Jurassic World: Dominion
Dinosaurs are out in the wild and new threats emerge from those looking to exploit the genetic power that comes with them in Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World: Dominion.
This franchise is very uneven. Jurassic Park is an undisputable classic with director Steven Spielberg working at the very top of his game. Mileage varies on the sequels but few would deny that they fail to live up to the majesty of the original. Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World revived the franchise in 2015 with a soulless retread of familiar beats with no command of tension, one-dimensional characters and very little to say beyond high-level observations of corporate greed and how difficult it is to keep customers interested. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom had more going for it with taut horror-driven set pieces and some course-correcting from its predecessor’s mistakes. Now we have Jurassic World: Dominion; a film that might be designed to serve as a finale of the franchise with returning characters and a supposed expansion of the concept.
The film picks up some time after the conclusion of Fallen Kingdom. A short news report montage delivers context on the impact dinosaurs are having being out in the world while delivering highlights of the events leading up to this point. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living off the grid and raising Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon); the clone of the daughter of John Hammond’s business partner, Benjamin Lockwood. Also in the mix is Lewis Dodgson’s (Campbell Scott) company Biosyn who publicly pledge to build a sanctuary for the dinosaurs while researching the benefits their genetic makeup can have on humanity. There’s also a growing problem of giant locusts devouring crops on a massive scale.
If that seems like a lot to cram into a single film that’s because it is. Dominion promises coverage of the many ideas it presents and fails to do any of them in any real detail. Dinosaurs being a part of the natural work becomes an incidental detail that is quickly forgotten about to focus on the locust threat; something that itself fades into the background before long and the characters clumsily drift through the confused narrative. Everything this film does has been better delivered in other instalments. There is no originality on display at any point nor does it have anything meaningful to say about any of the ideas it suggests it might explore.
One of the many things that made the original Jurassic Park so monumental in film history is the intelligence of its narrative. Characters sat down to have fascinating morality-driven debates about the implications of bringing dinosaurs back into the modern world. The characters occupied unique positions in those debates and every point made was equally valid. There is nothing in this film that goes anywhere near that level of intelligence. Speeches are given about the risk of extinction that come across like bullet points on a brainstorming board and the narrative plods along as if intelligent conversation is to be avoided.
Trevorrow completely fails to understand that the concept of dinosaurs being part of a world very similar to our own is very much a story worth telling. How does the world function when building-sized creatures roam freely, dangerous carnivores are able to wander into residential areas and people are constantly threatened by the unpredictable hungry creatures on their doorstep? Dominion glances at this idea but never explores it which numbers it among the abundance of wasted opportunities.
The locust plot seems like it will be the main threat but it’s largely used as an excuse to move the characters around and enable later things to happen. The magnitude of the threat is brought up now and again but it never feels present or urgent despite all the talk of it leading to the extinction of the Human race. At no point does the world seem truly impacted by the events that are supposed to define it. Part of this is down to a lot of the film taking place in a sterile isolated location but the bulk of the problem is rooted in bad storytelling.
Set pieces are frequent and each is more forgettable than the last. A motorcycle/velociraptor chase is so incompetently edited that it’s impossible to determine what is happening at any given point and there is a complete lack of tension in any sequence the film delivers. Making a comparison to the perfect T-Rex attack sequence in the first film is unfair by any metric but at no point does it feel like any of the characters are in any real danger. Trevorrow seems to think that throwing more dinosaurs at the screen means an increased threat level but the end result is just a mess of unconvincing CGI and incoherent movement. Dinosaurs fight as the Human characters try to escape while avoiding being stepped on but it’s all so disconnected and uninteresting. The dinosaurs themselves have no sense of presence to them. The supposed new threat comes from Giganotosaurus; the most dangerous carnivore that ever lived. This is something you’ll know because it’s delivered in dialogue on several occasions rather than doing something to show the viewer how dangerous it is. Even the T-Rex; the dinosaur audiences innately fear because of how the original film uses it fails to make any impact. It’s all so lazy and uninspired.
It’s a stretch to say that the film contains characters. Owen and Claire have never been well-developed but both get lost in the large cast. They are stripped down to basic traits that define their shallow role in this film. Owen is the typical “Action Man” archetype who exists to apply himself to any set piece he might stumble into. Trevorrow falls back on his tendency to make Owen as stereotypically manly as possible. He does a lot of running, says things that make him sound tough and has a magnetic attraction to motorcycles. It’s a painfully bland character and Chris Pratt’s usual charisma gets lost in the mix.
Claire’s defining trait for this film is that she is trying to adapt to motherhood; something that is told rather than shown. Owen and Claire’s relationship has developed over the three films without actually putting the work into developing it. As such they are a couple with no definable connection and no chemistry between the actors to sell the feelings they have. Claire’s connection to Maisie is only depicted in dialogue with the most basic coverage of the mother/daughter relationship. The same applies to the father/daughter relationship where Owen is concerned. Claire has absolutely nothing else going for her in the film which is a total waste of Bryce Dallas Howard. Having her resigned to “concerned mother” does her a disservice as a performer though it’s consistent with the character’s treatment over the films.
The legacy characters fare no better. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) share the screen for the first time since the original film and the film has no idea what they do with them. Very little of what made them engaging in prior appearances appears here as they are stripped back to the barest of identifiable markers to confirm they are the same characters. Jeff Goldblum does have the opportunity to deliver his dry wit but it comes across as more of a parody of Ian Malcolm than an evolution of him. Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler could have been replaced by anyone else and the same could have been accomplished. The return of these characters should be a triumphant moment and they should have an important role in what this film laughably calls a plot but all they do is add numbers to a bloated cast
Lewis Dodgson is the only other character worth talking about but only in terms of how unremarkable he is. In theory, he serves as the film’s main antagonist but fails to stand out as a proper villain. He’s as bland as anything else this film has to offer and can’t even rise to the point of being possible to hate. There’s no sense of who he is, what he stands for or why he does what he does and he has very little interaction with other characters meaning that it’s hard to determine if they have much awareness of him beyond what they’ve seen in the news. Even if he was a powerless figurehead that would have been something but the bulk of his worth comes from the fact he existed in the first film albeit played by a different actor.
There is nothing to recommend about this film. Every minute of the painfully long running time could be better, nothing sticks out as being impressive in its own right and nothing of significance actually happens. It doesn’t appear a lot changes between its opening and ending. The sense of wonder once associated with the resurrected massive prehistoric creatures isn’t found anywhere and the Jurassic franchise concludes on a whimper that numbers it among the ever-growing list of unforgivably dull franchise retreads that sadly pollute cinemas.
A bland, overlong and ultimately pointless entry that proves once and for all the franchise deserves to go extinct. The plot is far too busy with glances at ideas that it fails to explore, the set pieces are forgettable with no tension to be found anywhere and the characterisation is practically non-existent. In particular, the return of legacy characters should be a triumphant moment but they could have been replaced by anyone else with almost no difference. There is nothing to recommend about this film. Every minute of the painfully long running time could be better, nothing sticks out as being impressive in its own right and nothing of significance actually happens.
- interesting ideas being presented
- a good cast
- a total lack of tension in the set pieces
- a confused narrative with no focus
- awful characterisation
- showing rather than telling throughout
- glancing exploration of any of the ideas
- wasting a talented cast and no purpose to the legacy characters being present
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