The Lost World: Jurassic Park Review

Gone is the magic of John Williams’ triumphant score for Jurassic Park, replaced in Lost World with something focused more on the dread and tension. It’s a deliberate push, not only to freshen up this dinosaur saga, but deliver a driving pulse to these wider, bolder action scenes.

That’s also where Lost World goes wrong. Michael Chrichton’s novel wasn’t the gleaming Hollywood darling the original was, Spielberg himself interested in what became of the shaving cream canister in the original. Fans are still waiting for a resolution on that one as Lost World dives into a political and environmental battle amidst Tyrannosaurs and Raptors.

It’s hard to fault Lost World for what it is, mostly because the first one did everything so well, what else can you do other than exploit the digital stars? Beyond its nature-oriented message, Jurassic Park turns into a creature-run-amok saga, albeit one directed by Steven Spielberg. Characters that deserve to die do, sealing their fates with cruel advances towards the dinos, and heroes are made at the height of tension.

If anything, Lost World delivers a fiery intensity, a trailer beginning its cascade off a cliff, Julianne Moore inching her way across cracking glass. Each sound is a brutal, heart-stopping moment, and all because she wanted to save the baby T-Rex. There’s that long grass Raptor attack that might be one of the finest dinosaur or monster attacks ever to be put on film, that aerial of impending shadows brilliant in its execution.

For all that it will do right though, Lost World will try too hard, never realizing its overwhelming stupidity. At the least, the third film knew it was brain dead. Kelly’s (Vanessa Lee Chester) gymnastics routine is the height of camp, and Spielberg tries to employ the Jaws contingency at the end. How baby and daddy Rex manage to munch on the ship’s captain before it makes landfall is a mystery, the famed director expecting audiences to be too enamored with the material to notice.

Cynical and even terrified Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is the saving dialogue grace, that after a wildly expository sequence with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). Once it finds groove, Lost World becomes a, “Look at that!” movie, and one we’ve already seen before. So focused on its spectacle, Lost World realizes what it could do, but it never stopped to think if it should.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

After sharpening up the first Jurassic Park, Universal doesn’t seem to do much of anything to Lost World, sort of a blessing/curse scenario. There are a handful of shots with visible repercussions from noise reduction, a few visual effect sequences excused, the others not so much. This isn’t a case where DNR icing has covered these images. Medium shots carry a distinctly filtered look that is always inherent with Universal stuff, mostly because of how they treat their catalog.

What’s missing is that zest, and there’s certainly a clear sign that Lost World isn’t reaching its potential. The pervasive softness isn’t offensive, and it’s perfectly fine if that should be, historically speaking, Lost World’s look. Spielberg uses a nearly outrageous amount of back lighting for this piece, meaning faces struggle with being lit and as a result, lack texture. At least they’re not smothered with digital “fixes” for a problem that doesn’t exist. With a higher resolution scan, there’s that sense it could bring out more, the proper care instilled in a release like this bringing this sequel to hi-def life. As it is, this one just sort of goes extinct.

Maybe it’s a positive that Universal and their encoders laid off the sharpening key, because clearly that’s no longer a problem here. All halos have been zapped, high contrast edges or not. The grain structure exists on a relatively precise, limited plane, never taking over the image. Crush remains a key concern though, Malcom’s traditional all-black clothing blending in with the predominantly nighttime backdrops. Even though it’s typical to hide some of the effect’s flaws within that darkness, action bits like the T-Rex couple attacking the jeep are surprisingly bright, hiding little and still holding up nearly 15-years post release.

If Universal did anything to Blu-ray edition (or the scan used to make it if you so prefer), it’s color. As Malcolm is first introduced on the subway, the advertisement behind him nearly glows with saturation, a concern that will carry onto the island, at least in cloudy daylight. Plant life is definitely green, more so than it probably needs to be (or ever was), exaggerated for a bit of that lush brightness casual HD fans eat up. Purists? Not so much.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

Remixed with the best intentions and results, Universal’s audio team is clearly more caring when it comes to the material given to them. The showcase sequence here is undoubtedly the trailer assault, grunts, roars, and growls of the parent Tyrannosaur unit creating mood and tightly wound audio bliss. Size is accentuated by footsteps, and the eventual clash of dinosaur and machine is epic. Slamming into the side, flipping the trailer, stereos are in perfect sync with the visuals, surrounds handling their duty too.

Dialogue is constantly maintaining itself amongst the more extreme action, the center pouncing a step above everything else without sounding over cooked or lacking fidelity. This continuing audio trendsetter is as immaculate and pure as it was the day it was released, probably even better now with this DTS-HD 7.1 beast.

No, it has nothing to do with those extra surrounds, although they do feel a little more prominent than they did in Jurassic Park. Compie attacks are especially vivid and more directional with the space afforded to them, and panic in the streets as the Rex stomps through San Diego at an odd morning hour pure spectacle (and why is Blockbuster Video still open at these wee hours?)

Why the track works in lieu of the movie is presence. It’s always there, from the garage prior to the journey to the island to the jungles themselves capturing all of the modern and ancient wildlife. Rainstorms pound the ground, and dinosaurs love to move about the soundfield. The Stegosaurus right from the start pan across the fronts, enhancing (or trying to) the awe of cast newcomers.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Return to Jurassic Park continues with these two Lost World making-of pieces, one generalizing the process, the other squarely focused on the effects and their evolution. It’s 45-minutes worth of brand new stuff, and well produced. A selection of deleted scenes run a little over seven minutes, the first expanding on InGen’s financial state, quite enlightening and it could have saved some of the clumsy dialogue later.

The archival section plays host to four DVD features, including the funny Compie dance, an hour long making-of, short featurette, and a chat with Michael Crichton. The behind-the-scenes section rallies more DVD stuff, including ILM before-and-afters, production archives, and storyboards. The disc contains the code needed for D-Box support, BD-Live, and a trailer.

Extras ★★★★☆