Movie Review - The Lost World
'Lost World' a winner
Those amazing, hungry dinosaurs are back

Jeff Goldblum BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Steven Spielberg knows action movies like nobody's business.

In The Lost World (which he could easily have called Return to Jurassic Park), he drops two sets of meddling humans onto an island where an array of dinosaurs -- secret survivors of the earlier movie's experiments -- are thriving. The humans make stupid mistakes, the dinos get ticked, and all manner of mayhem breaks loose.

Then everyone adjourns to San Diego, where things really go nuts.

The story, it must be said, is no great shakes, although it's not half bad by action-movie standards. But the action -- that's why we go see movies like this -- is terrific.

The Lost World
***1/2
(PG-13; intense sci-fi terror and violence, profanity)
Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn.
Directed by Peter Duncan.
134 minutes.
National Amusements, Showplace 8.
Screenwriter David Koepp, who also co-wrote Jurassic Park -- the mother of all box-office champs with $915 million worldwide -- takes the story to where the action is as quickly as he can.

Mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is back to play hero this time. The aged nutcase John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) reveals that Ian's paleontologist girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) is at ''Site B'' observing the big lizards. She's an expert in ''parenting and nurturing among carnivores,'' and Hammond wants the creatures studied quietly by respectable scientists.

''You've gone from capitalist to naturalist in just four years!'' Ian tells the previously rapacious Hammond, before racing off to rescue Sarah. He's in such a hurry he doesn't notice that his daughter (Vanessa Lee Chester) has stowed away in his supply trailer.

Those meddling humans

On the island, with eco-warrior/photographer Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn) and techie Eddie (Richard Schiff), Ian is unmoved by a peaceful herd of grazing behemoths. ''That's how it always starts,'' he says. ''Then there's running and screaming.''

Hammond's greedy nephew Ludlow (Arliss Howard) shows up leading a band of big, bad hunters. He sets up a satellite link to sell investors on a plan to ship dinosaurs to San Diego, which, he notes, is renowned for its animal attractions -- ''the zoo, Sea World, the Chargers.''

Pete Postlethwaite stands out as Tembo, a big-game safari leader who serves up tantalizing hints of complexity and even wins a touch of sympathy, though his only goal is to bag a Rex.

Unfortunately, his part comes to a sudden and unsatisfying end, so there's no chance to analyze his appeal.

That's pretty much the pattern -- and the genius -- that Mr. Spielberg brings to The Lost World. He stampedes over plot weaknesses with knockout action sequences and knuckle-biting suspense.

He injects flashes of wit into a literal cliff-hanger that had the audience groaning with anxiety before it was over. In another scene, he cranks the suspense to dizzying height by juxtaposing velociraptor claws digging under a door while two trapped humans frantically dig under the opposite wall to get away.

Mr. Spielberg also borrows intelligently, even from himself. Lost World echoes the dank, nightmare moods of Aliens, the campy high spirits of Godzilla, the breakneck pace of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the tension-building tactics of Jaws.

Fabulous beasts

The Lost World is decidedly more violent than Jurassic Park. There's much more eating of humans by dinosaurs, although actual gore is relatively restrained.

On the other hand, the use of children in peril has been scaled way back. The original Jurassic kids make a cameo appearance, but the only child in the plot is Ian's discontented daughter.

For the most part, she is kept far from the action when things get hairy, rendering her more or less meaningless except for one neat stunt. (Ms. Chester is African-American, by the way, although the movie doesn't address her race.)

The true stars of The Lost World are, of course, the dinosaurs. It's true they are not as surprising as when we first saw them four years ago. But they are still fabulous, thanks to technical tweaking that renders the beasts in amazingly realistic detail.

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