Lost Worlds tucked away by dimensional portals or rips in the space/time continuum held a captivating grip on our imagination long before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World. The campfire tale of a technologically advanced empire in the Atlantic doomed by its own arrogance probably earned Plato the company of more than a few Greek lovelies back in the day.
But imagine if Plato’s more naive groupies hadn’t taken the philosopher at his word, and the Atlantis legend had not become confused with historical fact? We may have been deprived of underground societies where time stands still, dinosaurs still exist, and Chaka and Chongo battle for Top Teen Primate.
Whether it’s due to our fascination with the mysterious and mythical, or simply because seeing Pterodactyls flying around is cool, there seems to be no end to the appeal of hidden civilizations.
Which is why the Will Ferrell-starring revamp of Land of the Lost hits theaters this week. In recognition, here's a look at some of Newsarama's favorite "Lost Worlds" from the realms of movies, TV and comic books…
(Sorry Danger Island fans. The Lost City of Tobanya missed the cut)
10) Land of the Lost (1974 TV series)
The fact that it’s become the poster child for campy 1970s Saturday morning television diminishes this show’s true achievement: Displaying how far crafty producers can stretch a dollar. Sid & Marty Krofft used indoor sets, props, stop-motion animation – heck, everything but finger paints – to create the world the Marshalls took a header into. Yes, the backyard pool raft chroma-keyed over the river rapids in the open are painful to watch now, but if you saw this show in its initial run, you did so with wide-eyed wonder (and fright, whenever the Sleestak plodded onscreen). Hand-puppet T-Rexes were the best we could get back in the Stone Age. Deal with it.
9) The Troll Market from Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Combine the deformed faces you’d find in Tattoine’s red-light district with the sleaze of a summertime Manhattan street fair, and you approximate what Guillermo Del Toro’s hidden Troll square beneath the Brooklyn Bridge looked like. Sure, it’s technically not a ‘Lost World’ like the title of this article suggests. More like a ‘Lost Subdivision.’ Still, there is more detail packed into this sequence than any other entry on this list.
FYI, nearly all those two-headed shopkeepers and giant trolls were created with makeup and prosthetics, not CGI. Del Toro’s old school like that.
8) City of Atlantis from Stargate Atlantis (TV)
Outside of occasional periods of above-average creative during the various Sub-Mariner Marvel Comics series, the granddaddy of all Lost Worlds hasn’t really been handled well. SGA overcame critical indifference to prove itself the exception. The conceit of having Atlantis be the benchmark for the race of the Ancients and hidden beneath Antarctica was clever enough. But the notion that the Lost City could literally take off and get, err…lost, is geekily irresistible. Have stardrive, will travel.
7) Shangri-La from Lost Horizon (1937)
It’s easy to create hidden cities and societies with today’s modern FX technology. Try doing it seven decades ago, when the movie industry was still in the teething stage and Technicolor was still considered cutting edge. To adapt James Hilton’s classic novel about a Himalayan utopia, Frank Capra used creative location scouting and wound up shooting nearly the entire movie in Southern California. He also chose a great cast. And if none of this has convinced you to buy or rent this black & white classic, keep in mind that Spock’s TV mom – Jane Wyatt – is the co-star.
6) Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (2008)
Yes, the script stunk, Josh Hutcherson was dropkick-worthy as the sidekick nephew, and Brendan Fraser – actually, he was OK – but the reason the umpteenth version of Jules Verne’s 1864 novel makes the cut is this: Jumping prehistoric Piranhas. The scene were our heroic trio tries to cross the underground ocean was a visual treat, especially when Fraser put the hitting skills he picked up while making The Scout to good use. The floating rocks sequence was another standout sequence in the ‘world within our world.’ If only it were a silent picture.
5) The Savage Land (Marvel Comics)
For years, the Savage Land was the occasional setting for memorable Bronze Age storylines, mainly involving the X-Men. But just as it did with The Punisher and Venom, Marvel got greedy and wiped out the ‘special event’ status of Ka-zar’s ‘hood by going to the prehistoric well too often. It was recently the setting for a key sequence in Secret Invasion. But while not as cool as it used to be before Air Zabu started offering discount airfare, the Savage Land remains the great equalizer when city-dwelling capes pay a visit. (Note to The House of Ideas: Let’s keep those visits to a minimum, OK?)
4) Jurassic Park (1993)
Another bending of the rules, since Isla Nubar isn’t a ‘Lost City’ (or even a real one. Spielberg used Kauai’s and Oahu for the exteriors). But Jurassic Park elevated the bar so high with its groundbreaking Stan Winston-designed dinosaurs, it’s impossible to ignore. The scene where the group comes across the herd of brachiosaurus in the open field, takes your breath away (John Williams’ majestic score lent a big hand). In a completely different way, so does the moment we learn just how deadly velociraptors can be.
3) The Land That Time Forgot (1975)
If Edgar Rice Burroughs were a modern-day Hollywood screenwriter, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman would have a lot more time on their hands. Burroughs was all about high-concept. A lost island surrounded by icebergs, populated by dinosaurs and other thought-to-be extinct creatures …and throw in WWI German U-boats, why don’t you? Some of the monsters really haven’t aged well, but in its day, this was a visual treat. The fact that this was shot mostly in the Canary Islands, and not on a back lot, serves to enhance the film’s ‘island out of time’ setting. It’s all about location, location, location.
2) Skull Island from King Kong (2005)
Of course, who needs location when your special effects team can create a whole new island habitat on computers? Peter Jackson’s WETA crew pushed the boundaries of CGI filmmaking to unseen territory during the Skull Island sequence of his Kong remake. Usually, movies about suddenly found ‘Lost Worlds’ lull you into a false sense of security. ‘Look at all the pretty trees. I love nature!’
Jackson doesn’t bother with the setup. He has the audience gripping their armrests before the ship has even made it past the jagged stones that barrier the island. Giant insects, natives trapped at the lower rung of the evolutionary ladder, massively steep valleys…good grief, there’s a lot going on there. And the Kong vs. T-Rex in the Vines slugfest is worthy of PPV dollars.
1.) The Island from LOST (TV)
No location has ever been as integral to a television show or movie as the Island is to Lost. In the five years the show has been on the air, the large chunk of Pacific Rim real estate has shared top billing with the sprawling cast (especially during the time-jumping portion of Season Five). And raised more questions than provided answers.
How is it able to heal some people of their illnesses and injuries? Why is it marked with pockets of electro-magnetic energy?
Who/what is Smokie?
And what about the four-toed statue??
The mythology surrounding this TV show, and how it was crafted, will be studied for decades. There are so many storylines threaded in Lost that the franchise almost demands a multi-media expansion, because there is no way all the questions the writers have raised over the show’s five year run will be answered in the final season.
What is not to be questioned is how the setting has benefited the show. From the surfside camp the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 first established, to the camp of the Others, Jacob’s cabin, to the Orchid, the Swan and every other Dharma installation, the Island has set the mood and marked the turning point for every major development in the series.