By now, the blunt truth about the sequel to the box-office world champ (Jurassic Park) is clear: The Lost World is a royal screw-up. Aside from the technical feat of better dinosaurs due to advances in models and computers, Steven Spielberg's $73 million epic is sloppy, sadistic, frenetic, charmless, plotless, derivative and devoid of surprise and characters to care a damn about.
Will inferiority to the 1993 original stop the film from busting box-office records for the summer and the year? Hell, no. The hype has penetrated our heat-soggy skulls: Gotta see those dinosaurs!
Go ahead. They're lulus. Two mean, green muthas pull a man apart like taffy until one beast hurls the poor schmuck into the air and the other catches him in its mouth like popcorn. Take the whole family. As for story, why should you care, when Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp did not? Michael Crichton's follow-up book was a tired rehash. Koepp accelerates things so that two dinos – an infant T. rex and a jumbo parent – get to leave home and stomp San Diego. But to what purpose, other than destruction?
That demented Disney, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, back for a cameo), wants to redeem himself by sending an expedition to study the dinosaurs that have survived on a second island. "You're not making the same mistakes," says smart-aleck mathematician Ian Malcolm, again played by Jeff Goldblum, "you're making all new ones."
The same goes for Spielberg. In the first film, the characters were thin, and the sunny banter could make you puke. The sequel is darker, but the characters matter less. Spielberg squanders a fine cast, including Julianne Moore as a paleontologist and Vince Vaughn as a documentarian. The villains, led by Arliss Howard as John's nephew and Pete Postlethwaite as a hunter, want to capture the animals for a theme park. The cast is little more than a human buffet.
Another missed chance involves Ian's black daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester), who stows away to be with her busy dad. Spielberg, also a workaholic, has an adopted daughter who is black. But he never develops that personal link. Maybe winning an Oscar for Schindler's List means he's saving the quality stuff (Amistad, about a slave rebellion, is next). The pop artist who brought genuine feeling to the adventures of Jaws, Close Encounters and Raiders of the Lost Ark is now pandering to the crowd. He's slumming.