Let us be very clear about one thing: This essay has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg. His Jurassic Park sequel, also called The Lost World, shares the title merely as homage, because his movie shares some of the same subject matter as Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel. Namely, little girl gymnastics.
Besides, Jurassic Park The Lost World may be one of the weakest movies in the Spielberg pantheon, a clear case of the director phoning it in (literally. I’ve heard that Spielberg actually directed some segments via video conferencing). Half the time, they aren’t even bothering to create anything new.
See, there used to be a place called “Jurassic Park” where dinosaurs roamed an island. This island was abandoned at the end of the movie. So in Jurassic Park II, Spielberg introduces the idea of a “Site B,” a sort of backup system for the original Jurassic Park. Seriously, this is their sequel idea. They might as well have had the first movie turn out to be Bob Newhart’s dream.
It actually does feature a cool action sequence involving an RV, a cliff, a T-Rex, and breaking glass. But then it destroys itself by having Ian Malcolm’s daughter use her parallel bars routine to defeat the velociraptors. Any way, go watch Schindler’s List instead. And don’t feel too sorry for Spielberg. I have a feeling that by the time this list is over, you’re going to be sick of hearing about him.
Now that we’ve spent several paragraphs emphasizing that this is not about Spielberg, let me tell you what it’s really about. Dinosaurs. The Lost World is about a plateau in the middle of the Amazon basin where dinosaurs still walk the earth. Completely trapped and unable to break free of their humdrum existence, the dinosaurs teach themselves to hunt, build shelters, and spell out messages for passing airplanes. But of course, they must also survive the tribe of ape-men who are warring with another tribe of regular men that also live on the plateau.
If this sounds like the plot of last year’s Academy Award winning animated movie Up, it’s only because the guys at Pixar are huge Arthur Conan Doyle fans. Same goes for the makers of King Kong, The Land of the Lost, The Planet of the Apes, even John Carter of Mars. The plot is derivative now, but back when A.C.D. was churning out the pages of his serial novel, this kind of stuff was fresh and new.
I won’t bore you with the names of the party of explorers who make their way to the Lost World in order to bring back proof of its existence. Let’s just say that its leader is named Professor Challenger (that should tell you all you need to know). After surviving the dinos and joining the natives and defeating the ape-men, the party escapes via a secret tunnel and goes back to civilization, bringing along a baby pterodactyl, which promptly falls off the Empire State Building flies away.
Arthur Conan Doyle would resurrect the Professor Challenger character for several more stories, but had a hard time topping this one. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that if there were a League of Adventurers, Arthur Conan Doyle would be a charter member. It seems he’s got every aspect covered. Not only did he write tales of expeditions into uncharted jungles, he pretty much invented the modern mystery novel with his Sherlock Holmes stories.
He also has the “magic” angle, having been friends with Harry Houdini, whom he was convinced used real magic and not illusions. He was a member of The Ghost Club, investigating paranormal occurrences for legitimacy, and to top it all off, he was himself a knight, so there wasn’t much you could throw in his face.
Sadly, we do not allow life stories of real people to make the list of Extraordinary Adventures, so we’ll just have to be content with the traditional old lost dinosaur / warring ape-men story. Deal with it.
Next up, #81.