PG-13, for people getting all munched upon by dinosaurs in gruesome and gross ways. Franchise, movies, folks. Very rarely does the jump go from PG to R. Occasionally, they go R to PG-13. Like, Die Hard did that. But I'm fairly certain that as long as the MPAA exists, the Jurassic Park movies will be PG-13...despite the fact that they are kind of gross when you think about them. Regardless, I'm very okay with PG-13 with these movies.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
The weird thing is that I swore that I reviewed this movie already. I was actually watching it because I wanted to see a high def version of it. Besides, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this was the entry in the series that I watched most recently and I was just getting ready to watch my super cheap copy of Jurassic Park III. (Watch out for that amazing review in the near future.) But apparently, it's been at least three years since I watched it because I don't have a review for it up. That's fine. I actually am kind of looking forward to reviewing this movie. But I also really want to take a nap, so we'll see which one wins out.
I remember when I first saw this movie in the theater. I loved the first Jurassic Park movie and still do. I think the first grown-up independent read ever was Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. I don't know if I read it just to read it or because I remember seeing The Lost World on the shelf and thought I should probably read the first book first. Regardless, I was so excited to see the new Jurassic Park movie. I was going to read the book and then I was going to see the movie everything was going to be perfect. Remember, the movie came out in 1997. I was 14. And from my perspective, this movie was everything I wanted it to be. Okay, it wasn't everything because I thought it was odd that Alan Grant wasn't the protagonist for the sequel, but Ian Malcolm was the hero. Jeff Goldblum hadn't been discovered as a national treasure yet and I wouldn't have appreciated how self-aware the movie would have gotten if Steven Spielberg knew what he had on his hands. I saw this movie at the Birmingham 8 right after their first major overhaul and I loved it. I thought that it was as good as the first and no one could tell me otherwise. I then remember hearing naysayers talking about this movie and I thought they were wrong. How dare they view this movie as anything less than cinematic genius? If you didn't guess where I'm going with this, I now realize that they were right and that I was totally off. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is an inferior movie to the first film. When I watched it three years ago, I became really depressed over how bad the movie was. I mean, I thought I was getting into something magical again. I thought I was going to see a Steven Spielberg Jurassic Park movie. I'm going to give credit where credit is due. Steven Spielberg isn't at fault for a lot of this movie. The biggest sin he probably had a hand in, but the rest of it is actually pretty well directed. I didn't know that until I saw Jurassic Park III and realized what poor direction can really do to a film, but I digress. I'll be mining that ore when I write the review for the next one. Spielberg still can make dinosaurs pretty scary and solidify his pacing. It's just that The Lost World has a remarkably dumb plot. It's balance is all off. First of all, and I mentioned this with my Fallen Kingdom review, there is no reason why civilians should be visiting any island with dinosaurs. It's pretty ridiculous. A lot of this movie spends a lot of time trying to forgive Sarah Harding for ignoring Ian Malcolm. It's a really weird relationship dynamic.
The first film establishes that Malcolm has a horrible history of relationships. Crichton had this big old leap to make: how would Ian Malcolm get pulled back on that island. Remember, Malcolm, while moral, is a fairly selfish character in the first movie. He spends the movie hitting on Ellie Satler (until Alan Grant puts him in his place) and is there simply because he's being paid to do it. He does have a moral compass. But at best, he's chaotic good. (He is a chaotician, let me have it.) Chichton does something smart at first, but then that gets screwed up. To make Ian Malcolm the hero of the story, Malcolm is the only one to stand up to InGen. He refuses to take the payout and writes a book about the events of the first Jurassic Park, making him a social pariah. He's discredited and has to deal with InGen and their crack legal division. At one point, the antagonist, Ludlow, even points out that the children took the buyout and listen to the nondisclosure agreement. This puts him as the hero of the story. He is the sole rebel against the evil corporation. That's great. This is where it falls apart. During that time, he begins dating Sarah Harding. This relationship has been going on long enough that his daughter, Kelly, often spends time with just Sarah. Sarah knows the story of Ian's time on the island and knows how important the whole thing is to him. He has sacrificed everything to ensure that InGen never gets away with something like this again. He has told her of the fear and the nightmare that happened in the first film. Being a philosopher, he probably spouted a lot of the same beliefs that he had about man abusing science in creating dinosaurs. With all that in mind, Sarah Harding still went to the island. Not only that, but she did it secretly, knowing that he would be mad. Isn't that a fundamental disrespect? I mean, this is Ian's crusade and she just goes behind his back and does it anyway. But from a filmmaking perspective, Sarah has to be a hero as well. You have to root for her to survive. To do that, Sarah has to make Ian seem like he's ridiculous for all of his paranoia. Not only does Malcolm come to rescue her, but he is seen as the bad guy. Do you see what I'm getting at? There are all these hoops to get Ian Malcolm back on the island, but it actually detracts from the storyline to do it.
Okay, all that's fine, I guess. But the thing that drives me most nuts is the one thing that I'm allowed to yell at Spielberg for. Good golly, this movie is toyetic. For people who haven't heard this coined word before, it's not in any real dictionary. I heard it...somewhere. I don't remember where. Being toyetic is when a movie or a television show includes things that are just meant to sell toys. I think I heard this word when Joel Schumacher explained the pressures involved in making Batman & Robin. There is one scene in particular that is just the absolute worst. There are good scenes in the movie as well. Don't get me wrong. But one scene almost completely negates my good will towards this film. There's a scene where the InGen team arrives at Site B. It is the most macho sequence I've ever seen and it's oddly devoted to the bad guys of the film. The InGen team has these tricked out Hummers that are just being launched over mounds. Narratively, it kind of fits because it is contrasting how non-invasive Harding's team is. But no one in their right minds would be driving that dangerously without a purpose. Then these tricked out hummers start capturing dinosaurs. The thing I love about the first Jurassic Park (and by extension, Jurassic World) is that it is science fiction that feels like it really could happen. If someone figured out how to clone dinosaurs today, I think it would look and feel very much like the first Jurassic Park movie. But the dinosaur capturing scene in The Lost World has these vehicles that you can just see being set up to sell toys. There's a Hummer that has two extend-o chairs with a locking arm air-bag grabber. These are guys who have tranq guns. Why does this car even exist? Remember, InGen is trying to salvage itself by making as much money as possible. Why build this ridiculous piece of equipment meant for capturing a very specific dinosaur that is an herbivore? It honestly kills the movie for me. It's not the only problem with the movie, but I cringe at that sequence pretty hard.
There's nuance to the first Jurassic Park movie. It might be a perfect film for me. I love it a lot. But The Lost World is the first movie to paint with broad strokes in the series. InGen is in the first film, but it is an almost faceless corporation. Dennis Nedry is the antagonist, but he's simply a tool for the plot. It's great. It's all about corporate greed without it being directed with a sledgehammer. But John Hammond's Ghost, does this one every want to give a moral about the corruption of corporations? I mean, InGen isn't given any degree of morality. John Hammond, in the first film, is in the wrong. But from his perspective, he is being a philanthropist. His subconscious is about greed and fame, but he honestly believes that he is returning extinct species to the world. He skips some steps and gets in trouble, but Hammond, for most of the film, believes himself to be the hero. InGen entirely is about the money. The closest thing that gets to nuance in The Lost World is Ludlow's message about fulfilling John Hammond's dream. But John Hammond wasn't dead. He knows Hammond's wishes and he is actively betraying them. That actually makes him even more evil with that knowledge. I guess a lot of that racks up to a story being rushed into development. I weirdly think about how quickly The Lost World came out after Jurassic Park was a success. It is entirely possible that Crichton had the story in is mind when he was writing the first novel, but I feel like there was pressure to get this book out so it could be adapted soon after. For a sequel, it is okay, but it also establishes a history of diminishing returns when it comes to the franchise for a while. Jurassic World works better (not perfectly, but better) because there was a lot of time to focus on what could be done with the series. (Also, like The Force Awakens, it steals a lot of beats from the first film.) There are thing that work for the movie. While it is silly that Malcolm is the hero, he kind of works as the hero. The trailer sequence is still memorable. But even more so, the sequence in the tall grass is one of my favorite movie moments from the entire series. It is very scary and even the passive dinosaurs pose earnest threats. I also love the attention to territories that this movie sets up. Jurassic Park III treats those territories like suggestions, so I kind of applaud how the this movie does a bit to set up how dinosaurs might act given a new island.
The movie is far from perfect. I loved it as a kid, but I see a lot of mistakes as an adult. That being said, I didn't hate watching it. It's got some weird pacing issues and the T-Rex sequence at the end is a bit hamfisted. But it is an okay Jurassic Park movie. That's a shame, but that's only because I love Jurassic Park.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.