"The Lost World: Jurassic Park"

The digital sound makes the critters even scarier, but no number of dazzling extras can ease the mean-spiritedness of Steven Spielberg's dino sequel.

Published November 13, 2000 8:00PM (EST)

"The Lost World: Jurassic Park"
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn
Universal; widescreen (1.85:1)
Extras: Making-of documentary, deleted scenes, storyboards, trailers, dinosaur encyclopedia, production notes

"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" is an unpleasant, mean-spirited movie utterly lacking the wide-eyed grandeur that made its predecessor such a crowd-pleasing spectacle. Having already demonstrated his ability to show humans and dinosaurs interacting, director Steven Spielberg could do little in the sequel but lapse into traditional "monsters on the loose" conventions, and "The Lost World" features plenty of people running in fright from voracious predators. It's a film we've seen plenty of times before.

Turns out there's a second island where InGen was breeding its prehistoric critters, although on this one there are no fences or theme-park safety zones. Wealthy Richard Attenborough (whose character was killed off in "Jurassic Park" the book, but who nonetheless survives two movie versions) lures Jeff Goldblum into making another trip to dinoland by telling him that his paleontologist girlfriend is already on the island. Considering Goldblum's distaste for dinosaurs from the first film, you'd think a paleontologist would be the last person he'd be involved with, but this is no less strange than his turning up in the sequel with a black daughter -- an oddly subtle development for such an otherwise blunt-nosed story.

The story this time centers on Goldblum's team of good humans clashing with a corporate platoon of bad humans, who have come to the island to cruelly capture a bunch of dinosaurs and transport them to a mainland zoo. Needless to say, things go awry, and in no time both groups are together and fleeing from voracious predators. They do manage to bag a T-Rex, however, and ship it to San Diego, where, astonishingly, it gets loose. Unfortunately, there's no Empire State Building for Rex to climb, so it rampages instead on city streets, sending people scattering in terror.

"It's more than just running from dinosaurs," Spielberg says in the DVD's making-of documentary. "There's a lot of pretty good emotional human drama in this one." Um, no. There's a lot of pretty good dino effects in this one -- better than in the first film -- including a stegosaurus attack, a scary T-Rex attack and the obligatory raptor attack. There were supposed to be a couple of pterodactyl attacks, but they ended up being cut in favor of the "T-Rex goes to town" sequence. Emotional human drama? Not unless your idea of conflict is the depiction of a baby tyrannosaur being deliberately crippled and chained to a stake so a pair of hunters can blow away its mother with an elephant gun.

There's no commentary on the disc, but that's probably just as well. In a movie where everything takes a back seat to the special effects, there's only so much that can be said as the action unfolds. The 55-minute making-of documentary contains plenty of info about the production, including interviews with cast and crew, and there's also a pair of scenes cut from the final version that helps explain some of the motives for the film's bad guys. Storyboards, conceptual art, dinosaur data and a brief teaser for "Jurassic Park III" round out the package. One big plus: The DVD's digital sound goes a long way in enhancing the dinosaur noises, which provide more chills than endless shots of big, sharp teeth.

Spielberg says he always wanted to make a sequel to "Jurassic Park" and that the story of "The Lost World" was irresistible. Of course, he said pretty much the same about his follow-up to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and look what a mess that turned out to be.

By David Lazarus

David Lazarus covers business and technology for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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