King of the Lost World (2005) review

King of the Lost World posterIf you have never heard of KING OF THE LOST WORLD, you’re lucky – or at least you were, until you started reading this review. Sorry about that, but if I had to suffer through watching this movie, the least you can do is suffer the knowledge of the film’s existence. Just be thankful I took the bullet for you.

Anyway, this paradigm of low-budget exploitation proceeds from The Asylum, a company whose rai·sons d’être is the creation of direct-to-video schlock cleverly titled to cash in on high-profile theatrical releases. Thus SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006) begat SNAKES ON A TRAIN (also 2006); even better, The Asylum’s I AM OMEGA (2007) conflated the title of  2007’s I AM LEGEND with its 1971 predecessor, THE OMEGA MAN. Continuing their strategy of expending more creative ingenuity on their titles than their films, The Asylum one-upped their word-splicing technique to create KING OF THE LOST WORLD, a moniker so loaded with potential it leaves you wondering just what, exactly, is being appropriated.

At first glance, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997) looks like a good candidate, but the Asylum usually targets current releases, so perhaps KING KONG (2005) is the true source of “inspiration” – a theory buttressed by the presence of a giant ape on the cover art. But when you pop the disc into your player, the film starts with survivors of an airplane crash realizing they are stranded on an island filled with much mysterioso weirdness, and you realize that the LOST television series is being sourced as much as anything.

The screenplay pretends to be based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, which is in the public domain and thus grants The Asylum license to riff on (or rip off) films with similar story lines – including the previously mentioned KING KONG. Oh well, what goes around comes around, I guess. Strictly speaking, the only connection between the book and the movie is some character names and the general idea of an isolated, prehistoric world surviving in present day.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering what happens in the movie, and the answer is: not much. We see bits and pieces of the crashed plane but not the whole thing because that would be too expensive. As Challenger, a mysterious man with a secret, Bruce Boxleitner (TRON, BABYLON 5) shows up to provide some name value, and like the pieces of the airplane, he is shown in brief cuts meant to convince us that he is, indeed, in the movie, though not always with the rest of the cast. (Steve Railsback shows up in a cave later to provide similar service.)

Our intrepid crew realize that this island is a graveyard for crashed planes. If they can just get to the other half of their plane (which somehow ended up miles away), maybe they can send out an SOS and get themselves rescued. Not much of a plan, but it gives them an excuse to trek across the island, encountering the occasional enlarged arachnid and some flying reptiles that look more like dragons than pterodactyls.

Eventually, the survivors find a primitive tribe that might not be indigenous: it kinda-sorta seems to be populated by previous crash victims – at least, we see some of our survivors subsumed into the group. The reasons for this development are not made clear; presumably it was to justify the casting of actors who do not particularly look as if they were born on an uncharted island.

King of the Lost World

It's King Kong - er, King of the Lost World.

Needless to say, being primitives, the “locals” (or are they “ferals”?) make sacrifices to their local deity, who turns out to be a furry, blurry piece of computer-generated imagery somewhat resembling a giant gorilla. He shows up in the last reel to justify the word “king” because if you rent a film called KING OF THE LOST WORLD, and there’s no giant gorilla in it, you’re going to be disappointed (as if you weren’t already).

The cast and crew apparently intended to make a decent B-flick rather than a send-up, but good intentions and halfway decent performances take you only so far. The dragons look goofy; the ape is worse. The plot threads do not so much tie these monster scenes together and string them along, and it is hard to get invested in the mystery (is Challenger a good guy or a bad guy, and does he know something that may help the survivors?) when said mystery plays out against a backdrop that includes a tribe of islanders whose members seem to have wandered in from a frat party.

As silly as all this sounds, none of it is really much fun, not even as deliberate camp. You would probably have a better time watching a man-in-a-suit stomp around some miniatures, instead of watching blurry pixels stutter across your screen. There are many films far cheesier and technically incompetent than KING OF THE LOST WORLD; ironically, some of those are far more entertaining.

KING OF THE LOST WORLD (The Asylum, 2005). Directed by Leigh Scott. Screenplay by Carlos De Los Rios, David Michael Latt, Leigh Scott, based on The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. 80 minutes. Rated R. Cast: Bruce Boxleitner, Jeff Denton, Rhett Giles, Sarah Lieving, Christina Rosenberg, Steve Railsback.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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