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'Lost World': Dino Might

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 23, 1997

In "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," brilliant paleontologist Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) is sleeping in her tent when the enormous head of an angry tyrannosaur pokes through the flaps. Wake up, Doc. You're in a Steven Spielberg movie, where those amazing, computer-generated animals are the real stars. Just do your best not to make your species appear too stupid.

Sarah's part of an expedition team that has been sent to Isla Sorna (scene of a second dinosaur-engineering factory -- who knew?) where those unsupervised, prehistoric critters are roaring, stomping and blowing steam through their football-sized nostrils again.

The T-rex has tracked Sarah down because of the bloody shirt dangling above her head. In an earlier scene, Sarah, along with scientist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), rescued the T-rex's injured baby. But Sarah's shirt is now covered with baby rex's goo. She tried to do the right thing, but explain that to a teed-off, building-sized parent from the Upper Cretaceous Period.

How could Sarah, who's supposed to know these things, not realize the shirt is the Mesozoic equivalent of catnip? Simple: If characters (especially scientists) in horror flicks weren't such noodleheads, you wouldn't have a movie. Who would knowingly venture onto an island full of man-eating monsters, especially after the grisly events that took place in the 1993 "Jurassic Park"?

Let me tell you who: two teams with different agendas. The good guys have been sent to document the wildlife by original genetic engineer John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough). They include Sarah, Ian and Ian's teenage daughter Kelly Curtis (Vanessa Lee Chester), who stowed away so she could be part of the action. (This is an ironclad Spielberg requirement: Kids Allowed Everywhere.)

The bad guys are militaristic bounty hunters led by Hammond's renegade nephew (Arliss Howard), who intend to capture these animals, ship them to San Diego and make a profitable spectacle out of them. "'Oooh, aaaah,' -- that's how it always starts," complains Ian, when his companions gasp admiringly at dinosaurs sloshing through a stream. "But then there's running and screaming."

He's right. It isn't long before the island's T-rexes, velociraptors and itty-bitty Compsognathuses will purge the neighborhood of human riff-raff.

The story (adapted by Spielberg and David Koepp from Michael Chrichton's "Lost World") isn't much better than "Jurassic Park." And the predictability factor is high: He who zaps a baby Compsognathus with a stun gun, then pees on his lonesome in the forest is clearly dino chow.

But, most importantly, director Spielberg and his team (including special-effects geniuses Dennis Muren of Industrial Light & Magic, Stan Winston and Michael Lantieri) are in top form. Computer generated imagery, animatronics and other cinematic arts have improved significantly since "Jurassic Park."

When the dinosaurs are onscreen, nothing else matters. When they smash headlong into trucks, the trucks lose. And when velociraptors burrow into the dirt to get into a building, while Sarah and Kelly frantically burrow to get out, your pores will run with sweat. That's what a multi-million box office hit comes down to: primal sensation, like the sight of that T-rex head pulling Sarah out of troubled sleep and into a waking nightmare.

THE LOST WORLD (PG-13) Scenes of human carnage may scare small children and intellectuals.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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