Director: Colin Trevorrow
Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum
Setting aside for a moment how the title Jurassic World Domination was right there for the taking, it’s hard to fathom how (m)any of the ideas that made it into this sixth and final(?) film survived the first draft. J. A. Bayona’s silly but handsome Fallen Kingdom left the beleaguered franchise in a semi-promising position, with the former residents of Isla Nublar roaming free about the American countryside and our cardboard heroes puzzling what the future may hold. Did anyone expect this though?
It’s four years on. In spite of all manner of intelligence, wealth and resources at our disposal, the human race has shrugged at the threat of these bygone beasts, accepting their inconvenient presence as the ‘new normal’ rather than doing anything about it. So much so, in fact, that whatever sense of awe dinosaurs were supposed to inspire has been long since depleted. For the characters in the movie and the filmmakers alike. There are far more stupid things to worry about. Chiefly, the efforts of charisma-free billionaire Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) to control world food resources by breeding giant crop-killing locusts. If you’ve had enough of plagues sweeping the globe lately, Jurassic World: Dominion says, hey, here’s some pestilence for ya.
Dodgson’s apocalyptic ambitions gather the attention of this franchise’s legacy stalwarts. Thus Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) are reunited at his remote sci-fi base; a facility that resembles a chrome donut dropped on a model railway. Malcolm – ever the greedy sellout – is on Dodgson’s payroll, but even the suave chaotician can’t condone starving the world for increased profits.
Elsewhere, but inevitably en route, we catch up with Chris Pratt’s humourless dinosaur whisperer Owen Grady, who is now living off-grid in some snowy woodland with the series’ least memorable character, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Together they are secretly raising Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon); the self-made clone of some prior tangential scientist you’ve no doubt forgotten about. Maisie is important because of her DNA. There’s plenty of expositional waffle as to why she’s essentially Dominion‘s McGuffin.
Opening and closing with narration dolled out by what sounds like a malfunctioning Alexa, there’s at least some spritely fun during a Maltese stop-off at the movie’s mid-point (where we encounter dino black market rings and follow a pacy but deeply stupid bike/raptor/plane chase). Dominion most resembles a Bond movie as envisioned by Irwin Allen. The tickbox globe-trotting seems as similarly tokenistic as 007’s, while an increasingly annoying amount of the picture is spent on the topic of Dodgson’s genetically modified locusts, with the franchise’s reptilian predators mostly used as flimsy set-dressing.
Look deeply into their soupy CGI eyes. Do their micro-brains contemplate the strange war of man that surrounds them? When it starts raining flaming insects, do they appreciate their place in Trevorrow’s apocalyptic farce? Do they reproach him? Are they sour that their relevance to the Jurassic series has been so thoroughly, baffling neutered? Are they angry or just sad?
If we direct similar questions to the actors, the answer mostly seems that they’re just bored. Pratt and Dallas Howard are arguably less realistic than the dinosaurs themselves, ambulating through the movie like emotionless automatons escaped from Michael Crichton’s other hell-park Westworld. Those high-value ‘legacy’ stars add little. Neill – already burned by Jurassic Park III – keeps most of his potential in reserve, seemingly aware that the material might not be worth his best. Dern is a little more spirited but has so little to work with. Even Goldblum’s snide Dr. Malcolm seems wearier and more pessimistic than usual, summing up the movie’s defeatist worldview and evidently bemused by the rest of his character’s pseudo scientific drivel. The one saving grace is newcomer DeWanda Wise as hotshot pilot Kaylee Watts, who frequently raises the bar on any scene she’s in. But, with so many others grappling for screen time, she hasn’t the power to save Dominion from it’s inevitable and drawn-out nosedive.
Fallen Kingdom tilted toward the nutty in it’s second half, but it did so with a wry internal acknowledgement that it was embracing high-wire gothic monster movie camp. Dominion, by contrast, is sincere in all the wrong ways, lazily assuming audiences will buy laser-pointer guided raptors and pterodactyl defense shields as legitimate parts of it’s universe and not bottom-of-the-barrel contrivances that openly insult our intelligence. Once the film hunkers down in Dodgson’s valley of violence it becomes nothing more than a banal slog to the end, devoid of ingenuity or surprise. Trevorrow was bounced off of The Rise of Skywalker which is part of how and why he ended up helming this thing. And if you’ve wondered what could’ve possibly made the most recent cinematic Star Wars capper worse, Dominion suggests we may actually have gotten off lightly.
The two movies are quite similar in their shoddy assemblage and toothless disrespect for all that’s gone before. Six movies down, we’re now long overdue a successful extinction level event for this franchise.