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Jurassic World: Dominion

Released 2022. Director: Colin Trevorrow

I CAN POINT TO THE EXACT MOMENT THAT RESTORED MY HOPE for the rather limp Jurassic World franchise: right when the last movie Fallen Kingdom (2018) ended. I’m not being sarcastic here. When the horde of dinosaurs smuggled out of Isla Nublar escaped the Lockwood estate and scattered into the wild on mainland America, I thought yeah, finally an idea worth pursuing. Now that they’re roaming free among the general population, how’s that going to work? So many ways they could develop the next chapter.

My interest was kept alive in the last couple of years when the studio released short clips online as teasers, showing various scenarios of dinosaurs living among humans. These are the same clips presented as a news montage in the opening of Dominion, and really, these moments have plenty more potential to be developed.

What’s it like for people to live in close proximity to dinosaurs? Is it even possible? How do humans control their spread and ensure our safety? Do we all end up as dino dinner? What will the new balance of nature look like? What happens in Manhattan with pterosaurs perching on skyscrapers, building nests and laying eggs? The prospects for the movie are tantalising.

Regrettably, Dominion veers away from the teaser clips and takes a different direction, one that is regressive and frankly, more of the same. You see, what happens is despite dinosaurs now freely roaming everywhere, once again we’re taken back to a story set in an enclosure, just like the park setting in previous movies. The primary setting is once again confined to one area. Déjà vu.

What’s the point of letting them loose in the first place if we’re not going to get a story of greater geographic spread and more frustratingly, why tease us with shots of dinosaurs terrifying children in backyards, crashing weddings and disrupting traffic if nothing of the sort will feature in the movie?

We're told in the opening montage that as the dinosaur population spreads around the globe, a dino sanctuary is established in the Dolomite mountains in Italy. How did a large variety of dinosaurs manage to cross the ocean to the other side of Europe is never properly explained. One of those things that just happened, I guess, in nature as it does in slapdash plotting.

Operating this sanctuary is BioSyn Genetics, the corporation given the sole guardianship of research into dinosaur genome. Behind its façade of scientific benevolence, BioSyn is secretly experimenting on using their new knowledge to control grain cultivation and global food supply. Nothing good ever comes out of mucking with dino gene, so it’s a foregone conclusion this place will face the same fate as the original Jurassic Park. Um, did I say déjà vu?

Another initial sign of promise is the return of all three principal cast members of Jurassic Park. Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum have in the past returned to the franchise separately but this marks their first reunion since 1993.

There’s nostalgia value attached but I’m afraid that’s as far as it goes. The three lend a presence that’s more false promises than actual delivery because they’re second tier to Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The script doesn’t give them enough meat on the bone and any wishful thinking that the reunion might somehow rescue this chapter of the Jurassic series remains just that. Neill’s and Dern’s characters rekindle their flame, which I doubt anyone really cares. Goldblum has a meta, self-referential line that echoes the sentiment of disappointed audiences when he refers to the ill-conceived playground: “Jurassic World? Not a fan.” Thumbs up for a fitting summary.

As he’s done before, director Colin Trevorrow shows he doesn’t care for basic human reactions or strive for an acceptable level of realism. If you recall in Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard is chased by T-Rex snapping at her heels as she runs for her life wearing high heels. What’s meant to be suspenseful and frightening instead becomes absolutely hilarious. This time round, Chris Pratt flees from a ferocious feathered dinosaur in the snow-capped Dolomite peaks, falls into an icy lake, scrambles out into freezing temperatures not only without showing signs of hypothermia, he’s not even shivering when he’s wearing only one layer. A few seconds later he's dry. Yes, I do find this just as hilarious that they don’t even bother and they treat the audience as unthinking half-wits.

With a running time of 2 hours 26 minutes, this is the longest of the six Jurassic movies. And yet, I challenge you to recall one truly impressive and memorable scene. Nothing like the ripple in the cup or the first glimpse of T-Rex in Jurassic Park. Imagination is thin and inspiration is in short supply here.

Whether the dinosaurs attack singly or in a pack, the action sequences are filmed and edited with an emphasis on chomp and speed, and little to no regard for building tension. Everyone still remembers the scene in Jurassic Park where the kids hide in the kitchen from velociraptors because it was so cleverly shot. Don’t expect anything of that quality here. An unbelievably long scene of new dinosaurs atrociraptors chasing Chris Pratt on a motorcycle in Malta somehow brings to mind the coyote and roadrunner from Looney Tunes. Beep beep!

The action sequences are slick CG work, no question about it. What they fail to instil is a sense of awe in the catalogue of chaos. As the characters dash from one narrow escape to another, Dominion affirms that dino magic is by now well and truly extinct in the Jurassic movies. The evolution of the series hasn’t improved on this latest model. All roar, no bite.


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