I was in a toy store the other day and saw a toddler toy: a cute dinosaur with a Jurassic Park sticker on it. I was struck by the fact that the children the toy is intended for were probably not born when the last The Jurassic World movie is out, not to mention the release of Stephen Spielberg’s original 90s classic. It’s Jurassic World: Dominion: a familiar logo slapped on a toy that makes no sense.
Jurassic World: Dominion hits theaters on June 10. It’s the sixth and final film in the franchise (for now) and reunites the stars of the original films – Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum – with the stars of the world’s newest Jurassic Films: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and, uh, a few other people. It should be the culmination of a series that has thrilled fans and inspired interest in dinosaurs for decades.
And of course, this hyperactive, overloaded big-screen blockbuster is sure to be a bucket of popcorn the size of a T. rex. But if you’re emotionally invested in these characters, this coexisting world of dinosaurs and humans, then Dominion doesn’t know what to do with you.
The last time we saw the Jurassic World team was in 2018.led to the biggest cliff-hanger of the entire franchise, finally addressing the threat that has been hanging over the series since the beginning: the dinosaurs are out! It promised a sixth and final Jurass-equel that would be the biggest and most mundane yet. Forget reality, dinosaurs rule the earth! The gloves are off! Watch out for humans!
Except not really. Dominion has some cool opening imagery: like dinosaur cowboys and pterodactyl nests atop skyscrapers. But the movie crumbles on that bonkers premise, bringing the plague of dinosaurs back to a few isolated places and a shadowy web of ranchers, poachers, and heavily tattooed rooster fighters. Instead, an all-new, unexpected threat is introduced that gives the film a surprisingly scary early image, but feels like some sort of sidestepping of what should be the main peril. It’s that dinosaurs rule the fucking earth!
Co-writer Emily Carmichael came across as an autograph-hunting fangirl over Jeff Goldblum, and you can at least feel the giddy love for the Jurassic series in much of the movie’s whirlwind of action and jokes. But in the hands of co-writer and director Colin Trevorrow, that vertigo freaks all over a script that can’t seem to get its focus. It’s a western (with dinosaurs). It’s a spy movie (with dinosaurs). It’s a Westworld-esque corporate sci-fi plot chiller (with… actually, this bit could have been done with more dinosaurs). Dominion tries to be not only the culmination of the Jurassic Park series, but also a sort of frenetic culmination of every blockbuster of all time. Only with dinosaurs.
no dinosaur time
The first half is a James Bond movie, with globetrotting undercover agents and sleazy brokers and a Jason Bourne-esque Mediterranean rooftop/motorbike chase. Eventually, Dominion turns into a Jurassic Park movie, with stars dangling precariously from wrecked vehicles as a Doyouthinkhesaurus sniffs them out. Bryce Dallas Howard in particular gets some scary and tense scenes. But the whole thing suffers from a genre whiplash, struggling to capture the kind of edgy settings that made the original film(s) so unforgettable. Look at the first Jurassic Park and tell me it would have been improved by a knife fight.
In the hands of director Steven Spielberg, the first Jurassic Park was a brilliant blockbuster full of suspense and action, while being underpinned by unforgettable characters. And there was also a sly B-movie gallows sense of humor, like that bit where the whiny lawyer got eaten on the toilet. Dominion has neither the characters nor the sense of black comedy. At this point, the characters are all basically the same heroic good guy, with no selfish, untrustworthy, or cowardly characters adding texture and suspense. When all the characters are people we know and supposedly love, the action scenes devolve into an unwieldy melee of a group of eight or nine people hanging out together, with little meaning that n Anyone can do something unpredictable or something unexpected will happen to one of their own. If only the film had the conviction to show the heroes warped by their experiences, or even the guts to feed the main cast. Anything to add conflict, unpredictability, anything.
The film also doesn’t really know how to unite the two generations of Jurassic stars, pushing them together into a room and leaving them staring awkwardly at each other. There are a lot of “I read your book!” and an eye-rolling “I knew your mother,” but really only sparks Goldblum in those crowded scenes. The movie just can’t think of a compelling reason why these people need to meet. Compare it with, another piece of nostalgia merging older generations of a long-running franchise. No Way Home at least offered emotional issues and cathartic payoffs for Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire. By comparison, even with Laura Darn valiantly giving it her best shot, the encounter between the stars of the park and the world is disappointingly inert.
A welcome addition is BD Wong, the scientist from the first film who has appeared in enough of these things to become a tragic figure, tortured by his mistakes. He’s the closest thing to an actual human person and carries the original film’s themes of scientific madness and hubris on his shoulders. However, we don’t see it much: as if the cast wasn’t filled enough with old faces, there are also a ton of new characters.
DeWanda Wise’s Han Solo-esque swaggering rough diamond pilot is entertaining but never does anything unexpected, and oddly sidesteps Chris Pratt during the action stuff. Meanwhile, there’s no need for not one but two icy mean women or a succession of no-nothing henchmen – especially since they’re all used to disappearing from the story.
But there are the real stars: the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs will never grow old. Still, one of the strengths of the first film was how it set up certain dinosaurs and their traits, leaving us to watch through our fingers as we waited for those deadly traits to be used against our heroes. Whether it was T. rex seeing movement or velociraptors behind you (smart girl), every action sequence received a harrowing jolt of tension because we knew what dinosaurs were capable of. In Dominion, the dinos are just a little there. Fans of paleontology will no doubt enjoy the assorted creatures (especially the ones with feathers), but this is a missed opportunity to layer on the suspense for the average viewer.
At this point, dinosaurs from all different paleontological eras crash into the spot, with spinosaurus, giganotosaurus, and tyrannosaurus going mad at each other. If you learn anything from the Jurassic Park series, it’s that mixing up eras is madness. And yet Jurassic World: Dominion merges nostalgic eras and cinematic genres and just about any other DNA it can get its hands on. The result is a primordial soup of a few entertaining scares, but there are 65 million years to go before it makes sense.
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