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Old November 9 2009, 03:27 AM   #1
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Location: Washington State
Conan Doyle's "The Lost World": still lacking a faithful adaptation

There have been many adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World, perhaps most memorably (though I've never seen it) the 1925 silent film that served as the special effects warm-up to King Kong. There's been a TV show and a 2001 BBC movie, which I eagerly fired up a year or so ago but quickly abandoned due to the lifeless direction and general shoddiness.

Seems to me that, in our digital effects age, the novel is conspicuously overdue for a big-screen adaptation that doesn't add an anachronistic love interest or otherwise muck up the narrative.

As I see it, there are two main obstacles to doing so:

1) The pacing. The novel's half over before they even reach the prehistoric plateau, and when they do, they dodge a few dinosaurs, have a few encounters with savage "ape-men", and then are adopted by a native human tribe for a while until they sneak back to civilization via a tunnel. It's an episodic book that doesn't readily conform to the three-act story structure.

2) The ape-men plot, which has already been "done" with the Planet of the Apes" series, doesn't hold up all that well, in that it reflects old ignorance about the nature of apes, and can all to easily be read as a Europeans vs. "others" story.

Obviously, for a hypothetical two-hour movie, the gang should reach the plateau in time for the second act, around 35 minutes at the latest. Once there, problem #1 can be addressed by retooling the humans vs. ape-men narrative, not to significantly change the premise, but to amp up the tension a bit. And while the dinosaurs don't really do much in the book, maybe there could be a Jurassic Park-style T-Rex-as-rescuer climax.

As for the ape-men, I think a neat thing to try would be to make their fur whitish. Though it wouldn't really make sense evolutionarily, it could be a creepy and original look, and when pitted against the South American native humans, could go a long way towards remedying the awkward parts of the subtext while still honoring the story and adventurous spirit of the novel.

Any other fans of the book hankering for a good adaptation?
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