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The thrust of a Jurassic Park sequel seems simple enough: get the dinosaurs off the island to run rampant in a big city, a la King Kong and Godzilla. But Michael Crichton's follow-up to his best-selling novel was less a continuation of the original than a rewrite. It provided just two notions that excited Spielberg: the existence of a secret island where the DNA dinos had been created, and a set piece where a T. rex tries pushing a trailer off a cliff after its babies are threatened by scientists.

So Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp fashioned a new story. Says producer Kathleen Kennedy: "In the same way Michael doesn't see writing as a collaboration, Steven went off and did his own movie. When Michael turned the book over to Steven, he knew his work was finished." The author was never consulted about the sequel, nor was he sent a script until he held back approval of certain merchandising rights. But Crichton now sounds sanguine about the process. "When I write," he says, "I have to have the book be exactly the way I want it to be, and that's that. The movie will be exactly the way the director wants it to be. And that's that."

In the film, a T. rex does get off the island--to San Diego. "It was something I was saving for a third Lost World movie," Spielberg confides. "When I realized that I would probably leave that directing job to someone else, I selfishly wanted to see the action of a T. rex stomping down a suburban street chomping homeowners." He believes the sequel's dinosaur robots--some of which cost $1 million each and weighed 9 1/2 tons--are more dynamic than those in the original film. "The animals are more involved in helping to tell the story," he says. "They also have more people to eat because in The Lost World there are more characters--many of whom are eminently deserving of being eaten." The city scenes were shot behind barricades so nosy neighbors wouldn't know what was being filmed. "It looked like road-repair work was going on," says the director.

The technology that brought digitized dinosaurs to life in Jurassic Park has not advanced considerably, Spielberg notes, "but the artistry of the creative computer people has--they graduated from freshmen to the senior class by making movies like Casper and Jumanji. There's better detail, much better lighting, better muscle tone and movement in the animals. When a dinosaur transfers weight from his left side to his right, the whole movement of fat and sinew is smoother, more physiologically correct." Adds Industrial Light & Magic computer-graphics ace Dennis Muren: "We built the instrument for the first movie; on this one we're learning how to play it better. There are more animals [nine species here to five in the first film] and more effects shots [85 to 52]." For the effects team, Spielberg was a canny guide and a great audience. Says Muren: "He'll howl with glee if something is exciting to him, say, a person getting attacked by a T. rex. He just can't contain himself."

The director was even more excited when his wife Kate Capshaw gave birth to their latest child Destry. With excellent timing, she arrived on a production day off.

--By Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles