Posted October 7, 2011 by editor in Retrospectives
 
 

Spielberg: The Lost World: Jurassic Park


 

The Lost World: Jurassic Park is the second in the trilogy of Jurassic Park films and possibly the last to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Earlier in the year the news savvied among you might have read the announcement of Jurassic Park IV, many asked why now after so long?  Perhaps they were the ones who have forgotten the financial power the series once held. Let me remind you how momentum for the release built. The buzz surrounding The Lost World: Jurassic Park was building in 1997- if you remember it, as I do, it was tantamount to Avatar. News even reached the far reaches of the playground where kids would talk about the special effects in awe. 

 

The plot is perhaps a more rambling then many thrillers. Four years after the events in Jurassic Park, Dr Ian Malcolm is back, this time with his girlfriend and his daughter. He must reach the interior of the island to radio for help without the protection of fences. To further complicate the situation a team from InGen are capturing dinosaurs to bring back to the mainland. Hammond must find a way to keep the dinosaurs on the island and protect the public. The film culminates with a tyrannosaur lose in San Diego which Hammond must return to the island. The first time I watched it I remember a dizzying sensation of anticipation and terror- I was 8 years old, I was staying up late and it was fantastic. At the time I did not know that it was an adaptation of a novel written by Michael Crichton, the same writer that penned the first Jurassic Park novel. I also did not know that this film was almost not written at all. 

 

Jurassic Park the film adaptation was directed by Steven Spielberg and became a box office success. Not long after the first film was out on video fans called for a sequel. Crichton had never written a sequel before, and flatly refused. However Spielberg remained unconvinced and asked Crichton personally, he agreed. Or at least that is the story that was told at the time of release. The cynical side of me is inclined to believe that Crichton was holding out for profit, that either the studio executives would pay him or that the publishing house would. However perhaps the truth of this deal is far lighter. At this point in Spielberg’s career his reputation was cosmic. There is no way of accurately knowing what power he held with a quiet word. Whatever the motivation the result was clear: Crichton published in 1995.

Now Spielberg had the task of translating the book to screen, chopping the time consuming minor character and add moments of tension that he had missed from the previous book. Director’s often intend to remain as faithful as possible to the source novel that they are adapting. Of course perfect translation to screen is as aspirational as it is impossible.  When Spielberg deviates from the text I think it interesting because this reveals his film making process. The exclusion of characters and the amalgamation of characters are not unusual for film adaptations. This is particularly irritating if you have read ahead in a series only to see it ‘butchered’ by a director but it is simply often time restraints which lead to the cut.

The most interesting deviation I have found was the inclusion of the character Kelly Curtis Malcolm, she is part amalgamation of two characters in the novel: middle school students Kelly and Arby whom bear no relation to Malcolm. Furthermore Kelly is white, while Arby the boy is black. The questions presenting themselves are why did Spielberg choose for Kelly to become Malcolm’s daughter and why did he change her appearance? I suspect that Spielberg needed a away to increase the stress levels on Malcolm. The first film in the series received a positive response from audiences but a mixed bag from critics; they complained that the effects were marvellous but that the acting was wooden. As the lead in the second film is Malcolm; Spielberg had to invest a lot of thought into making his struggle meaningful to the audience. Spielberg did this by increasing the pressure on Malcolm from pure survival to the addition of protection for his child.

Comparatively speaking The Lost World has aged better than its rivals, for example the romantic but tragically CGI reliant Titanic.  The thrills are provided by a masterful balance between puppetry, good old fashioned sound effects and some use of CGI. Everyone remembers the boom of the T-Rex’s steps which vibrate the glass of water back in Jurassic Park. Spielberg recognised this and with a nod of the head includes a similar scene in The Lost World. The feeling it evokes even now when I am an adult is intense anticipation, I am back on the edge of my seat. The reason the film is successful is the balance between the special effects, it is an advantage not to be reliant on one trick to convince the audience. There are moments when this falls apart though for example, early in the film a member of the second group is alone in the forest to go to the toilet- always a bad idea- but the arrival of the killing dinosaurs is an anticlimactic rustling of the bushes. This happens twice in separate scenes and utterly breaks the illusion of reality.

A large part of the film’s tension is provided by the rival teams on the island: The first team of scientists and environmentalists versus the second team of safari hunters and businessmen out for a profit. This is classic Spielberg tension. The antagonistic characters are just agents of a greater faceless organisation devoid of humanity. Ultimately even the baddies of the film are redeemable. Spielberg is a positive director who appears to illustrate the absurdity of Corporate America through his films, I am struck by the irony of the big studios he uses to tell these stories but perhaps you have to be a part of the game to begin to change it.

 

The legacy of the Jurassic Park survives today in so much as CGI has become mainstream in modern cinema. This has filtered through visual media and you can see a fair few television series such as: Walking with Dinosaurs and this week’s Planet Dinosaur. Both of these are only successful thanks to the pioneering of Spielberg and his team. I recommend this film, there are still issues with acting and the plot is convoluted however despite this it is thoroughly enjoyable.  The Jurassic Park Series is technologically ground breaking it is not out of the realm of possibility that the fourth film will be in 3D adding another element to the thrills. The new film is being written, the countdown has begun and I suggest a thorough revision of all material!

Lauren Hounsome


editor