Film discussion

Looking back at… The Lost World: Jurassic Park

“Thank God for Site B.”

Michael Crichton had never written a sequel to one of his novels. However, fan demand was high for a sequel to Jurassic Park, and Steven Spielberg was able to convince him to do so. The Lost World: Jurassic Park was published in 1995, and the film followed in 1997. While Crichton and David Koepp penned the screenplay for Jurassic Park, David Koepp alone penned the screenplay for The Lost World, as it ended up differing slightly from its paperback counterpart. While it was still based on the novel, many story points were changed to better fit the silver screen. Spielberg returned to direct, and John Williams returned to score. How did Crichton, Koepp, and Spielberg advance the Jurassic Park story? Let’s take a look…

A British family on a yacht cruise stumbles across an island somewhere off the coast of Costa Rica. And on that island, something dangerous lurks. In a scene pulled from the pages of the original Jurassic Park novel, the family’s young daughter (portrayed by a young Camilla Belle) encounters a small dinosaur on the beach and it doesn’t end well. This triggers a chain of events that will bring about a bit of the chaos theory Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) feared in Jurassic Park.

In a pivot from the first Jurassic Park, Dr. Ian Malcolm is thrown into the thick of things as the main character of The Lost World. After the incident involving the British family, it is revealed that there is a second island owned by InGen, Isla Sorna (deemed “Site B”), that was used as the “factory floor” for breeding dinosaurs before they were transported to Isla Nublar for Jurassic Park. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) summons Ian to his mansion home, and informs him that in response to the incident, InGen has been taken from him by his nephew and the board of the company. Under this new leadership, InGen has plans to open a new amphitheater-style park in San Diego and furnish it by ripping the remaining dinosaurs from their natural habitat.

The only way for Hammond to gain his company back and protect his creations is to prove that these animals are flourishing and best left where they are. To do so, he assembles a team (that includes Ian) of dinosaur and field experts to travel to the island and compile a complete photo record of the creatures alive and thriving before InGen can get there and take them. Ian is vehemently opposed to the plan at first, until Hammond lets slip that Ian’s girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), a seasoned expert on predatory mammals, is a part of the assembled team and is already on the island.

Ian is appalled that his girlfriend has been sent to this dangerous island alone. Hammond tries to comfort him by telling him that the rest of the team “will be meeting her in three days” and that Sarah was “absolutely adamant” on going. In one of the best moments of the film, Ian responds, “It’s not a research expedition anymore, it’s a rescue operation and it’s leaving right now” as the Jurassic Park fanfare is cued underneath. The frustrations Ian Malcolm has with InGen and his experience in Jurassic Park are on full display here. As Ian leaves, Hammond is simply happy that his proposed team is going to end up on the island after all.

As The Lost World progresses, Ian Malcolm must face some of his inner demons as he encounters very real dangers on Site B. It’s important to note that while Hammond might seem manipulative and careless, he is not the villain in this film by any means. If anything, he is a quiet quasi-protagonist who ‘enabled’ the others to save his beautiful creations. The villain title ultimately lands on InGen and their nefarious methods for achieving their plans.

The Lost World introduces a bit of new danger and a few iconic characters to the Jurassic Park franchise. Sarah Harding is Ian Malcolm’s girlfriend, and Kelly Malcolm (portrayed by the amazing Vanessa Chester) is Ian Malcolm’s daughter, presumably conceived with an “ex-Mrs. Malcolm”. Roland Tembo (portrayed by iconic actor Pete Postlethwaite) is a noble, experienced big game hunter contracted by InGen to bag and tag the dinosaurs for their transport to San Diego, and Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) is Hammond’s squeamish nephew who accompanies InGen on their expedition. Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) is a well-known wildlife photographer, and Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) is the team’s field equipment expert. When Hammond’s team arrives on Isla Sorna, they are captivated by the beauty of immense Stegosaurs grazing, and are finally reunited with Sarah Harding. Just after this it is discovered that Malcolm’s daughter Kelly has smuggled herself onto the island as well, a fact that Ian is not thrilled with by any means given his knowledge of the danger inherent.

It turns out the true purpose of Hammond’s team is to completely sabotage InGen’s team’s mission. Nick Van Owen is crucial to this plan, and in a jarringly thrilling scene uses tools of petty theft to release the dinosaurs InGen has captured back into the wild of the island. The creatures destroy InGen’s base camp in an absolute rampage, and Tembo realises that InGen is not the only human team on the Isla Sorna.

After this scene, Hammond’s team is forced to take in a wounded infant Tyrannosaurus Rex that escapes from InGen, as Sarah and Nick have the knowledge to repair its wounds. The Tyrannosaur parents are not too happy with this action, however. After the Tyrannosaurs threateningly arriving at the team’s RV, the team carefully returns the infant to its parents. The situation doesn’t end there, however.

In arguably the most memorable sequence of the film, the parent Tyrannosaurs ravage the team’s RV and push it over a nearby cliff. The scene is truly terrifying thanks to an exhilarating musical cue from John Williams, expert pacing and framing from Steven Spielberg, and the full size animatronics Tyrannosaurs used in the scene. The team narrowly escapes thanks to the sacrifice of one of their team members, and is finally pulled up from the cliff by Roland Tembo and InGen’s team.

Seeing as they are both a bit decimated, the combined teams collectively decide to travel to InGen’s abandoned Site B command post and radio for rescue. On their journey they are terrorised by the creatures of the island, including the swarming, small carnivore Procompsognathus, the raging Tyrannosaur, and ultimately the island’s velociraptor pack, who combine to surround and vanquish many of InGen’s team members after an ill-advised trek through tall grass.

The teams are somewhat separated as Hammond’s bunch heads toward the command centre to radio for help and Roland Tembo “collects his fee” from InGen by hunting the bull Tyrannosaur. Hammond’s bunch is surrounded seemingly out of nowhere by persistent velociraptors, but is able to vanquish them through some impressive teamwork. As help arrives, Hammond’s team sees that InGen was able to capture the Tyrannosaur and is planning on transporting it and its infant to San Diego. In a fantastic two-sided moment, it is revealed that Nick Van Owen stole Roland Tembo’s lethal ammunition, and Tembo was only able to tranquilize the Tyrannosaur. We then see Tembo offered a position in the new park by Peter Ludlow. The iconic hunter exits the film by responding: “No thank you. I’ve spent enough time in the company of death.”

The truth of that statement was about to unfold.

The teams (and Tyrannosaur) head back to San Diego and prepare for the creature’s arrival. Spectators, InGen employees, and Ian and Sarah watch in awe as the freighter transporting the dinosaur crashes into the port, having been rendered captain-less by the escaped and angry Tyrannosaur. Before anyone can do anything about it, the T-Rex bursts from its nautical imprisonment and freely proceeds to terrify the citizens of San Diego. Ian and Sarah bravely lure the creature back to the boat using its infant in an electrifying sequence that sees iniquitous InGen leader Peter Ludlow meet his satisfying (for audiences and the Tyrannosaurs, anyway) end.

The stirring final scene of this film is certainly special. Ian, Sarah, and Kelly doze on their couch as CNN covers the highly secure transport of the Tyrannosaur back to Isla Sorna. John Hammond, having achieved his goal of keeping the creatures in their natural habitat and spearheading a new movement to keep the island and creatures safe, gives a stirring interview alongside the coverage. As the Jurassic Park theme is affectingly cued, he says: “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.”

As multiple species of Hammond’s creatures are pictured prospering in their natural home, the Jurassic Park fanfare triumphantly ends the film on all fronts.

With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom out soon, The Lost World is another entry in the Jurassic Park franchise that gives irreplaceable context and validity to the modern sequels. Ian Malcolm’s story in this film is vital, as he saves those he loves and helps to right the wrongs of the experiences in his past. Ian Malcolm is returning in Fallen Kingdom, and his perspective will no doubt be important to the overarching Jurassic Park story. This makes The Lost World another must-watch before heading to the cinema this summer.

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