Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 adventure novel, "The Lost World" has been seen regularly on the screen since it was first made into a popular, still effective silent movie with early Willis O'Brien stop-motion effects in 1925. Several other versions, inferior ones, have appeared ever since then. Television series have also come and gone. I have not read Doyle's novel, but seen many of the film versions and some episodes of a television series adapted from it. And out of them all, I have to say that 2001's version, directed by Stuart Orme, is by far the best one of them all.
Orme's "The Lost World" is a very engaging, absorbing, and above all entertaining adaptation of the novel. Perfectly cast, wonderfully-written, tense in action and mystery, and aware of how to play its running time. The film clocks at close to three hours in length, and yet it does not slow down. It is one of those rare long films that you actually want to keep on going. I myself when I finished watching it for the first time kept wishing it was another half-hour or a full hour longer, because it was such a compelling piece of art.
The movie is perfectly cast with a wide variety of European actors, appropriate considering the film at first starts off in the Old World. Instead of just casting accented Americans, the filmmakers played it off wisely and therefore, the performances are far more authentistic and convincing. Bob Hoskins was superb as the notorious scientist George Challenger, who wants to prove the existence of this Lost World where dinosaurs still live into the present day. The character of Professor Summerlee has been improved since the 1925 version, so that the character is more developed and understood as a result of a fine performance by James Fox and a well-written script by Adrian Hodges. Matthew Rhys was very good as Ed Malone and bears a close physical resemblance to Lloyd Hughes, who played Malone in the 1925 version. For some reason, I think that's crucial for the character. John Roxton is performed very well by Tom Ward and a great new addition to the cast is Agnes Cluny, who was not in the original novel. It almost seems routine to include a female character into the story. Here, the addition is portrayed by a young and talented Elaine Cassidy. Agnes still has the adventurous spirit that previous female additions have, but she doesn't turn out as annoying as some have.
The story was very, very well-written by Adrian Hodges. Every element in the film is wonderfully done. It doesn't just jump from one main point to another and skip the commonly insignificant details in between. Because, here, the insignificant details are significant. It spends the first hour developing our cast and continues to do so throughout. They aren't actors in makeup and costumes, they are real. That's the whole idea of acting. And for once, it really pays off well. Not unexpected, there is a love subplot. Only, it is very powerful and necessary to the storyline. It plays strongly without getting overworked or sappy. And above all, is a necessary addition to the development of the characters.
The special effects of the film are a real treat. The dinosaurs were done by the same people who did the graphics and props for the hit television miniseries "Walking With Dinosaurs". And you can see there is a resemblance between these two films in terms of the dinosaurs. They look, move, and sound magnificent. Some of the most convincing CGI dinosaurs I've seen in years. The blend of graphics and live-action props are smooth and well-planned to give a sense of reality. And even more so, a sense of majesty that we ourselves feel along with the characters when they first view these magnificent animals in awe, which they inevitably will as they have and will continue to do in years to come.
To summarize it all up, I have to say that 2001's version of "The Lost World" is a true masterpiece and the finest film adaptation of the popular story yet. I was amazed when I first saw it and continue to be amazed to this day. I love it even more every time I view it. I almost wish the film had been made for theaters, because it surely would have been at least a critical, if not also a commercial success for its perfect and innovating style. Audiences will be riveted and absorbed by its powerful storyline and effective action sequences. And appropriately, we are also drawn into the characters. This is a rare combination for a made-for-TV movie like this. I highly recommend it.
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