the movie just straight up disappears. It’s like an entirely different movie crammed into thirty minutes and tacked onto the end.
So, basically, if you skip the entire actual movie and watch the short film at the end, it works pretty well. But if you try to watch the whole thing… well, may I recommend Jurassic Park III instead?