OOOH . . . AAH . . . THAT'S HOW all this starts, but then later there's running and screaming.'' This line, spoken by Jeff Goldblum in The Lost World, is a pretty good review of the movie. Yes, running-and-screaming fans, the sequel to ""Jurassic P ark'' has arrived. Steven Spielberg's 1993 dinosaur epic is the biggest-grossing movie of all time, with worldwide receipts of nearly a billion dollars. At one screening of the sequel, ""awesome'' was the verdict of an 11-year-old. Extrapolate that and i t should be worth at least another half billion.
Or maybe not quite. For all the enhanced ingenuity of the special effects in ""Lost World,'' the element of surprise and originality (the idea of cloning dinosaurs from fossilized DNA) is no longer present. And screenwriter David Koepp (the movie i s very loosely based on Michael Crichton's sequel to his novel ""Jurassic Park'') has come up with a pretty conventional story line: get the characters back with the dinos and let them start running and screaming. Turns out there's a second island, where a group of dinosaurs has survived the disastrous closing of the dino Disneyland, Jurassic Park. A scholarly team including mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and his paleontologist girlfriend Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) goes back to study the scaly critters. They're pitted against a crew of heavily armed mercenaries led by the scheming Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard) and ace hunter Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite), who want to capture and again exploit the pea-brained giants.
Like the roller-coaster ""Jurassic Park,'' the sequel devolves into a series of set pieces in which everyone is placed in fearsome peril. Some of these are brilliantly staged: a teed-off Tyrannosaurus rex shoves a huge trailer over a cliff with Sar ah trapped inside; a swarm of mini-dinos called Compys (full name, Compsognathus) nibbles a guy to death. Another poor slob is grabbed by two T. rexes who split him like a human wishbone. The technical stuff here surpasses ""Jurassic Park,'' especially i n the interaction between creatures and humans. Still, unlike ""King Kong'' 64 years ago, none of the animals (whether computer-created or 19,000-pound robots controlled by animatronic puppeteers) has any personality. They just roar in prehistoric stereo , galumph after the running, screaming humans and flash their overbite. And, where Kong wound up mangling New York, a T. rex in ""Lost World,'' transported to the United States, rampages in the suburbs of San Diego.
We know that Spielberg loves the suburbs, where he grew up, but the only interesting thing in San Diego is the famous zoo. It might have been fun to see a T. rex meeting his successors from future eons. But Spielberg and his brilliant techies are i nterested in the dinosaurs only as lethal engines. His two dino movies are essentially digital versions of your basic, primeval BOO! flick. And there are some howlers: the ship that carries the T. rex to San Diego turns up with its entire crew chewed to pieces, but Rex is locked in the cargo hold. Did he return there after his meal to go to the john?
The cast is gallant. Goldblum finds more ways to look aghast than seem humanly possible. Postlethwaite is a potent presence with his Mount Rushmore face. Julianne Moore continues to bounce between high-art films like ""Vanya on 42nd St.,'' which sh ow what a terrific actress she is, and high-commerce flicks like this one, which show that she can be profitably terrified.
But it's Spielberg himself who's the great double personality of modern movies. As if determined to show that he encompasses all the artistic and commercial possibilities of the medium, he swings between a ""Schindler's List'' or an ""Amistad'' (hi s upcoming film on slavery) and the Indy Joneses and T. rexes. Once he was able to synthesize both in a film like ""Close Encounters of the Third Kind.'' But he's turned over his pop movies to the technologists, at the expense of story and character. At 50, he's clearly tempted by the lure of being the greatest moneymaker in movie history, and also an artist who tackles the greatest themes. He's got to be careful that, like the fellow in ""Lost World,'' he's not torn apart by two T. rex-size ambitions.