JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

_REVIEW.   it’s about _FILM.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.   dir _COLIN TREVORROW.   rating _PG.   release 10th JUN.

June 10, 2022

images © Universal.

It’s nigh-impossible to discuss and appraise Jurassic World: Dominion without drawing a beady, world-weary and brow-beaten glance towards 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The sheer number of parallels is striking. Both are pitched as grandiose closers not just to their own respective sequel trilogy, but indeed as the final chapter in a wider saga of decades past, and one which began with a bonafide cinematic classic. Fan favourites and old faces have been dragged out of character retirement to tickle the nostalgia bones. An OG villain returns from death/obscurity to adopt the mantel of finale big bad. And both see the helmer of their trilogy’s first outing back to wrap up business after a decidedly more artisan and divisive middle chapter.

Where the Jedi and the Jeff diverge, however, is in their fidelity to the essence of their franchise DNA. Rise is a cluster bomb so busy trying to make itself Star Wars that it completely fails to be its own film, whilst Dominion tries so hard to be something different that it utterly bypasses pretty much anything and everything that made the franchise (or at least its glorious original and a handful of moments from one or two of the sequels) special.

The grandeur, awe and suspense of Spielberg’s 1993 classic is quite literally nowhere to be found here. Which, on the surface at least, is somewhat surprising, given director Colin Trevorrow follows suit with J.J. Abrams in stuffing so many callbacks and nods on screen throughout Dominion’s runtime that they reach the point of actually becoming laughable (just you wait for even the iconic Jurassic Park logo to get a set-up and pay off precisely nobody asked for).

Events in Dominion pick up a few years after the close of Fallen Kingdom – an uneven but bold instalment which at least deserves credit for JA Bayona’s inspired sharp-turn into haunted house semi-horror midway through. A film of two halves, Kingdom looks positively restrained next to Dominion’s choose-your-own, Saturday morning serial style adventure, which sees World franchise leads Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) embark on a bizarre, increasingly absurd globe-trot to find friendly pet raptor Blue’s new offspring and adoptive daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), both of whom they’ve whisked away into a life of isolation (see: protection). Because, naturally, someone thought it was a good idea to continue the widely-detested clone subplot from last time round.

 Pre-hysteria rather tellingly, the best part of Jurassic World: Dominion isn’t even in the film. Perhaps realising the stinker on their hands, Universal released a special five-minute prologue to the film in November 2021 (pictured above) which featured, amongst other highlights, an Attenborough-esque throwback to 65 million years prior, and a T-Rex rampage through an outdoor cinema.

Elsewhere, in a plot line which Dominion almost breaks its beak trying to shoehorn into wider World lore and continuity, Jurassic Park bit-part Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) – ‘nice shirt’, ‘see nobody cares’ for franchise non-devotees – is back, only this time in the style of a genetics-obsessed Tim Cook (complete with his own prehistoric Apple Park, no less), and his shadowy work is threatening to bring about something bordering on the apocalyptic. Thankfully, Dr’s Ellie Satler (Laura Dern, giving it her all despite a laughable script), Alan Grant (Sam Neill, mostly superfluous) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, unsurprisingly one of the film’s few glimmers of light) are at hand in an attempt to expose the shady goings-on.

In an increasingly embarrassing screenplay with risible dialogue and plotting that would be embarrassing even in the scope of the franchise’s child-aimed Camp Cretaceous, Treverrow misfires in practically every direction. The action sequences lack any believability, and whilst a couple of moments, such as a Bourne-esque tussle through an apartment building, or an underground cave encounter, briefly pinch the adrenal glands, you can rest assured that a line or moment of sheer detaching stupidity will follow not long after. By the time you’ve got Pratt grabbing formerly dangerous carnivores into choke holds, you know any attempts at tension and grounding have long since checked out.

 Pre-hysteria rather tellingly, the best part of Jurassic World: Dominion isn’t even in the film. Perhaps realising the stinker on their hands, Universal released a special five-minute prologue to the film in November 2021 (pictured above) which featured, amongst other highlights, an Attenborough-esque throwback to 65 million years prior, and a T-Rex rampage through an outdoor cinema.

Sure, Dominion does attempt to offer up some new things, but little of it remotely successfully. Early moments, such as a sauropod navigating its way through a Sierra Nevada logging community, or the film’s customary Mosasaur cameo, offer up glimpses of a film that could have been, and indeed that Kingdom’s denouement teased. But that quickly goes out the window. It’s all too nonsensical, internally contradicting and surprisingly bloodless to fashion any impact. Having clearly learnt little from Book of Henry, Trevorrow once again delivers something representing complete tonal napalm.

An extended series of action sequences in Malta, for instance, are completely undone by camp villainy, lazy coincidence and fist-clenching lapses of internal logic (maybe just… shoot the dinosaur that’s attacking you, rather than using said gun to try and shoot out a window exit?).

“…almost literally, a jigsaw of showdowns and set pieces we’ve seen exhausted by Jurassic too many times already.”

Almost as if the film itself realises it is suffering a mid-reel identity crisis, Trevorrow and team hard reset, soft reboot  and course… correct (?), into an equally egregious fumble as all paths and characters meet for a painfully formulaic Jurassic finale. There’s little vision or invention to be found here. Again, like Rise of Skywalker, which lazily culminated in a space battle whilst dealing with that pesky Emperor Palpatine, Dominion’s conclusion is, almost literally, a jigsaw of showdowns and set pieces we’ve seen exhausted by Jurassic too many times already.

Enjoyed Jurassic World‘s three-way dino dukeout? Here, have it again! And how about that classic scene of Ellie Sattler being sent off to reboot a power system, with Malcolm guiding her over radio? Here’s round two!

The original trio do what they can with the vapid material they’re given, though Neill’s Dr Grant is left by the wayside for much of the plot, and Sattler and Malcolm both regularly feel like slightly exaggerated caricatures of what came before. Pratt and his Owen are on complete autopilot, DeWanda Wise is all sass but little substance as severely underwritten newcomer Kayla, leaving Dallas Howard as the only one of the World cast given much in the way of an arc, paper thin though it may be. It’s borderline unforgivable that the characters given the most to do, learn and adapt from are Sermon’s Maisie and BD Wong’s returning semi-baddie, Henry Wu.

Technically and aesthetically, the World franchise continues with its slightly jarring approach to creature design. By the time we encounter the boxy ‘Atrociraptors’ (seriously) and numerous cartoonish dino offspring that look like they belong more alongside the cast of Jim Henson’s 90s Dinosaurs! tv show, it’s difficult to decide who will be rolling hardest in their graves – Michael Crichton or Stan Winston. And, perhaps more than anywhere else in the series, the symbiosis of CG and cinematography fluctuates wildly, ranging from genuinely impressive (hazy, fog-laden jungle scapes cast some new beasts in a moody, effective hue, and the new mega dino is generally lit and rendered impressively) through to decidedly ropey (pretty much every raptor, Blue included).

Jurassic World: Dominion bills itself as ‘the epic conclusion of the Jurassic era’. Only, it isn’t really a conclusion at all – offering a mostly-self contained story positively saturated with increasingly lazy callbacks and nods, and that ends up bringing itself pretty much back to where it started. And it isn’t so much epic as it is very, very silly. The dinosaur action is mostly incidental, frequently uninspired and disappointingly toothless throughout.

Robbed of any of the majesty and craft that oozes out of every frame of the original Jurassic classic, Dominion can at least share one mild redeeming footnote with its franchise-souring counterpart. It may be a woefully uninspired, nostalgia-bating mess of Triceratops dung but, like Rise of Skywalker, it is separated enough from what has come before that it can be somewhat mercifully rejected and ignored altogether.

Life, after all, will find a way.

…Even if that ‘way’ is just, well, pretending it didn’t even happen.

Trevorrow has pulled off the seemingly impossible; delivering a sequel somehow both farcically out of touch with its own franchise whilst at once gorged on callbacks and nostalgia. A new Jurassic low, insert extinction jokes here.

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