The Lost World is by most measures a somewhat decent blockbuster that is still able to offer a few punchy thrills despite its age, but lacks the sense of awe and wonder that defined the original, leaving something that feels empty and hollow by comparison.
The story in The Lost World is perhaps the single weakest point. The book its nominally based on of the same name carried a similar air of obligatory sequel that clearly sprouted from a desire to cash in on the success of the original rather than to expand meaningfully on it. Despite the workmanlike prose and comically over-the-top violence though, Crichton's sequel did at least offer some degree of substance with its long passages of scientific posturing. However incongruous and rambling it may have been, it gave the book enough meat to keep you reading.
The film strips this out and instead replaces it with irritating stock characters and pointless action. There's not a single dinosaur attack in this movie that isn't brought on by the character's own stupidity. This might be fine, but the screenplay doesn't seem to be aware of this and instead seems to expect us to root for these idiots, despite the fact that their actions are responsible for most of the deaths in this movie. And though Goldblum and Postlethwaite bring charm and weight to their roles (the latter playing perhaps the only intriguing character in this film), they're not enough to save the film's convoluted and muddled storyline from descending into mediocrity.
As for the action scenes themselves, they're of somewhat mixed quality. Most just feel contrived and forgettable, paling compared to the original. However, there are at least three particular scenes that stand out from the rest - the cracking window, the long grass and the harbour scene. These scenes are worthy of anything the first film could offer - tense, exciting, imaginative, awe-inspiring. I'd even go as far as to say that they're good enough to redeem the film and make it watchable, however much the story becomes mired in uneven messages.
The effects here are another highlight, despite the 97 CGI starting to show its age. Tthe dinos here are every bit as lifelike and terrifying to behold as they were in the original. But then why does this film still feel so lacking in awe? Even discounting the sequel problem, the whole film is rudderless, never sure if it's trying to convey a deeper environmental message or just be a dumb action film. The result is less a seamless blend than a stitched-together mashup, falling flat as both.
For me, The Lost World is the nadir of the Jurassic franchise. It has neither the awe of the original, the simple entertainment of the third, nor the big-budget-action of the fourth. It's not an outright bad movie, not quite - there are some truly fantastic moments, a handful of good performances, and the dinosaurs are as cool as one could hope for. Ultimately though, The Lost World would probably have been better off staying that way.