"Jurassic World Dominion" might be the summer's worst movie
Jurassic World Dominion
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott and Dichen Lachman. Written by Colin Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Starts Friday at theatres everywhere. 146 minutes. PG
If 100 Tyrannosaurus rexes were put into a room with 100 typewriters, pounding away with their adorable tiny claws, they would likely produce something of greater value than the witless bombast of “Jurassic World Dominion.”
It would surely be less sad than this sixth and supposedly final “Jurassic” flick, which awkwardly yokes together the casts of the original “Jurassic Park” trilogy with the more recent “Jurassic World” one. Watching a great concept get pounded into the dirt is never a joyful experience.
The faint strains of John Williams’ classic “Jurassic Park” score is heard on occasion beneath Michael Giacchino’s sonic bluster and John Schwartzman’s sludgy cinematography. Rather than rekindle the majesty and wonder of the original film, it serves only to make us yearn for what used to be.
And let us briefly recall the past glory. Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” in 1993 harnessed the plausible DNA science of Michael Crichton’s novel bestseller with groundbreaking CGI that still inspires awe. It had a potent message about the danger of humans messing with nature just because they can.
“Jurassic World Dominion” squanders this legacy. Directed and co-written by Colin Trevorrow (“Jurassic World”) with Spielbergian memory tugs but considerably less skill and sense, it reunites the main cast of “Jurassic Park”: serious scientists Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) plus comical deep thinker Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). It’s nice to see them back together, but there’s a curious lack of occasion about it all.
They eventually team with intrepid former Jurassic World theme park employees Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who are living in the wilderness acting as surrogate parents to teenage Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the cloned girl introduced in a previous chapter. Maisie is at risk because bad people want to kidnap her and exploit the miracle of her existence.
This barely scratches the surface of the cast list. Trevorrow and co-writer Emily Carmichael pack the story with characters and subplots, stretching the running time to an enervating 146 minutes.
Even at that length, it fails to properly expand on the Brontosaurus-sized narrative introduced at the end of the preceding chapter, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” in which the dinosaurs escape their theme park and island jails and run rampant in the wider world.
Following that plot line to its logical conclusion — as an early newsreel montage falsely suggests will happen — would have meant a film of “War of the Worlds” proportions, with global carnage and humans blasting heavy artillery at dinosaurs, risking the family-friendly PG rating.
“Jurassic World Dominion” instead goes the route of a bad 1950s killer bug movie. It introduces Campbell Scott as Lewis Dodgson, possibly the most boring villain in cinema history.
Modelled after Tesla’s Elon Musk and Apple’s Tim Cook, and residing in a Bond-like lair in the Dolemite Mountains of Italy, Dodgson heads a biotech company called Biosyn that pretends to do good things with dinosaurs but instead plots global starvation for kicks and cash.
His deluded scientists (headed by Dr. Henry Wu, BD Wong’s series regular) have used dino DNA to create monster locusts that can strip most of the world’s crop fields in an eye blink, leaving intact only the ones sown with Biosyn’s genetically altered seeds.
The “Jurassic” teams old and new must foil Dodgson’s foul plan, while also rescuing the inevitably kidnapped Maisie (remember her?) and the baby offspring of Blue, the raptor that Grady befriended in earlier episodes and pledges to assist in this one. This eye-rolling latter quest prompts one of the film’s few good lines, from Goldblum’s wacky Malcolm: “You made a promise to a dinosaur?”
And what about those dinosaurs, ostensibly the reason why we would consider heading to the theatres for a sixth “Jurassic” stint?
T-Rex, Giganotosaurus and raptors et al mainly thrash away in the dark, doubtless to hide the digital stitching of CGI work that is considerably less awesome than you’d expect, three decades after “Jurassic Park.”
There are numerous action set pieces in which humans must escape pursuing dinos, but they all fade to a dull blur after a while, since nobody but the occasional faceless goon seems to suffer more than a scratch. Planes crash, cars overturn and people make death-defying leaps, but it all has a weightless CGI look and feel that robs it of drama.
There’s just one chase worthy of the name and it involves one of the few interesting new characters: DeWanda Wise’s Kayla Watts, a swashbuckling cargo pilot clearly modelled on Han Solo (her battered aircraft even recalls the Millennium Falcon).
She’s in the cockpit making a high-risk departure from Malta while Grady frantically tries to leap into the cargo bay on a stolen motorcycle, while being pursuing by two hungry raptors.
Watts has a wicked sense of bravado that eludes most of the cast, who have been digitally green-screened into situations where the most they can do is stand and gawk at something they can’t see.
Fortunately, Jeff Goldblum remains reliably Jeff Goldblum, as nutty as ever. The scene where Malcolm confronts Dodgson over the latter’s evil deeds is so weirdly laid-back, it’s like watching two stoners argue over who ate the last glazed doughnut.
It’s almost worth the price of admission, but let’s not get carried away since the movie doesn’t deserve it.
“Jurassic World Dominion,” one bad and sad monstrosity, introduces a beast that isn’t seen but felt throughout: the giant Turkeysaurus, the feared ancient fouler of theatrical experiences. 🌓
(This review originally ran in the Toronto Star.)