Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski, ASC team up to terrorize movie audiences with The Lost World, a darker, scarier sequel to Jurassic Park.
For film fans around the world, the credit line "A Steven Spielberg Film" heralds the promise of cinematic spectacle. As one of the most naturally gifted and successful directors of all time, Spielberg has continually upped the ante for himself by helming a seemingly ceaseless string of wildly popular and critically praised pictures: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Indiana Jones trilogy, E.T., The Color Purple, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List. But with each new project, the director must confront the pressure of satisfying the viewing public's ravenous appetite for new thrills. As Spielberg himself concedes, "They expect more than I could ever possibly give them."
With The Lost World, Spielberg faces another difficult challenge: to create a compelling sequel to Jurassic Park, one of the biggest box-office blockbusters ever. It's one thing to have a monkey on your back, but a Tyrannosaurus Rex can cause some serious spinal stress. "One of the most overwhelming questions that people have asked me directly in the past few years was, 'When are you going to do a sequel to Jurassic Park?'" Spielberg says. "I've heard that for the past 15 years about E.T. as well, but I've been steadfast in my desire never to produce or direct an E.T. sequel, because it was such a personal film for me. I had a tough time saying no as steadfastly to something that is exploitable as Jurassic Park and when I say that, I mean exploitable in the sense of pure adrenalin, excitement and adventure." The premise for the new film was dreamed up by Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, but screenwriter David Koepp had to employ some deft sleight of hand to skirt around a few nagging loopholes left over from the original picture's story. As Jurassic Park fans will recall, genetically engineered dinosaurs were cloned from ancient DNA by short-sighted scientists on an island off the coast of Costa Rica with lethal consequences. The Lost World reveals that more of the giant animals were manufactured on a second island, where a hurricane has wiped out the breeding facilities and allowed the prehistoric beasts to run wild. Still hoping to capitalize on their investment, the amoral leaders of InGen, the corporation that bred the dinosaurs, have sent a group of hunters to the second island to round up some of the creatures and bring them back to the U.S. mainland, where they can be exhibited for commercial gain. Meanwhile, InGen's ousted founder, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), has turned over a new philosophical leaf after surviving the dinosaur debacle at his theme park. In the hopes of learning more about the prehistoric beasts "for the benefit of mankind," Hammond has dispatched a team of scientists led by paleontologist Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), who happens to be the girlfriend of chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), another survivor of the Jurassic Park fiasco. Mindful of the dangers that await his paramour, Malcolm trails her to the island, where the scientists and hunters soon square off against each other. But when the dinosaurs begin to get surly, the two groups of humans must join forces to ensure their own survival. According to Spielberg, the new film has a more aggressive edge than Jurassic Park, a slant that is apparent in the visual style. "There are more 'land sharks' in this movie, and more lives in harm's way," he notes. "In addition, the photography on this film is much more contrasty. From a lighting standpoint, we took a sketchier approach on this film than we did on the last one. On Jurassic Park, we let the dinosaurs reflect more light, but on this movie we let them absorb more light." Accepting the challenge of creating a distinctive photographic style for the film was cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ASC, who received a slew of accolades, including an Academy Award and an ASC Award nomination, for his superior black-and-white work on Schindler's List. Kaminski faced the unenviable task of succeeding director of photography Dean Cundey, ASC, whose smooth integration of traditional camerawork with mechanical effects and computer-generated imagery on Jurassic Park earned him the considerable admiration of his peers. Explaining the change, Spielberg says, "I offered the film to Dean first, because I would certainly never pull a sequel away from a great cameraman. Dean has done nine movies that I've either directed or produced, but he was off preparing to direct a picture when I asked him about The Lost World. "After Dean told me he was unavailable, I went straight to Janusz. As a cinematographer, Janusz is not 'one size fits all' he's much more of a chameleon. He takes the stories he does very seriously, and he marks up the scripts. He tells a cinematography story on top of the writer's or director's story, and he designs the photography according to the beats and measures of the narrative. Because of that, he's going to shoot differently on Jerry Maguire than he would on The Lost World. Over the course of his career, Janusz has put together a collection of amazing and completely different looks from picture to picture." Kaminski's association with Spielberg began shortly after the 1989 airing of Wildflower, a Lifetime television movie he shot for actor/director Diane Keaton. His work so impressed Spielberg that the director hired him to shoot the Amblin' television production Class of '61, which in turn earned Kaminski the chance to photograph Schindler's List. The cinematographer's resumé also includes The Adventures of Huck Finn, Tall Tale, Little Giants, How to Make an American Quilt and Jerry Maguire. He is currently collaborating with Spielberg on Amistad, a historical epic based upon the true story of a 19th-century slave ship rebellion. The cinematographer says that his priority on The Lost World was to come up with a visual approach that would distinguish the film from its predecessor. "Jurassic Park was very much like an amusement park ride," Kaminski notes. "The images were brighter, more colorful and more friendly. This film is much more moody and violent. Steven was not in the same frame of mind as he was when he did Jurassic Park. His last project was Schindler's List, and I think his sensibilities are a bit darker now. The Lost World is still a popcorn movie, but it's more of a thriller like Jaws. In fact, we used many of the tricks from that movie for instance, the camera might be locked in on someone's face, and all of a sudden the focus will rack back to a huge dinosaur's head behind them. When the person turns, we then cut back to a shot over the dinosaur to capture the fear in the character's eyes. It's very scary." In planning the look of The Lost World, Spielberg made extensive use of storyboards, which helped him to map out the film's complex action setpieces in a clear, precise manner. "We had almost 1,500 storyboards on this picture," he reveals. "I shot them pretty accurately. I would say that 80 percent of the storyboards are in the movie, but that's mainly because the film is one setpiece after another. You can't wing things like that, because every department needs to know, often months in advance, what to prepare for those shots. For a complicated special effects and mechanical effects movie like The Lost World, the storyboards are a priori. On a story like Schindler's List or Amistad, storyboards really get in the way of discovering how to tell the story on a daily basis. I never do storyboards for dramatic scenes, but I will do storyboards for anything involving action and logistics. When you have a sequence involving stampeding dinosaurs, you have to know where the actors are going before you consult with the effects experts about where to put the dinosaurs." Although the director found inspiration for the film's style in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Lost World, he also referenced a variety of vintage films for visual cues. "Older movies are always running through my mind," he says. "On this film, my references were things like King Kong, Godzilla, a couple of Roger Corman and Alfred Hitchcock films, and a lot of 1950s monster movies, like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Gorgo, and all of those other 'chase, crush and devour' films." Kaminski says, "Steven said to me at one point, 'I want this to look like an old glossy Hollywood movie, but I don't want it to feel dated.' So that was basically the approach. We did include a lot of homages in the movie, though; there's even one shot of Japanese tourists running in front of a big CGI T. Rex!" The cinematographer adds, however, that he had some of his own visual references in mind. "Alien and Blade Runner were the two films I looked at," he says. "The biggest compliment Steven gave me was during the shoot. He came back to the set after doing some cutting, and said to me, 'Man, it's so moody, it looks like Alien!'"
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