Jurassic World Dominion

Rating:

DINO MIGHT

Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Plans continue to come together for my radical stage revival of the wholesome family classic, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, now re-envisioned and retitled Chicken Strips and Ranch Dressing for our more puritanical times.  I’ve reached out to the Supreme Court to see if Sam Alito will pen a little bon mot praising us that we can use in our multi-media advertising campaign. 

Don’t worry, there’s not really any spice in that ranch!

I’ve contracted with a bright new advertising agency, A + D Unguent, and Ashlyn and David are making raising public awareness of the forthcoming tour their highest priority.  They’ve got a whole interactive game that downloads from something called a QR code where the little tykes can try pinning the prairie dress of Miss Mona rather than pinning the tail on the donkey.  I, of course, have full final approval of colors and fabric tones.  Gingham is so early 20th century.

Ashlyn and David also have this idea of a promotional tie in with Chick-Fil-A where every kid’s meal gets a free Vicki Lester as Madam Miss Mona doll with three interchangeable outfits – collect them all.  My hairdresser says that Chick-Fil-A might not be the best business partner for my fan base, but I don’t see what the issues could possibly be. 

When I think of all of those little girls and boys, dreaming someday of the love and excitement and fabulous clothes and shoes that someone with my star power embodies, what could be more natural and wholesome than that?  I’m sure that the Cathey family will be entirely receptive to our overtures.  At least it’s not another superhero, or Transformer, or dinosaur.

Speaking of dinosaurs, I noted that the Jurassic Park franchise had another film come out this summer, Jurassic World Dominion, the sixth in the franchise and the completion of the Jurassic World trilogy that began a few years ago with a more sprawling canvas.  The original film, Jurassic Park, now some thirty years old, was a taut lean thriller with a small band of people isolated on an island with a bunch of rampaging dinosaurs.  It’s one of Steven Spielberg’s best films and continues to hold up decades after it’s original release. 

It was followed by two inferior sequels, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, one of Spielberg’s worst directorial outings done in by the mistake of making Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcom the protagonist and a clunky episodic screenplay.  Never place the sequel on the shoulders of the original’s comic relief unless you’re planning on changing genres. 

Jurassic Park III was more efficient and competent and brought back Sam Neill’s Alan Grant but still paled in comparison to the original.  There was then a gap of some fifteen years before Jurassic World reinvigorated the franchise and helped Chris Pratt shed his lovable schlub persona in favor of action hero.  He was teamed with Bryce Dallas Howard as the executive with power hair who comes down a peg or two and gains some action chops after running through a theme park being overrun with escaped reptiles. 

They came back in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which created all sorts of collateral and nonsensical plots and ended up being a pretty terrible film in general.  Jurassic World Dominion tries to take the characters and plots of the last thirty years and mash them all up together in one big action thriller.  It wants to be an airy souffle of a summer popcorn movie.  It falls flat.

A choppy first act introduces or reintroduces us to a dozen major characters spread over a couple of continents.  The conceit is that in the four years since the events of the previous film, dinosaurs have rapidly reproduced, grown to full maturity and started to occupy various ecological niches all over the world.  Encounters between humans and dinosaurs in the wild are becoming more commonplace, usually with dire consequences for the humans.

Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Howard) are living off the grid in rural Wyoming (Pratt’s introductory scene looking like an outtake from one of Clint Eastwood’s later westerns as he lopes along on his horse in his long duster lassoing a charging hadrosaur). They have Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the child clone from the previous film (don’t ask) with them who has grown into a rebellious teen. 

Meanwhile Alan Grant (Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) reunite after decades apart when they start to recognize that someone is manipulating the genomes of giant locusts with cretaceous era genes that are threatening the global food supply.  They suspect the giant business conglomerate BioSyn, run by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) is involved. 

If you don’t know where the name Lewis Dodgson comes from, back through the looking glass with you.  The character actually dates from the first film (played by a different actor) who appears in a single memorable scene.  His can of Barbasol, which figures prominently in that film, makes a brief cameo in this one.  Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum), the chaos theoretician, is currently on contract with BioSyn and wrangles an invitation to our two aging heroes to come take a look at what’s up. 

Blue, the velociraptor that was a favorite of Owen’s, has also been hanging around rural Wyoming and has managed to reproduce asexually.  One day BioSyn operatives capture Maisie, wanting to study her clone DNA, and manage to snag Blue’s offspring Beta as well. For reasons only known to the screenwriters and the purveyors of European country film tax breaks, Maisie and Beta are taken to Malta rather than directly to the BioSyn headquarters in the Dolomite mountains of Northern Italy. 

Owen and Claire are in hot pursuit and soon there are trained assassin dinosaurs running rampant in the streets of Valletta along with Owen’s old velociraptor trainer chum Barry (Omar Sy) and a devil may care pilot Kayla (DeWanda Wise). 

Eventually, everyone ends up in the Dolomites where the BioSyn headquarters looks like a leftover set from one of the Roger Moore James Bond films and Dodgson presides over everything with more than a few characteristics borrowed from Elon Musk. There are dinosaurs, more dinosaurs, flaming locusts, narrow escapes, more characters from previous films, and eventually the evil are punished and there’s a vaguely happy ending for our heroes.

Director/writer Colin Trevorrow along with cowriter Emily Carmichael try to cram so much into Jurassic World Dominion from five prior films that it’s all too much.  We see a familiar face shoehorned in or a moment in an action sequence that’s an homage to a previous shot or moment and then bam we’re on to the next bit. 

Jurassic World Dominion never really breathes or lets you digest what’s happening.  I’m really surprised we didn’t get a kick line of all the actors who played children in danger from the previous films somewhere in the proceedings. It’s great to see Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum all together again, playing weathered and lived-in versions of their characters from all those years ago.

It might have been a better film if it had focused more on them and less on Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard who are far less interesting performers playing far less interesting characters. At least they didn’t trot out Julianne Moore or Vince Vaughn.  All the principal actors are game and acquit themselves well but they’re all pretty much pawns to the action set pieces.

And how are the dinosaurs?  They’re fabulous.  CGI has come a long way over the last few decades, and you have no trouble believing that these are flesh and blood creatures interacting with the humans and that real dangers are present. 

The various action sequences are all reasonably good (a confrontation on a frozen lake with cracking ice, a car/motorcycle/dinosaur chase through narrow streets and alleys, an escape from an underground cavern, the stalking of a hyperloop pod by a group of dilophasauruses) and well shot, exciting but all as derivative as heck.  I think I’ve seen every one of them done a bit better in another film.

In the end, Jurassic World Dominion is a theme park ride.  It’s popcorn entertainment that keeps on going and going and going, for about thirty minutes too long.  It never really lets up which is just as well, because if it did, you’d start wondering about all of the enormous plot holes which are conveniently overlooked by writers, characters, and audiences.  Don’t think about it, just treat it as mindless entertainment in an air conditioned theater on a hot summer’s day and forget about it as soon as it’s over.  I know I did.

Abandoned school bus. Brachiosaurus in lumberyard. Multiple locust swarms. Gratuitous farm children in danger. Access bracelets. Dinosaur pit fighting. Evil white garbed Asian lady. Espresso machine.  Forest fire. Ejector seat. Forest vegetation completely wrong for climate zone.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction.

Photo by Andy Hay on Unsplash

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