Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dinosaur Hunting And Other Disasters

Some links before getting started today. Norma wrote about the Triple Crown. Parsnip checked in. Eve wrote about naughty or nice. And Maria had tips for writers in regards to disposing of bodies.

Today I have another movie review...

“Oh yeah. Ooohh, aahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running, and, ah... screaming.” ~ Ian Malcolm

“Please. Don’t treat me like a grad student. I’ve worked around predators since I was twenty years old. Lions, jackals, hyenas.... you.” ~ Sarah Harding

“Yeah, well, noble was last year. This year I’m getting paid. Hammond’s check cleared, or I wouldn’t be going on this wild goose chase.” ~ Nick Van Owen

“Saddle up! Let’s get this moveable feast underway!” ~ Roland Tembo

“Careful. This suit cost more than your education.” ~Peter Ludlow

 “These creatures require our absence to survive, not our help. And if we could only step aside, and trust in nature, life will find a way.” ~ John Hammond

“Remember that chap about twenty years ago? I forget his name. Climbed Everest without any oxygen, came down nearly dead. When they asked him, they said why did you go up there to die? He said, I didn’t, I went up there to live.” ~ Roland Tembo

“Why don’t people listen to me? I use plain and simple English, I don’t have any accent that I’m aware of...” ~ Ian Malcolm  
“Oh, shut up.” ~ Sarah Harding

After the success of Jurassic Park, it was inevitable that there would be a follow-up. Author Michael Crichton wrote a novel, The Lost World, which would be very loosely adapted in a screenplay by David Koepp, who had co-written the screenplay for the first film. The film follows some of the characters from the original film on a new island where dinosaurs have survived, and features a power struggle between those who wish to protect the animals and those who seek to exploit them.

Four years after the events of the first film, a wealthy family has stopped for a break on the beach on Isla Sorna, off the Costa Rican coast. A young girl wanders off, encountering little dinosaurs that quickly turn on her. The incident allows Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), the nephew of John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to take control of InGen, the company that built the ill fated theme park on the nearby Isla Nublar. Hammond has spent the last few years trying to keep Isla Sorna from being exploited; it’s the site where the dinosaurs were nurtured before being moved to the park, and with the events of the previous film, the animals have been left there to roam wild, and are thriving. Hammond calls in Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), whose reputation has been wrecked by whistleblowing the events at InGen, and explains his dilemma. He can only safeguard the island by getting public opinion on his side, and that requires sending a team in to document the animals in their natural environment. Hammond wants Ian on that team, given his previous experience.

One of the team members happens to be Ian’s girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), a behavioural palaeontologist who’s already gone ahead to the island. Ian is annoyed by the fact that Hammond’s already taken liberties, and is determined to go to the island and bring Sarah back. He meets the other two members of the team, a logistics specialist, Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) and a videographer, Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn). Things are also complicated by the arrival of Ian’s daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester). The team set out for the island and a rendezvous with Sarah, not knowing they have a stowaway, and unaware that there is another team with a different agenda- collecting dinosaurs and taking them- coming to the island as well.

The story is more of an adventure straight off than the first film. The characters and the audience know there is no illusion of control about this island, that the threat is paramount. The ethical question shifts from what we saw in the first film, as the right of people to tamper with life, to what we see here, the struggle of two different agendas. On the right side of that equation is the need to protect the animals and keep them out of harm’s way. The other side is the greedy disregard for what’s right- the desire to exploit and use the animals no matter the consequence. Hammond, who’s learned lessons the hard way, has gone from venture capitalist to environmentalist, lessons that his nephew doesn’t learn. I like that shift in the ethical side of the film. Aside from moving the narrative along, providing thrills, a measure of horror, and humour along the line, the story also grounds itself in relationship dynamics, and they’re best expressed in the relationships between Hammond and Ludlow, Kelly and Ian, and Sarah and Ian. Those are explored as the film goes along, though in the first case, only indirectly.

The special effects once more make dinosaurs come alive. We get the tyrannosaurus rex, the raptors, and a variety of other dinosaurs that seem to be sharing the screen with the actors as opposed to being a special effect. Full use is made of them, in a variety of ways- I love the way Spielberg sets up the scenes of raptors stalking a group of people running through tall grass- we see glimpses of the predators, their paths through the grass, a flash of their tails as they converge on their prey. And he doesn’t shy away from giving us full view of them either. 

The climax of the movie, with a Rex loose in San Diego, brings both terror and a sense of sly humour to it- and that beast certainly looks like it is alive and stomping around city streets late at night. Spielberg also brings back composer John Williams, who makes spare use of his previous themes and instead infuses dangerous, thrilling sounds into the score, with a hint of the jungle in the music.

The cast again is well chosen. Richard Attenborough appears only briefly as Hammond, who’s learned his lessons the hard way after the previous film. He seeks redemption for his earlier mistakes by safeguarding the island, and his intentions are at least better this time out- though he takes liberties in how he carries them out. Still, the character continues to come across as the kindly old grandfather. 

This is not the case for Arliss Howard as his nephew Peter Ludlow. The executive is a sneering, arrogant man, obnoxious and condescending, thoroughly unlikable and not as bright as he thinks he is. There’s a basic antagonism that he brings out in everyone- even the people working for him. Though the two characters never share a scene, there’s a sense that Ludlow holds his uncle Hammond in contempt. And for all his arrogance and bluster, deep down the character is a spineless excuse for a human being.

Vanessa Lee Chester as the stowaway daughter Kelly has the bulk of her interaction with Goldblum and Moore, filling the place of having a kid in the movie that Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello had in the first film. The relationship Kelly has with her father is somewhat tense- part of that is normal teenager stuff, the roll the eyes at whatever Dad says routine. Part of it is also the dynamic between them- her parents aren’t together, she feels her father doesn’t particularly want to be a dad. It’s a complicated relationship- she doesn’t understand that what’s driving Ian is keeping both her and Sarah safe; he of course has extensive experience with these animals, and knows how dangerous they can be. Actually Ian and Kelly have more in common than she realizes. Richard Schiff is good as the sardonic but capable logistics man Eddie Carr, who seems to have the right equipment for the right occasion, but isn’t really ready for what’s on the island until he sees dinosaurs with his own eyes. The character has a dry sense of humour, and while things end badly for him, he goes out working to save others, which is a nice touch. After this movie, Schiff went on to be one of the core cast members of The West Wing. Vince Vaughn plays the charming and somewhat idealistic Nick, bringing some of his motor-mouth personality to the role; this was an earlier role for him, and while I don’t mind the motor-mouth act in this film, it’s gotten tiresome in the years since as he’s pretty much kept using it. That said, however, Nick’s an interesting character, sarcastic but principled.

Pete Postlethwaite became better known later in his career to international audiences, particularly because of his outstanding work in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father (far and away the best film of that year). Here he gets a really good role as Roland Tembo (what a name), a big game hunter who leads Ludlow’s team on the island. The character’s a boisterous, tough, and capable leader, a thoroughly dangerous man (one would not want to get into a fight with him). There’s something of a Captain Ahab to the man- he seeks the challenge of hunting a Tyrannosaurus Rex- and yet he can pull back from that hunt and let it go- a vital difference from Ahab. Where he ends up is a different place, personality wise, than where we first meet him. While he might work for the opposing side, he’s not unsympathetic, and we get to like him more as the film goes along. The character’s a force of nature, and Postlethwaite seems to be having a ball playing him.

Julianne Moore’s one of those actresses who could read the phone book and make it fascinating- she’s just that compelling and interesting in what she does. She’s resourceful, curious, and smart- and perhaps not wary enough of the dangers of the island until things go wrong. We believe her as an expert in the field- she seems entirely comfortable in her surroundings and carries herself with authority as you’d expect out of an experienced palaeontologist. Sarah’s relationship with Ian also feels real. The two have their disagreements, but have a lot of history, too, and for the most part seem to get along. Sarah’s touched that Ian’s come to rescue her, but adds that it would help if he did so on occasions when she could really use the help- such as a dinner with parents he missed. They’re not a perfect couple (who is?), but they seem grounded and real, and Moore plays to that, adding a sense of spirit and strength to her role.

Jeff Goldblum is fun once again as Ian Malcolm. He’s more cynical when we first meet him- having one’s academic career dismantled will do that. Having lived through the experience on the other island, he’s also the one character who understands the dangers the animals present. Try as he might to warn everyone around him, they don’t listen- until it’s too late. His motives are more personal this time out as well. While his ethical world view remains the same, his driving motivation is the safety of the woman he loves, and the daughter who thinks he doesn’t understand her. He might not go about how he deals with both in the right way, saying the wrong things at times, but we get what drives him, because like him, we know where this is going to end up- with lots of bloodshed and dinosaurs ripping people in half.

The Lost World was a fitting follow-up to Jurassic Park. Given that we already had the awe and majesty of the first film (before the chaos started), this film goes pretty much for the chaos, particularly in its second and third acts. It has a terrific cast, a good sense of humour, an adventurous spirit, and a fine way of driving up the tension.


  1. Quite a well-written interesting review. Thanks!

  2. This sounds pretty good. I can't remember if I went to see the first film, but pretty sure I saw it maybe on TV.
    Good review as always, William.... wondering if Dinosaur hunting is legal in Texas?

  3. Nice review! I'm still not going to see the new Jurassic film though!

  4. This was my least favorite of the JP movies. I missed Dr. Grant. I'm a little worried about the newest movie since it's an entirely new cast. I'll definitely see it though.

  5. Great review, as always!

    Rex is the real star of these movies. Loved the scene where he was drinking from someone's swimming pool!

    1. But isn't that were he eats the dog chained to the dog house ?
      Made me sad !

  6. @Perry: thanks!

    @Lorelei: I first saw it in theatres.

    @Cheryl: I'm looking forward to seeing the new film.

    @Kelly: I'm wondering how the new film will pull it off.

    @Norma: not to mention chasing Japanese tourists- a nice dig at Godzilla!

  7. I am so looking forward to the new movie !
    Great review as always.

    cheers, parsnip

  8. I don't think I've seen this one. Granted, after the first film, I wasn't really all that interested in being scared any more, but maybe I'll have to check this out. Great review!

  9. Great review! You've convinced me to see it:). I did enjoy the first one.

  10. I just cannot find these movies of interest. I dunno, dinosaurs are dumb? Perhaps it's from these movies that the creationists get the notion that humans and dinosaurs co-existed at the beginning of things - like, say, 5000 years ago.

  11. Lost Worlds is my favorite in the series. I prefer Ian Malcolm as the main character. The other guy's not as fun. One of the reasons I didn't care for the third movie.

  12. I don't remember seeing this one. I'll have to watch it. Excellent review.

  13. I'm hoping the special effects are a little more advanced today. They were super stunning for the times years ago, but now they should be spectacular! lol


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