Dino Dicember #17: The Lost World (1998)

This one was really a given (and yes, we’re reviewing an adaptation of Burroughs’ The Land That Time Forgot next), not featuring Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in Dino Dicember…. just wouldn’t have been right. I would have kicked myself if i didn’t.

Then again, it didn’t immediately came to me as an obvious choice, since most people nowadays think about the second Jurassic Park movie, Lost World: Jurassic Park, loosely based on Michael Chrichton’s book The Lost World (sequel to Chrichton’s own Jurassic Park book), itself borrowing elements from (and paying direct homage to) the original 1912 novel of the same name by Arthur Conan Doyle, and even the 1925’s film adaptation of the book, which we briefly referenced before.

Of course we’re not reviewing that version (because it would make the quality of movies featured in this special too high)… not that The Lost World lacks film or tv adaptations, quite the opposite, so in this case i made a compromise and choose a version that’s not that recent or that old. Because i really didn’t want to do the 2005 version by The Asylum, since that company is overly featured here and that movie it’s also a mockbuster of Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Maybe next year.

Regardless, the plot of this 1998 version will still ring familiar, as it is the quintessential example of this type of story, with a team of people venturing into an expedition to prove that dinosaurs didn’t all went extinct (after a meeting where professors ridicule the concept), but somehow survived and thrived in a remote location.

While most of the elements from the novel are present and most of the narrative structure is the same, this is a very loose adaptation, with many changes, down to the first act, featuring the character George Challenger who embarks on the expedition thanks to informations given to him by the character of Maple White… but even so, we actually see some of the events concerning the original expedition to the “lost world”, which is situated in a plateu in Mongolia, instead of the Amazon basin.

Overall, the context for most of the events (even the ones that the movie actually incorporates, like the baby pterodactyl) is also quite different, as is the ending, which – without spoiling much – basically denies a follow up of sorts (and feels more in line with The Land That Time Forgot, ironically), the opposite of the novel. Even the 1992 film adaptation had a direct sequel, which also came out in 1992, but apparently has very little to do with any of A.C. Doyle’s books.

With all of that, how does this very loose adaptation of “The Lost World” fares overall?

Even without considering or caring how much loyally it adapts the source material, it’s a pretty bad movie. Cast is a bit better than usual, made as it is by solid “movie B-listers”, solid but fairly forgotten TV actors, and people that have more of a career in voice acting, videogames but far less in movies; it’s no wonder some covers just put Patrick Bergin’s name for marketing.

Characters are stupid and stock, you look at them and immediatly know what they’re about: the british bickering professor, the lead, the trigger happy hunter with few scruples, the lady (TM). It’s also one of those movie where nothing important might happen for 10 minutes, then something happen in a blink of an eye, it’s one of those bad movies that ambushes you with “narrative progression”, but is also often hard to tell what actually happened, like, i’m not sure how a mosquito killed one of the guides, but literal seconds later we’re seeing them helding a funeral for the fella.

OK. SURE. Also, even if it’s not that low budget for a direct-to-video release, most special effects are bad and obvious even for 1998 (and you can tell even in screenshots), with the exception of the goofy “dinosaur kigurumi” the cavemen wear and the giant bats, especially those are still good looking, even if that opening scene is ridiculous as hell, come on, bats don’t tear people apart (off-screen, sadly) like the fuckin Doom Slayer. The dinosaurs are mostly really cheap CG, but it’s pointless to complain much, at least you expect this “quality” from a cheap low budget 1998 dinosaur movie, not so much others released decades later. And here they have half-decent dinosaur puppets, not very well posed, but it’s something i guess, seen plenty worse practical effects.

Even disregarding that, everything looks kinda cheap and fake in this movie, not in terms so much of production, but aesthetic. This is true even when the movie would be offering you “breathtaking” scenery of an ancient garden unfazed by time… the music has to do all the work because the visuals don’t really do it to any satisfying degree, there no real taste or gusto to any of it. Direction isn’t any better, as it’s very dull and often too damn basic, but it checks out, in a way, since this is directed by Bob Keen, who has more credits as special effects supervisor and/or producer on movies like like Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth and the original 1992’s Candyman.

And he’s most “famous” for one of the internet’s bad movie reviews (and Rifftrax material) “favourite” subject, To Catch A Yeti, the annoying family friendly quest of Meatloaf and his dwarf sidekick to catch one of the ugliest yeti puppets ever. I didn’t remember the director’s name at first so i didn’t immediatly connected all the pieces, but after some doing quick research, thing started making perfect sense.

This is “thankfully” not as bad, it’s just sub-par, mostly dull, kinda watchable despite not being really that intriguing, and you will immediatly forget everything about it (aside from a couple of unintentionally funny edits, costumes and scenes), which might be for the better. Not really surprised nobody bothered to even give it a cheap ass UK DVD release over time, but it’s hard to fault anyone for not really caring or even knowing about this version of The Lost World.

It may be worth a watch if you plan to use it as an example while confronting adaptations of literature classics from the early 20th centhury… but even so, you really won’t miss anything of substance, and might be annoyed by the anachronisms and incorrect dinosaurs details. You know who you are.

If you manage to not fall asleep halfway through. Or 20 minutes in. Just sleep instead.

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