“Jurassic World: Dominion” dares to ask the question “What if Steven Spielberg hated movies but made them anyway?” Filled with performers who consistently give great performances and Chris Pratt, maybe the most unexpected thing is how turgid and inert the whole cast is here. You can dress dinosaurs in shoddy CGI all you want, but how dare you make Dame Laura Dern seem awkward! The original film in the series inspired a love of dinosaurs and science in a generation of children. So maybe it’s only right that this “final chapter” of the “Jurassic saga” marks the intellectual dark ages we’re so obviously cruising towards. Bring on the apocalypse comet!
Picking up a few years after the events of the last film, the full name of which literally no sentient being remembers, “Dominion” opens with the first of many, many exposition dumps. Writer Emily Carmichael and writer/director Colin Trevorrow flip the script so hard on “show don’t tell” that a scene late in the film has a plan revealed by a recording that is playing for no one, recorded for no understandable reason. Anyway, the first visit to the plot vomitorium produces the following bile: We’re not getting the “OMG, dinosaurs are everywhere” movie that the last one set up. I want to say that last movie was called “Jurassic World: Tyrannosaurus XXX.” Am I close?
At nearly 150 minutes, “Dominion” takes forever to do what every “Jurassic” movie does: Put its human characters in a confined setting with dinosaurs. At the beckoning of Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), Drs. Ellie Sattler (Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) go to a big evil tech company’s campus to investigate giant locusts that are going to destroy the world’s food supply. Meanwhile, Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) head to that same location to rescue their adopted daughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon). If you have intentionally forgotten, Maisie was revealed to be a clone in the last movie. I want to say it was named “Jurassic World: Velociraptured.”
In what is wildly disappointing news, Maisie is not a hybrid human/dinosaur clone. That is only slightly less upsetting than the film choosing to make insects the central antagonists in a “Jurassic Park” movie. Hilariously, the plot hinges on Sattler and Grant having to gather evidence that the biotech company that collected all the runaway dinosaurs and produces genetically modified crops is responsible for genetically modified giant locusts that destroy crops that aren’t made by the biotech company. It’s as exciting as watching people solve a monochromatic Rubik’s cube or watching people watch the previous film in this series. I want to say it was titled “Jurassic World: Be Right Brachiosaurus.”
Here’s the most infuriating, maddening thing: the final moments morph into a lecture on climate change. I’m sorry, but this is not a “message movie,” unless the message is “If bad filmmakers get put into director jail, Colin Trevorrow belongs on cinematic death row.” Fighting climate change is a good thing and a valid theme to weave into narrative fiction. But what the hell is that doing at the end of a dinosaurs rampaging movie? This is like if at the end of the Transformers series, Optimus Prime started monologuing against institutional racism. You’re right, Prime. You’re totally right, but it feels like you’re not the right spokesman and this isn’t the right time.
There’s so much more to hate, including the way everyone in these movies can now calm whatever dinosaur they want by slowly showing them their open palm like they’re pushing an invisible wall. If mimes had that kind of power, they wouldn’t have been hunted to near extinction. The CGI is unimpressive at best, embarrassing at worst, likely yet another case of hardworking artists forced to slave away against an impossible deadline. This won’t be the last once-beloved franchise to have its intellectual property turned into grist for billionaires’ mills. Let’s just hope it’s the last one Colin Trevorrow steers into the ditch.
Grade = F
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Jennifer Heaton at Alternative Lens says “Yes, the movie franchise defined by dinosaurs has seemingly run out of ideas for what to do with them, demoting them to mini-boss fodder and shifting focus to genetically-engineered super-locusts who threaten to cause a global food shortage.”
Catalina Combs at Black Girl Nerds says “When you work so hard to recreate scenes that once came naturally, it comes off cheesy and forced. I can’t even tally the number of easter eggs I found; if they can even be called that given the amount.”
MontiLee Stormer at Movie Reelist says “I don’t know when the ‘Jurassic’ franchise lost its way, but as it rambled along, it picked up some bloat and some bad habits, and I think it’s time for a ‘Jurassic Clan of the Cave Bear.’”