After the explosively entertaining Jurassic Park, audiences everywhere were salivating at the prospect of more velociraptors, more comedy, and more (dare I say it?) Jeff Goldblum. But whatever the entertainment and theological value that the first film based on Michael Crichton’s ‘amusement park-with-dinosaurs’ idea had, the second one is a laughable, awful mess. The Lost World was a rushed book, and a rushed film, and a story that Steven Spielberg himself said, “I beat myself up… growing more and more impatient with myself… It made me wistful about doing a talking picture, because sometimes I got the feeling I was just making this big silent-roar movie… I found myself saying, ‘Is that all there is? It’s not enough for me.'”
And yet, they made a third film?
This third film finds Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) hellbent on ‘saving’ his girlfriend, paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore, Still Alice). The park’s creator, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), has sent her with a team of scientists and hunters to ‘Site B,’ the island where the dinosaurs. She’s thrilled to be interacting with animals she’s only studied in theory; Malcolm knows all too well about the real danger that the dinosaurs pose. And that has nothing to do with the dangerous agenda of Roland Tembo (Peter Postlethwaite, The Usual Suspects, The Town), a big game hunter.
All of that is probably well and good. Until we realize that the film’s main aim is to get the dinosaurs to the main land a la Godzilla. Somehow, the incredible nature of the special effects that cause these dinosaurs to walk across the screen cannot save the lack of viable dialogue and plot points. But someone thought this film was good enough that millions of dollars piled up and the studio had to make another. Are you one of them?
Ultimately, you probably fall into two camps: you either think that Goldbum is a wonderful, sad sack of laughter or… he’s a terrible actor. Honestly, I usually fall into the first category, having devoured Independence Day and his turn following Vincent D’Onofrio on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. And the rest of the cast is reasonably awesome as well, past Moore and Postelthwaite: Richard Schiff (The West Wing) as an engineer, Vince Vaughn (in his follow-up to Swingers) as a cameraman, and Peter Stormare (everything…) So, if it’s not the cast, then it must be the story, the script, the creativity behind it, right?
Consider this selective filmography of screenwriter David Koepp. On one side, you have Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man (the first Tobey Maguire one), Angels & Demons, Men in Black 3, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. On the other side, you have Zathura, Premium Rush, Secret Window, Mortdecai, and … Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now, that’s a mixed bag, but it shows the general unevenness of what a script can bring (or not bring) to a movie. Obviously, it’s not all on Koepp because it’s based on Crichton’s novel – one which he was originally disinterested in writing – but the story here just isn’t as earthshaking, and the idea isn’t as earth shattering as the original.
Still, we can learn from The Lost World. The overwhelming lesson revolves around hubris, around pride, around the belief that if it exists, that we, humanity, can control it. Better yet, it investigates the smug assurance, here by Hammond and Tembo, that not only can we control it but that we should control it. The whole idea reminds me of the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11, where people got the grand idea that they could build something that reaches heaven. And yet, they fail there in the terms that the early followers of the Bible understand, because God mixes things up for them so that they can’t complete their project. It’s not that they can’t accomplish it but rather that they shouldn’t.
In this second story, the middle one for another few days, we see that we should not create dinosaurs even if we can. We see that there are reasons why boundaries and natural laws exist, to keep us safe and make us better. Thanks to Jurassic Park: The Last World, we can see that there are some things we should leave to God. Like dinosaurs.