The Lost World: Jurassic Park

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite
Extras: Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, Photo Galleries, Dinosaur Encyclopedia, Trailers, Production Notes, Cast & Crew Biographies

Four years after "Jurassic Park" first hit theaters and wowed audiences, Steven Spielberg returned to direct the sequel to the first blockbuster, also based on a novel by Michael Crichton. As a matter of fact the entire creative team behind "Jurassic Park" returned to create "The Lost World" which created very high expectations for the movie. Sadly the sequel compares in no way to the original movie and only the spectacular special effects, which were pushing technology yet again, stood out as a singular highlight in the end result. Just as "Jurassic Park," Universal Home Video is releasing "The Lost World" as a Collector’s Editon that contains the film as well as a wealth of great bonus materials.

"The Lost World" takes us to Site B, another remote island off the coast of Costa Rica where John Hammond raised the animals he planned to put on display in "Jurassic Park." After the disaster witnessed in the first film, and with his health failing, he sends a group of four scientists to the island to see if the ecosystem on this prehistoric habitat is still intact. Once the scientists get there they discover that unscrupulous men in Hammond’s own company made plans to move some of the animals off the island to a smaller version of "Jurassic Park," a theme park in the heart of San Diego. To prevent another debacle, the scientists decide to sabotage the big game hunters, but soon they are all threatened by the dinosaurs and try to cling to their very lives.

Like its predecessor, "The Lost World" boasts some incredible CGI work that brings to life dinosaurs with more realism than we had ever thought possible. While the film somewhat disappoints on the variety of dinosaurs, the integration of the special effects with the live action footage is incredible. Especially the Stegosaurus sequence is magnificent and superbly done. The re-use of Raptors and T-Rex to drive the story once again appears a little too convenient, while most other dinosaurs are featured as sideshow attractions only. I am sure most people went to see "The Lost World" for the dinosaurs and simply seeing a rehash of almost identical scenes from the first movie is unfortunately not enough. The rainy nighttime T-Rex attack, smashing cars is just too familiar to really excite, and the Velociraptors hunting as a pack are presented as just about the same scenario as in the first film. In the end of the movie we even get to see a Godzilla incarnation of the T-Rex stomping through San Diego, complete with a shot of Japanese tourists running from the behemoth… thank you, but no, thank you.

Although the computer generated images of "The Lost World" are just as impressive as in "Jurassic Park" in technical terms, one can’t help but feel that the story of "The Lost World" was hastily patched together – both in the novel and the movie. It seems obvious that Crichton was determined to cash in on the stellar success of "Jurassic Park" and regardless of quality churned out a book that was converted in an equally bad screenplay. Almost every event in the film feels stilted and uninspired. Events just happen all too coincidentally. Need some examples? Sarah is in danger to be attacked by three stegosauruses and instead of running away from them, she jumps right in the center among the three to make sure they all get a good shot at her. Sarah and Nick later capture a wounded baby T-Rex. It never occurs to them that the parents could follow, not even after hearing the T-Rex roar and stomp nearby while the baby is squealing away. After witnessing a T-Rex attack first-handedly and treading dangerous territory, one of the big game hunters sits down in the jungle and – get this – listens to his walkman, causing the death of his fellow because he couldn’t hear the cries. Kelly, Ian Malcom’s daughter, is usually petrified in shock and in tears every time a dinosaurs comes in the picture. In one particularly suitable scene however, she decides to show off her gymnastics skills under mortal danger, predicts the position of a Raptor after her acrobatics, and knocks the dinosaur through a glass window, only to slumber down in tears again seconds later. Even with a lot of goodwill, these, and countless other examples, just don’t make sense and destroy the illusion and credibility of the movie.

Universal Home Video has prepared a similar package for "The Lost World" as we have seen for "Jurassic Park." The film itself is presented in a beautiful <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> version that nicely reproduces the movie’s images. The transfer is absolutely clean and without defects or speckles, and to a degree I even found it somewhat more detailed than the one found on "Jurassic Park." Colors are superbly rendered, creating atmospheric images that use light and shadow very efficiently. Skintones are very natural looking even under dark lighting conditions. The blacks in the transfer are solid and deep, giving the image visual depth, yet maintaining a good level of shadow detail throughout. The transfer does not show any signs of edge-enhancement and the ringing artifacts that come with it, thus creating a very smooth and film-like look. The material has been carefully compressed and the presentation is mostly free of compression artifacts of any sort.

"The Lost World" comes with an aggressive <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix in English, as well as a <$DS,Dolby Surround> track in French. The audio is very active and boasts a very wide frequency response. From the lowest bass to the highest overtones, the audio track is a powerhouse that shows just how well multi-channel presentations can sound like. Making aggressive use of the discrete surrounds, the movie features very strong ambient sound effects to create an immersive sound field, that is full of life. However, dialogues appear a bit under-mixed, and have a tendency to be somewhat covered up by the drones of sound effects and John Williams’ highly percussive score. A little more balance in that respect wouldn’t have hurt, but overall, you get an immaculate audio presentation on this release that is sure to please.

This disc also contains over 60 minutes of supplemental material, most of which are not very unlike those found on "Jurassic Park." First off there is a documentary called "Making The Lost World" that features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage form the production of the movie. As expected, it is an interesting and well prepared documentary that doesn’t come off strictly as a promo piece, but offers some really valuable insight. Two deleted scenes are also part of the DVD, both of which are rather weak and would have contributed nothing to the actual film. As such it certainly was a wise decision to have the cut.

About 120 illustrations and sketches can also be found on the disc, made up of fully detailed, color scene illustrations, vehicles sketches, character designs. Interestingly many of the scenes displayed in this gallery never made it into the movie. As a matter of fact, they almost look like scenes that were part of the original "Jurassic Park" novel, and as such it is quite interesting to see these sketches. This section is complemented by 12 fully storyboarded scenes from the film, including an unshot air attack scene involving Pterodactyls, as well as an alternate ending of the movie, also involving Pterodactyls.

In a separate gallery of photos, you will have the chance to see many of the miniature models that were built for the movie. Although consisting of only 9 images, this section shows nicely how elaborate these models are.

Another image gallery called "The World Of Jurassic Park" consists of sketches, illustrations and models of all the dinosaurs from both movies, as well as a look at many of the maquettes and full scale animatronic models built at Stan Winston’s studio. It is an impressive look at the magic behind the scenes that made much of the illusion possible and is rounded out by a look at the original vehicles from the movie.

"The Magic Of ILM" is a photo gallery that gives viewers a glimpse at many of the effects shots created for the movie. It is not only focussed on the digital imagery but also shows many of the practical effects that were employed in the film. Especially the storyboards that were created using the original background plates are fascinating to see and nicely illustrate how the computer generated part of the film had been prepared.

The special features on this disc are rounded out by production notes, cast and crew biographies, a gallery of production photographs and publicity stills, an extensive gallery of posters – most of which were never used it appears – and toys. The Dinosaur Encyclopedia, and the trailers included on this disc are the same as found on the "Jurassic Park" DVD.

Admittedly, I do not think much of the movie itself, other than that it is an entertaining dino romp. The DVD however is sensational with a great presentation of the movie and a wealth of bonus materials to support the film and to offer insight into the production. With such a solid package, you can rest assured that fans of the film will not be disappointed. Do you need some vacation? Here’s is your adventure travel package to "The Lost World."

Direct comparison of the Dolby Digital version of The Lost World with the <$DTS,DTS> version:

After comparing the Dolby Digital version of "Jurassic Park" with the DTS version, I decided to do the same with Universal’s release of "The Lost World" and hardly surprising, the results are practically identical as in the case of "Jurassic Park."

Compared to the Dolby Digital version of the DVD, the DTS version of "The Lost World" does not contain the deleted scenes and the photo gallery with storyboards to make room for the additional space required for the DTS audio track.

In technical terms once again, we have identical video transfers in which every pixel is identical, just as we have seen in "Jurassic Park." Once again, Universal has used the exact same compressed video stream for both versions and simply replaced the audio tracks underlying the video. Since this is the most efficient way to handle it, it is surprising that other publishers actually create recompressed video streams for their DTS releases.

But even in the audio department, the similarities are striking. Once again we have a DTS presentation on the disc that is strikingly similar to the Dolby Digital version. Once again I was unable to spot differences between the different tracks, which once again shows, just how good Universal is dealing with its Dolby Digital assets. I wonder if you could measure the differences between the tracks – after all, there has to be a difference, albeit an inaudible one.

Just as in the case of "Jurassic Park" you don’t gain much from the DTS version, as strange as it may sound. The lack of some of the supplements found on the Dolby Digital version may make that version a better choice, but I also understand that a true audiophile would never want to pass on a DTS version when it is so readily available.