THE LOST WORLD
Professor Challenger -
Professor Summerlee -
Lord Roxton -
Edward Malone -
Agnes Cluny -
Reverend Kerr -
Written by Adrian Hodges and Tony Mulholland
Directed by Stuart Orme
OTHER DINOSAUR SHOWS
Following a dramatic expedition into the dark heart of South America's Amazon rainforest, Professor Challenger returns to London with a bone that he claims proves that dinosaurs still roam the Earth. Immediately denounced as a publicity-seeking liar, he proposes a new expedition and finds support from a sensationalist newspaper and a rich hunter. Challenger's companions on this expedition are to be his bookish and uptight colleage Professor Summerlee, a junior writer for the paper and Lord Roxton, the celebrated big game hunter. Along the way, they pick up a missionary and his naive niece. Their destination is a plateau further into the jungles than anyone has ever been, anyone except the man who drew the map that Challenger has discovered.
Following the success of the faux-documentary series WALKING WITH DINOSAURS, it was inevitable that the team who built on JURASSIC PARK to give us even more living, breathing big lizards would be asked to provide more dino mayhem. For this, they have turned to the creaky old Arthur Conan Doyle boys' own adventure tale of lost plateaus and isolated communities of still-living dinosaurs. That's fair enough - it beats writing a new storyline and none of the many earlier versions have really done it justice. Well this BBC TV mini-series has a damned fine go at it, mixing state of the art CGI dinos with big name actors and a real sense of good old-fashioned adventure story.
Bob Hoskins looks absolutely right for the part of the maverick scientist Professor Challenger. He has the exact mix of arrogance, enthusiasm, bullishness and, yes, charm that the part requires. He powers the story along and dominates the proceedings in this opening episode despite having some good support. Matthew Rhys is appealingly boyish as the would-be journalist out for adventure more to impress his girlfriend than because he wants to be and Tom Ward has a fine streak of raffishness that offsets his superior smirk and attitude as the impossibly handsome and dashing Lord Roxton. Elaine Cassidy is appealing as the socially bereft Agnes who isn't above playing mean tricks on those she thinks have insulted her and Peter Falk steals a few scenes along the way as a bible-thumping missionary. The only really false note is struck by the usually reliable James Fox whose Professor Summerlee is stiffer than a sackful of starched collars.
The setting for the story is absolutely marvellous. London is represented by a few interior shots of a stuffy lecture theatre, but the open spaces of New Zealand (apparently all outdoor epic shots have to be done in New Zealand now) are stunning and give the production a real sense of scale and wonder.
The plot fair zips along with lots of eventful moments (coral snakes in a feeding frenzy, walking across a seemingly bottomless chasm, attacks by pterosaurs) and climaxes on an exciting, but not quite cliffhanging moment. The script is occasionally clunky (those coral snakes appear only moments after they have been mentioned) and the interesting debate between science and religion could have been given a bit more space to develop, but there is plenty for the actors to get their teeth around.
All in all, the opening episode of THE LOST WORLD is a thoroughly entertaining romp.Top
Continuing to search the plateau for a way down, the Challenger expedition discovers that they are not alone. Not only are there lots of dinosaurs to contend with but there are also two warring tribes of people. One tribe is a barely evolved group of ape men who feed on the flesh of the other tribe, more advanced native indians not unlike the bearers of the lands below the plateau. The expedition wanders into the conflict between these two tribes and Challenger manages to broker a truce whilst he studies the ape men. An attack by a pair of 'man-killers', though, leads to tragedy and the expedition's end.
After the very entertaining opening episode, things go a bit flat in this conclusion. The initial encounter with the ape folk has a nicely brutal, violent edge to it that is completely unexpected even though the creatures themselves are not altogether convincingly realised. They are more than wild animals, however, as the rest of the episode slowly reveals. The time spent with the indian tribe is what slows everything down. Where before we had pterosaurs and man-eating dinosaurs we get indian marriage rituals and ape men child burials. Things rally towards the end as the big, flesh-eating dinosaurs go on the rampage through the indians' camp and the expedition face treachery and death. Much of this unexpected (what happens to Roxton and exactly how), but it also seems to be a bit rushed once the main job of killing the big meat eaters is over. It's almost as if there's just too much plot to get in, which is a shame as it could have been better than the happy family pictures of the indian village.
Back in London, the love triangle that has developed is resolved and there are some nicely judged digs at the inevitable exploitation of both the plateau and its inhabitants. Challenger may have brought the truth to the world, but the world will now most surely destroy it.
Whilst this second half is a step down from the first, the series as a whole is a fine attempt to capture the spirit of the novel and won't leave many people not having a good time.Top
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