After Jurassic Park's success, both Spielberg and an enormous number of fans put pressure on Michael Crichton to write a sequel. The author had already written plenty of books but he'd never taken a stab at a sequel before. It was a quick turnaround and right as the novel was published in 1995, production began on the film version. Having actually read the novel long before I saw The Lost World I went into this film with high expectations. Crichton did a phenomenal job on his first ever sequel and unfortunately the expertise in story telling and building upon Jurassic Park didn't carry over to the film.
I don't have too many specific issues with The Lost World. The largest gripe I've got toward this film is the screenplay written by David Koepp. The reason Jurassic Park succeeds so well is because its working with just enough characterization to make its characters human and genuine without ever going overboard or losing focus on the film's true direction. Koepp has a shared writing credit with Crichton on the original film but worked alone on the sequel. Seeing such a success followed by a failure leads me to believe that the duo was able to strike up a really perfect working relationship. Crichton's novel has much more character depth and development but that's the language the medium speaks. Working with a screenwriter like Koepp forced Crichton to choose exactly what character traits were important enough to make it into the film, which descriptors would truly drive these characters home, etc. Koepp then made sure that the film kept a brisk pace and would play well onscreen. It's actually a great idea for a writing team especially since Crichton's novels are already written in such a cinematic fashion. Crichton's heart definitely wasn't in the idea of adapting the sequel novel for film based on the reason he wrote it in the first place. So the job fell solely on Koepp who approached the material in much the same way he did Jurassic Park. Except this time he didn't have a wall to bounce ideas off of and the film runs into problems that its predecessor was able to avoid. Koepp oversimplifies the characters so much that we really don't care about any of them. They end up playing genre roles rather than being actual people. Sure the film moves along briskly and has far more action than the first but because we don't care about the people that the action is happening to, all that falls on deaf ears.
Getting away from the film's writing, the other big issue is its heavy reliance on CGI. There's less of a marriage between practical FX and digital ones in this film and due to the higher level of dinosaurs in the film, any and all flaws become much more apparent. It hardly looks terrible but I truly feel that comparing the FX of Lost World to Jurassic Park is a bad idea. I think the first film did it better and even the four years of CGI development wasn't enough to allow this film to rely as heavily as it does on them.
I think my ultimate issue with The Lost World though resides in its spirit. This isn't an adventure film, it's an action film. The wonder that emerges from watching the Brachiosaur stand on it's hind legs to reach the highest branches of a tree or a baby Velociraptor pushing its way out of an egg has been almost completely done away with. The image above shows the closest sequence in film that has this kind of adventurous spirit. And after about forty seconds it turns into a CGI filled chase sequence that loses all the wonder it started out with. It' definitely the pressure that gets put on a sequel to outdo the original but unfortunately The Lost World ends up playing out like a film created solely to sell tickets.