Movie Review: ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Isabella Sermon, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Scott Haze, Dichen Lachman

Plot: Dinosaurs now roam the Earth, interacting with humans. Owen and Claire are hiding out raising a cloned daughter while Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler investigate a swarm of giant locusts.

Review: Take a look at that plot description just there. You may notice that there are three different plots, none of which seem to be connected and possibly from entirely different movies. Welcome to the sixth Jurassic movie, one that ambitiously brings together all the major players of the previous 5 movies, even the main cast of the Steven Spielberg original 1993 movie. More accurately, welcome to a complete train wreck of a blockbuster farted out by a studio having buried the creative process under ‘notes’ to improve the movies marketability.

It’s hard to narrow down what this movie is about, which is perplexing because the silly Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom set up a really great concept. For the first time in the franchise the dinosaurs are not restricted to a theme park or even an island, but are roaming the globe wrecking havoc. We wanted to see the impact of this development, sea monsters attacking beaches and passenger planes beset by giant flying reptiles. Instead we only get lip service to this situation on a news broadcast and a few people being surprised by the presence of these animals before we stumble down a rabbit hole or plot holes, illogical character behaviour and pathetically bad writing.

Let’s look at the two major plots that come together after about two hours of running time. First we have the World cast members Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Howard) living in a snowy wilderness where they hide the clone girl (Sermon) from that pointless story thread in the previous film. For some reason, Owen’s pet raptor Blue is hanging around as well, and has a baby. They point out that this is impossible, and later it’s revealed that some dumbass spliced in DNA that allowed Blue to reproduce asexually. Anyway, some mercenaries roll up to kidnap Clone Girl and Baby Blue so Owen and Claire go on a rescue mission that involves teaming up with the CIA to infiltrate a dinosaur black market.

Meanwhile, Ellie Sattler (Dern) has learned that crops are being devastated by swarms of giant locusts. She recruits Alan Grant (Neil) to investigate this global threat, setting their targets on genetic company Biosyn run by Steve Jobs Lewis Dodgson (Scott). Remember the Dodgson thing, because we’re coming back to that later. Through Ian Malcom (Goldblum) they gain an invitation to the Biosyn facility, where they attempt to steal a locust sample. Eventually all the characters come together and run away from some dinosaurs together.

It takes more than 30 minutes for the movie to stumble through the set up for these stories and characters, and it really struggles to find reasons for all the major players to be involved. Perplexingly, they then continue to introduce more characters. As well as Owen, Claire, Clone Girl, Alan, Ellie, Ian and Dodgson from previous films we also have spunky pilot Kayla, Dodgson’s second in command but secret good guy Ramsey (Athie), mid-level Boss Fight dinosaur smuggler Santos (Lachman) and mercenary Rainn (Haze) – and I genuinely can’t remember what happened to him. Oh, and Henry Wu (Wong) is still hanging around and getting a redemption arc for some dumb reason.

Let’s take a moment to address Dodgson. You may remember him from one scene in Jurassic Park where he meets with Nedry (you know, Newman) and reveals to the audience that Nedry is going steal dinosaur embryos. That was his only role in the movie, and he likely only remains known to people through memefication. Somehow this one evil corporate guy is now a Silicon Valley tech genius using the very cliched evil tech CEO archetype. There’s really no reason to make this the same character except for a misguided attempt at nostalgic appeal, simple name recognition. What there is, however, is a good reason NOT to reuse this character name as it’s very obviously recast because the original actor, Cameron Thor, wasn’t available due to being a child rapist. Yeah, thanks for reminding us of that scumbag in an effort to make people point at the screen and say “that’s the guy from the other movie!”

The script is an absolute bloody shambles. There’s a stink of marketing all over, throwing in as many recognisable characters as possible and soullessly recreating scenes and lines from previous movies in the series. At times it feels like this is a collection of studio notes and drafts hurriedly thrown together. The pilot character says “Still got it!” after pulling off some cool flying – got what? We don’t know this person yet. It’s not until the next scene that we even find out her name. Even worse is the attempts at comedy, which tends to be focused on how lame Millennials are with their soy milks and escooters and relying on stereotypes from 10 years ago.

At times the script is so rocky that characters not only act illogically but have to be bailed out by the new, flat characters. Take Alan and Ellie needing to get into a secret lab…well, someone else slips them a key and then Dodgson’s second in command Ramsey casually points out the secret elevator to the lab before suggesting they show themselves around the facilities (which was completely illogical until the later reveal that Ramsey was betraying Dodgson). Our heroes don’t act with any agency in their mission, it gets handed to them by others. In a later scene, Alan and Ellie are trapped behind a gate with a dinosaur coming for them, and Ian unable to crack the passcode to save them. So once again Ramsey, unbeknownst to everyone else, was hacking the gate at the time and opened it for them. If you put your heroes in danger, maybe have them fulfil their narrative role and save the day rather than dues-ex random guy.

There are endless plotholes to take you out of the experience. Dodgson is in his secret sub-basement lab for one scene, and the next moment he’s in an air traffic control tower to deliver some exposition. Why was he even there except to move the plot along? He also has the shaving cream can from the original Park movie – how he could possibly have this can that sunk into the mud in the middle of Isla Nublar is a total mystery. Owen, Kayla and Claire are in a crashing plane, but only have one parachute for some reason. Claire jumps, and the others go down with the plane. How did they survive without a scratch? Who cares!

Honestly, the fact that none of the characters ever feel genuinely as risk makes this a pretty boring film. We don’t believe for a second that Alan, Ellie, Ian, Owen or Claire are getting killed off, expecting the new characters to be red-shirted, but only bad guys and nameless background actors are at risk. As more and more characters get thrown into the mix we end up with a field trip of people running around leading to the farcical situation of NINE ‘main’ characters all hiding behind a car at the same time while a T-Rex sized beast is looking for them.

Then there’s the parts that are downright dumb. One bad guy is getting both of his arms eaten off by dinosaurs and Owen rushes forward to threaten him with a knife and demands information. You’d think this guy would be a touch pre-occupied with his arms being chewed on to worry about Owen’s little knife being waved about 3 metres away from him, but he stops responding to the dinosaurs to give him information! Then there’s the bit where Alan drops his hat among some carnivores and Ellie has to convince him not to run into the pack to get it back. Did Trevorrow turn up to work drunk and mistake Sam Neil for Harrison Ford? Alan was never attached to his hat in any way, it’s just a hat! He lost his hat in his FIRST dinosaur close encounter in the Park and it was never mentioned again, why is a hat so important to him now?

We should also mention that Chris Pratt doing his ‘stop’ gesture at dinosaurs is looking pretty stupid at this point. He even does it to a pair or massive carnivores and they don’t immediately just eat him for some reason.

Plenty of weird and dumb ideas from Fallen Kingdom get dragged out as though people were chomping at the bit to see them again. Nobody thought the laser-pointer activated attack dinosaur was a good idea, but it’s back again for one action scene, as though the dinosaur wouldn’t just eat the person in front of them. The only time a laser pointer as a deadly weapon was a good idea in a movie was The LEGO Ninjago Moviei

This is inexcusable for a Hollywood blockbuster with such a strong legacy. With the kind of budget and star power behind it, this should have been a slam dunk. Returning characters and the set-up of dinosaurs running wild across the world was everything we wanted from this entry. Instead we got some silly story about giant bugs and trite dialogue. In between this and The Book of Henry, Trevorrow might have trouble finding work for a while.

Rating: TWO out of TEN