Jurassic World Dominion – movie review

With a life span approaching that of many a dinosaur (30 years), the Jurassic saga comes to an end with Jurassic World Dominion. And as T. S. Eliot presaged, this fictional world ends not with a bang but a whimper. The franchise – having received a shot in the arm with Jurassic World in 2015 – seems to have run out of ideas. What’s left is a re-hash of now-familiar tropes, blended with bits borrowed from other movies.

Colin Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World but not Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, returns to the director’s chair. He also collaborated on the script with Emily Carmichael (Pacific Rim: Uprising). And while Trevorrow delivers some epic set-pieces, they don’t really hang together in a coherent narrative. The melange of ideas swirling around include Bond-style villains, Mission: Impossible-like spy-jinks and monster battles a la Godzilla. It’s all set in the framework of the Jurassic franchise’s staple poppet-in-peril plot. But even that’s watered down here because the poppet is now a sassy 14-year old and the sources of peril are so numerous, it’s hard to know who to cheer for (or against).

As the film opens, the dinosaurs that escaped at the end of Fallen Kingdom have flourished. So much so, they’re now basically pests rummaging through rubbish bins. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is now a kind of dino-cowboy living in a remote cabin with wife Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and their adopted daughter Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). But while dino-poachers are an increasing problem, something much bigger is afoot. When Maisie is kidnapped by ruffians, Owen and Claire must head to Malta to try to rescue her. They team up with French spy Barry Sembène (Omar Sy) and American pilot-for-hire Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) but their efforts are thwarted by Soyona Santos (Dichen Lachman). Maisie is spirited away; but with Kayla’s help, Claire and Owen are in hot pursuit.

Meanwhile, giant locusts are devastating crops around the world – although they mysteriously avoid crops grown from seeds supplied by corporate giant Biosyn. Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), now an environmental activist, suspects that Biosyn – and its founder Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) – are behind the plague. And she intends to prove it. After pulling some strings with old pal Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) – who conveniently works for the company – she scores an invite to visit the Biosyn facility housed deep in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. She cajoles Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to accompany her and use his knowledge about ancient DNA to assist. The paths of all the protagonists will converge at the Biosyn HQ, where mayhem inevitably follows.

Individual scenes in Jurassic World Dominion are terrific – an epic chase scene through the streets of Valetta being one. But once Trevorrow gets his ensemble together at Biosyn, the film kind of falls apart. It becomes a kind of good guys vs bad guys vs dinosaurs vs giant bugs. More disappointingly though, he includes a number of repetitive scenes that seem to have no purpose except to hark back to earlier films in the series. And the climactic battle bizarrely lacks in any real stakes.

The environmental message too is rather muted. The whole point of the earlier films was that man shouldn’t be meddling with nature. But Dominion posits that the meddlers have won – the dinosaurs are now ubiquitous. So the new meddler Biosyn is only doing what Dr Hammond did all those years ago – though perhaps with more mercenary motives. So instead of “don’t mess with nature”, the message seems to be “messing with nature is okay if your motives are pure” – quite a departure.

Still, the Jurassic franchise has always been about the dinosaurs, and this film delivers on that front. Kids will probably lap up the myriad new creatures given a run. That said, it’s likely going to be a bit much for kids under 7. The film certainly benefits from the big-screen experience. So if your own poppets are clamouring for this, taking them to see it at the cinema is probably the best bet.

The acting is a bit of a mixed bag, but it seems like the “old” cast members fare rather better than the “new”. Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum seem to be having fun with their roles. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard however are lumbered with dour characters and seem to do far more running than emoting. DeWanda Wise is in a similar situation, but at least gets some snappy one-liners as Kayla. Isabella Sermon has to do a lot of looking frightened as Maisie. Campbell Scott seems to be channelling Elon Musk as the Biosyn boss, which is actually a pretty good choice. Sadly the two best acting performances – from Omar Sy and Dichen Lachman – are cut off after the first act.

Jurassic World Dominion is a tepid end to a hugely successful franchise. While I don’t doubt this film will be hugely successful too, the cracks are definitely showing. It does however offer spectacle on a grand scale, so if that’s what you’re into, this will be worth your time.

David Edwards

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