A scene kicking off the third act of Jurassic World Dominion sees a Big Tech Bad Guy (Campbell Scott) set his stock of genetically enhanced mega-locusts aflame. He watches the swirling bug inferno dance around its plexiglass container in one of the only shots worth looking at in the entire film. Then, they burst from the container’s roof, flying and dying and raining hellfire down on yet another foolproof compound that some genius has designed to house dinosaurs. Director Colin Trevorrow, who wrote Dominion with Emily Carmichael, returns to his miserable, defiled necro-franchise with a similar gaudy flame-out. Dominion rages and burns—steals and throws back—but mostly, it adds. Piles on the mess. Shoves so many empty calories down your throat, you’ll come away feeling as malnourished and uncomfortable as if you’d just horked down the complete Carl’s Jr. tie-in menu. It is one of the most brainless blockbusters of the last decade, and makes the least organized Marvel team-up look like an intricate puzzle box. The Jurassic World franchise may have willingly chosen extinction with this final entry, but Dominion would’ve killed it off anyways.
You may have noticed that I haven’t really mentioned dinosaurs at all yet. That’s because they’re purely incidental to Dominion. Four years after the absurd “dinos are free and they’re everywhere” ending of J.A. Bayona’s Fallen Kingdom (which at least composed some frames that weren’t people standing around), the resurrected reptiles have lost their luster in the public eye. They’re mostly a morning news curiosity; they affect stock prices and fill segments about tragic deaths. Big Tech Bad Guy’s company, Biosyn Genetics, has been awarded sole control (by some never-mentioned, nonexistent global governing organization, I guess) over dino-research. Naturally, their greedy monopoly threatens the world, mostly through their creation of those mega-locusts. The rest of the World regulars only factor into this Sharknado-like plot because of a separate, non-dinosaur McGuffin: Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a character just as dull as the rest of her companions despite being the first human clone, is kidnapped by a hilariously evil, leather-trenchcoated Biosyn lackey. That means her surrogate parents Owen Grady (Chris Pratt)—who?—and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard)—seriously, who?—are off on a globe-trotting rescue mission.
Dominion’s first act zips us around the world, visiting flapping loose ends and catching up with characters who, three movies in, it feels like we haven’t even met. While Trevorrow waits until the final chunk of his film’s excruciating 146 minutes to display pilfered, mutated visual elements of Steven Spielberg’s original—and yes, Trevorrow and Carmichael’s tortured subplots and Universal’s juicy paychecks conspire to reunite Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum)—Dominion first must generically riff on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Owen and Claire chase and are chased by Maisie’s kidnappers through an underground den of dinosaur-adjacent iniquity, laser-guided raptors in hot pursuit. It’s cut so haphazardly and shot with so little attention to space that the once-fearsome predators—enhanced with ridiculous, missile-like lock-on systems, as if velociraptors needed technological encouragement to chase a delicious human—flail uselessly. They crash and careen into anything and everything, are deterred with whatever random implement is handy, run at exactly the wrong speed to catch up. One gets clipped by a car and the driver has the gall to lay on their horn. At a dinosaur.
This relentless stupidity is oppressive. The Dr. Evil A-plot, the asinine clone B-plot (featuring Blue the raptor’s ugly offspring, which seems like a leftover from an earlier draft of the movie), the nostalgia-baiting tangents. Whether the film is reducing Claire and Ellie (a doctor who once shoved her hands into a mountain of dino-shit without hesitation) to screeching, “eek a bug” ‘50s housewives or replacing Ian’s pithy philosophizing with word salad, no element of the Jurassic franchise is left unsullied. Especially the dinosaurs.
Dominion, like the rest of the World movies, has the same tired smash-the-toys-together idea that dinosaurs aren’t just hungry, they hate. Hate us, hate each other. They are no longer representative of humanity’s fleeting, tenuous place in the natural world, but cartoon serial killers with Freddy Krueger claws. Apologies to the herbivorous Therizinosaurus, but paleontology no longer factors into this series. Dinosaurs just do whatever, more inclined to sell a LEGO set than set an imagination alight.
And they look terrible. This isn’t an FX failure, but a sign of impoverished direction. Feats of digital artistry are shoved into the background, eviscerated by insecure filmmaking, framed with matter-of-fact disinterest. Every moment of action cuts away with an amusing consistency. A plane is crashing, then we see the wreckage. Folks are fleeing a beast over a frozen lake, then we see them safely enclosed in a caged elevator. Trevorrow is an unintentional cinematic dominatrix, ruining every climax.
Because bigger automatically equals better in this inept, Fast & Furious-like bastardization, we’re offered flashes of a Giganotosaurus as compensation. (Billed as the biggest carnivore to ever walk the earth, it just looks like a T-Rex with a crunchier coat of paint.) It can’t impress. Trevorrow’s useless with scale, with spectacle. Giganotosaurus chases our massive main ensemble around an overturned Jeep (original) and it plays like a Tom & Jerry routine. Trevorrow couldn’t get an audience to gasp if he drained the theater of oxygen; his increasingly Big Boss Dinos are poorly named JPGs forever chasing what Jurassic Park’s T-Rex earned.
To make matters worse, Trevorrow can’t get away from the idea that dinosaur fights, not tension but action, are inherently exciting. Out of ideas for how a scene should end? Dinosaur fight! Need motivation for us to care about an army of bullet-point characters? Dinosaur fight! A few dinosaurs see each other in the street, their dino-beef apparently too deep to ignore? Dinosaur fight. They’re exhausting, lifeless and dramatically meek. As the franchise has gone artistically bankrupt, it’s become sadistically violent. Owen, a character with the sole defining characteristic of training dinosaurs through “mutual respect,” sees a new dinosaur and draws a knife like a Kill Bill baddie. During one dino attack, said dino is:
- Stabbed in the mouth with a flaming javelin
- Knifed in the face multiple times
- Tased in the eye
- Shot in the head
Of course, the characters who used to solve problems, whose academic and emotional interest in dinosaurs made them memorable and lovable, are now shackled to Trevorrow and Carmichael’s illiterate script. Now they too only know how to start swinging.
Though Neill, Goldblum and Dern find moments of time-earned warmth, they visibly struggle. The rest of the cast drowns without a fight. Fallen Kingdom’s Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda are hastily replaced with similarly barren characters like DeWanda Wise’s pilot and Mamoudou Athie’s Biosyn whistleblower. Pratt can only conjure up the same squinted action-hero grimace for every situation, including the interminable instances of him pushing his idiot hand at the camera. The trilogy’s taming gesture has always been stupid, contrary to good sense and the themes of its films; in Dominion, it’s bitterly funny.
Masochism is Jurassic World Dominion’s only pleasure. Like its colon-free title, the film fucks up what seems to be the easiest thing in the world. If I had a kid who loved dinosaurs and who I hated, I would take them to see Jurassic World Dominion, because it makes dinosaurs so deeply uncool. In its zeitgeisty quest to unite the Jurassic generations, optimizing its IP-per-second usage, it becomes a product created by its own corporate villain. The Jurassic stories have always been Frankenstein riffs, where humans are punished for playing God. But Trevorrow brazenly engineers his own artless, profit-hungry, overstuffed monstrosity, his thoughtless hubris free to walk the earth as a misshapen, soulless slight against its source.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott, Scott Haze, Dichen Lachman
Release Date: June 10, 2022
Jacob Oller is Movies Editor at Paste Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @jacoboller.
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