Return to the Lost World

(Timothy Bond, Canada, 1993)


As in many movies, the basic situation here involves a native tribe under threat from cruel, hyperrational white Westerners. But is this a serious movie?

Based distantly on Arthur Conan Doyle's story of a sublime patch of Africa where dinosaurs still run free, Return to the Lost World is a film full of dynamite explosions, volcanic eruptions, twee banter between grown British men (John Rhys-Davies and David Warner) and titillating jokes about interracial sex.

Best of all, it revels in bargain basement special effects that thumb a nose at Jurassic Park (1993) and prove, once and for all, that jerky, papier mâché dinosaurs fulfil the poetic function of the cinematic medium far more exquisitely than realistic-looking ones.

For those readers who have stumbled upon this page but are likely never to rent or watch Return to the Lost World, I must recount a special video moment.

When the lost world appears doomed at the three-quarter mark, Rhys-Davies approaches a forlorn African chief, who cannot speak English. The white man's stirring speech on the need to "buck up" and "pull together" produces sudden euphoria and energy in the black man.

"My God, he seems to understand you!" exclaims Warner. That prompts a reflection from Rhys-Davies: "Hope is a universal language."

© Adrian Martin July 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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