Plenty of people have a dim view of sequels. Just take a brief look back at Avengers: Age of Ultron. Critics could overlook any merits of the individual film by simply stating that it doesn’t feel “as fresh” as the first one. And this is true; the first Avengers was something that had never been done before. It would be impossible (or at least incredibly difficult) for any sequel to top that. But just because it isn’t “new” doesn’t mean it isn’t good or fun. If that were the case you might as well stop masturbating because hey, you’re just going through the same motions all over again.
Sequels are just like movies in general. Some are good, some are bad, and most are just okay. But sequels get that “freshness” critique thrown at them almost as soon as the trailer comes out, and many get a worse rap than they deserve as a result.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park is such a sequel. The Lost World was the first sequel I can remember getting hyped about. Steven Spielberg coming back to make another movie with dinosaurs doing dino things all over the screen? Hell yes! And I remember being thrilled with it at the time. Mostly because, as I said, dinosaurs doing dino things. I was easy to please.
As the years have gone by I still think it holds up for the most part. But I have found that this is not the majority opinion. The Lost World only has a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I cannot for the life of me figure out why. “Readily the worst thing Steven Spielberg has ever made,” according to one commenter. It’s worth pointing out that this comment was made in April 2013, which means Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had existed for years and this guy still thought Shia LaBeouf playing Tarzan with monkeys was a better use of screen time.
The movie isn’t without its flaws. Killing a velociraptor with gymnastics is all kinds of bullshit. Hammond’s switch to being some kind of naturalist lacks a clear motivation, which is a big deal as his desire to “protect” the dinosaurs on the island kicks off the plot for our heroes. But more often than not I hear more broad critiques that it’s “boring” or “Spielberg didn’t seem interested,” which just goes back to my first point.
The Lost World does a lot of things right for a sequel. After the disaster that unfolded during the first movie, of course InGen would be in the middle of corporate upheaval. Hammond would justifiably get the boot, and the new guy in charge would be in a position to salvage whatever the he can for the company. It’s the logical place to take the story. You could argue that trying to create a dinosaur attraction in a major city is a stupid way to do this, but don’t forget that in the real world McDonald’s thought creepy rebranding was a good idea. Corporations do stupid things, so I’m okay with going along with Ludlow’s plan.
There are obviously more dinosaurs. This is a sequel. And on the surface it seems par for the course. People liked the T-Rex, so there are two T-Rexes now! The raptors were pretty terrifying, so there is a whole field of raptors now! But the way the movie uses this “more is better” approach actually does the trick. The movie’s reveal of the two T-Rexes as they find and attack the trailer is a fantastic sequence. It follows the basic structure of the T-Rex attack in the first film, but builds on it. Yes, there is a second T-Rex, but Spielberg displays a mastery of spatial awareness in constructing the scene. Watch almost any current blockbuster and compare it to this scene, and you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about.
Then there’s the pack of raptors picking off survivors in a field of tall grass. We know from the first film how terrifying these creatures are, and the overhead shot of ten or so of them silently cutting through the grass creates more tension and dread than most horror movies.
People also complain about the last act, which involves the T-Rex rampaging through San Diego. I usually hear two critiques. The first is that it makes no sense how the crew on the cargo ship containing the T-Rex could be dead with the T-Rex still contained below deck. This is a fair point, and as shown is a rather big plot hole. Turns out there was a deleted scene involving raptors getting on the boat that was never filmed, but it’s still a major oversight and a problem the way it was left. Though let’s not forget that no one was around to hear Kane say “Rosebud” at the beginning of Citizen Kane, and that’s still remembered fondly.
Then there’s the issue people seem to have with the T-Rex trashing the mainland, saying things like, “That was silly” or “It was so cartoonish” or “I can no longer feel joy.” It’s a radical departure from the rest of the movie, which considering all the complaints about The Lost World being more of the same without a “wow factor,” you’d think people would welcome this change of scenery. People are weird.
Maybe it is a little silly, but these are movies about goddamn dinosaurs being brought back to life. As far as my ten-year-old – and current – self is concerned, if you aren’t going to have fun with the fact that you have a freaking T-Rex in modern times, then what’s the point? It’s the same reaction I have to people who think having trained raptors in Jurassic World is silly. First of all, it’s not, we train animals all the time, including predators. And two, even if it was silly – WHO CARES. A pet velociraptor was all I wanted as a child. DO NOT TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME.
So yeah, it’s not a perfect movie. But just a couple years later Jurassic Park III came out to show us what a phoned-in sequel really looked like. The Lost World may not be as good or as unique as the first film, but there is still enough to enjoy to make it a worthwhile addition to the series and certainly not deserving of the flack it continually gets. There are truly horrific sequels; this is not one of them.