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The Lost World AND
Return To The Lost World
cast: John Rhys-Davies, David Warner, Tamara Gorski, Eric McCormack, and Nathania Stanford

director: Timothy Bond

95 / 90 minutes (PG) 2002
MIA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Paul Broome
Arthur Conan Doyle's tale of a lost kingdom, patrolled by dinosaurs, is a classic of English fiction. It's full of action, drama, and larger-than-life characters and has an explosively memorable finale. Many, many film and TV adaptations have been attempted (several in the wake of Jurassic Park, of course), and this has to be both one of the worst and also one of the most entertaining. Quite how it manages both, I'm still not sure.
   Anyway, a quick synopsis for those not in the know... Young American journalist Edward Malone (Eric McCormack from Will And Grace) is looking for a break in the competitive world of London journalism. After begging his editor for a difficult assignment he is sent off to interview the volcanically ill-tempered Professor Challenger (John Rhys-Davies, Gimli in the Lord Of The Rings) - after a brief bout of fisticuffs, Malone wins the trust of Challenger who confides in him his latest discovery: the Lost World - a world which he stumbled upon during a previous expedition in Africa, an expedition cut short due to sabotage. However, the scientific community holds his claims in derision, and Challenger's archenemy Professor Summerlee (David Warner - file under: nasty smug English bloke) is at the forefront of the opposition. In order to prove once his discovery once and for all, Challenger proposes a new expedition to be led by Summerlee. And off they go (accompanied by Malone, young pretty American photographer Jenny Nielson (Tamara Gorski), Jim the 13-year old stowaway, and exotic African guide Malu).
   All manner of exciting things happen from here on in, not least the confirmation that Challenger has indeed discovered his Lost World - complete with rubber dinosaurs! Of course, something goes a bit wrong, so they have to put it right, and Challenger and Summerlee become buddies, and Jenny falls for Edward who is falling for Malu, and the rubber dinosaurs go 'grrr'. Then they go home, and guess what, the scientific community still doesn't believe them! Until... But I won't reveal the climax - which in the book is big and impressive, and in the film is... erm, 'cloying'.    The acting is nothing short of okay: Rhys-Davies and Warner respectively provide their usual 'gruff but loveable bear of a man' and 'smug anal Englishman' roles, McCormack also gives his usual 'Mr Nice' performance, Gorski is watchable, and the rest of cast have about as much characterisation as the decidedly dodgy hand-puppet dinosaurs. Indeed, it's hard to believe that little over 10 years ago, this is the best an SFX department could come up with...
   The sequel (obviously made at the same time as the first film) features the same kind of stuff, but this time with a slightly 'edgier' plot involving the potential destruction of the Lost World by a greedy profiteering Belgian oil prospector - who unwittingly awakens a dormant volcano (in between throwing natives off of cliffs). The heroes are reassembled, come back to save the day, and do their eco-warrior bit for the dinosaurs. (Indeed, it's hard to believe that Conan Doyle had quite so many politically-correct notions in his original text... so I think judicious reinterpretation has been carried out here, hence the give away 'based on' prefacing Conan Doyle's name). While there's probably more action in this film, it's also much, much sillier.
   All in all, entertaining viewing for a Sunday afternoon - but don't go out of your way to see these two, and don't expect to be awestruck by the special effects.
   DVD extras (on both discs): trailer, very basic text biographies of the main cast (proving that they have actually made some good films!) and the director, a small selection of stills. In other words, not a lot!

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