The obligatory sequel.
Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park is one of his best films. I honestly believe that classic will go down as one of his most influential and important works. Aside from The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter I don’t know a film series in my lifetime that has had more of an effect. I don’t think anyone was surprised when a sequel was announced (and we are now 5 films total), but none of them have been able to recapture the magic of the original film.
I personally think all of the sequels have been poor compared to the first, but it is hard to determine why it seems so hard to replicate the original. Part of it is the forced addition of villains. The Lost World introduces us to the new head of UniCorp Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), Ludlow is in the first film, but here he becomes the principal antagonist as his idea is to bring dinosaurs to San Diego and open a park there. If this sounds stupid, it is.
Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) rushes to the island when he discovers his girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is already there. Harding is trying to get as much natural research done, and has been hired by original park owner John Hammond. Why Harding didn’t tell Malcolm is more or less ignored, and it all serves as a way to force Malcolm onto the island. I like Goldblum, but he simply doesn’t have the charisma here to be the leader. He vanishes for chunks of the narrative, and this is probably for the best.
With the exception of Julianne Moore, most of this cast is made up of folks who are better at supporting roles. The absence of Sam Neill and Laura Dern is noticeable, and the film never gets the good character interactions down. The people just aren’t as interesting. Malcolm is a genius in the first film, but here he is painfully stupid. I doubt his character would have so much trouble with a radio—or all technology. His idiocy also leads to inaction, where instead of doing anything he just stops and stares at the action that is unfolding.
The film plays almost identically to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in that one team is sent to do “good guy stuff” and another team arrives to do “bad guy stuff.” This one works a little better as the bad guys aren’t psychopathic murderers for no reason. However, we still have a stupid villainous plot that is painful to try and reason through. Ludlow just isn’t an interesting villain, and the whole idea of making a zoo on the mainland just feels like the same story as the first with the notch turned up one level.
Part of what made the first Jurassic Park so damn good is that most of the characters were actually smart. They reasoned through situations, and this made the dinosaurs all the more terrifying. When they are being hunted in the first film, the audience has a hard time correcting their behaviors. Here, the people are simply idiots. We have a para-military group who runs into (and appears to be completely wiped out) a nest of velociraptors despite knowing where their territory was. The villains motherfucking kidnap a baby T-Rex in order to motherfucking lure the T-Rex to them. They should have covered themselves in BBQ sauce while they were at it.
The good guys are too obvious and the villains are too flat to make any of it interesting. I think this problem is in large part was has wrecked the franchise to be little more than a “fun time” movie. By making a villain, the films take away from the terror and majesty that is the dinosaurs. The sledgehammer hitting social points actively remove the tone of adventure that these films need.
Spielberg does know how to film some excellent scenes. The T-Rex attack on the trailers is a gripping and suspenseful moment. These scenes come close to recapturing the intensity of the first film, but there aren’t enough of them. The velociraptors are underused here, and they also seem kind of dumb. Gone are the deliberate and terrifying hunters before. (Though their introduction is quite good). There are some great moments here—and the film might be worth watching for them.
A lot of folks like to give the character of Kelly (Vanessa Chester) a lot of crap. She plays the obligatory child (who is put into this situation through sheer stupidity) in a Spielberg film. Kelly is an okay character, she serves her narrative purpose, and Chester does well to show the range of joy, wonder, irritation, and horror towards the dinosaurs. There is a now infamous acrobatic fight scene between here and a raptor—yes this is a dumb scene, but it isn’t the only one. I think laying all of the film’s problems at one character’s feet in this instance is a little misguided.
Another issue is that this film just feels like a sequel (as it always would). There is no getting around the fact that we will never have that new dinosaur smell (that line seemed funnier in my head) again. For fans, this one is probably among the better sequels. For me, I think I will stick with the original. 5/10.