Somewhere toward the end of the extremely long runtime of Jurassic World Dominion, legacy character Dr. Ellie Sattler gives a piece of sage advice to non-legacy character whatshername:
“We all regret it when we stay in the past. What matters is what we do now.”
Hilarious, coming from the mouth of a character whose inclusion in the film is based entirely upon catering to an audience that wishes to stay in the past, courting nostalgia for a classic film that is approaching its 30th year of existence. It’s one of many boneheaded (fossilheaded?) script moments in what is, god-willing, the final chapter of the Jurassic saga, which fails miserably at living up to the promise of the previous entry’s big finish, which promised us a world inundated with dinosaurs — a world where human beings are at risk of losing our seat at the top of the food chain.
This promise elevated the lackluster Fallen Kingdom into the realm of the MCU where “the next one is going to be cool” rules the day over and over again without ever coming to fruition. This ‘next one’ isn’t very cool at all. Not in the sense of what was promised, at least. Short of an expository opening that shows some newsreel highlights of a world overrun by dinosaurs, nothing has really changed about humanity. We’re still dumb, selfish creatures who like nothing more than to feel superior to others, no matter the cost. We’re still living relatively normal lives, just so long as we stay away from the few areas where dinosaurs might be. And here in Dominion, the dinosaurs aren’t even really an issue. Nope, this time around the creature that has us all freaked is particle physics — I mean bugs. Giant bugs that have been secretly manufactured by the BioSyn corporation, who have not-so-secretly produced genetically modified crops that the bugs refuse to eat. It’s a stab at a monopoly by a company that, as far back as the original Jurassic Park film, is the main competitor to the now-defunct InGen. You’re probably asking whether or not we’ve “got Dodgson here” and I’m pleased to report that we do. Only this time he’s played by Campbell Scott, replacing Cameron Thor who, for reasons made obvious by his Wikipedia page, was not invited to return.
Besides playing god and being a fictional stand-in for Monsanto, BioSyn’s biggest mistake in Dominion is hiring Dr. Ian Malcolm to… be around? This is because Malcolm, lovable scamp that he is, has summoned both Dr. Ellie Sattler and Dr. Alan Grant to come visit him at BioSyn’s headquarters, but really he just wants them to help expose BioSyn’s ruse about the bugs. Why Sattler and Grant? Because.
Meanwhile, Chris Pratt’s character whose name I forget and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character whose name I forget are living off the grid in order to protect that cloned girl from the previous movie whose name I forget. She’s at risk of being kidnapped by BioSyn, whose head scientist, BD Wong’s character whose name I forget, wishes to study her genome in order to OH MY GOD I’VE GONE CROSS-EYED.
Also, Blue the Raptor(TM) has a baby and it gets kidnapped but what-the-fuck-ever.
It’s a lot of movie riding on one of the dumbest scripts in the history of motion pictures, but against all odds, it’s actually a lot of fun. You just have to approach it with the right mindset. Personally, I waved bye-bye to this series being at all thoughtful, smart, engaging, or coherent about three movies ago, and if you wish to enjoy this one I highly suggest you do the same. Make peace with the fact that the preponderance of plot that exists solely to bring legacy characters into the fold is mind-numbing. Put to bed any notions that you may feel wonder, awe, or fascination with yet another roster of colorful new action figures—I MEAN DINOSAURS. Sit back, relax, and take comfort in knowing that Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum don’t phone it in at all, despite being tasked with elevating dialogue that is at best, atrocious.
You will not care about these characters. You will not be able to parse logic from the plot. You will not believe that anyone is ever actually in danger. You will subconsciously switch from Edge Pro-Gel to Barbasol.
The good news is that the structure of the film is rather evocative of a Crichton novel, insofar as it’s a globe-hopping adventure that scatters its ensemble to the wind, only to bring them all together for a final extravaganza of sci-fi fun. This is accidental, of course, given the ungodly stupidity of the script, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Another piece of good news is that the dinosaurs (or dinosars, as Goldblum pronounces it) look pretty good compared to the previous two entries. There is a return to practical puppetry and animatronics, albeit in scant amounts, and the CG dinos are considerably less rubbery and cartoonish. It’s a mixed bag, but if the previous two JWs look like they come from an entirely different franchise than the first three JP’s, JWD bridges the gap a little bit. Granted, it’s an unfinished bridge made of wet straw, but nonetheless, it is there.
More good news comes in the form of a few notable action sequences, the most impressive involving a cadre of super-raptors, a motorcycle, a plane, and a setpiece ripped straight from the Bourne/M:I playbook. Unlike Bourne, it’s actually visible, and unlike M:I, it reeks of green screen, but the design and pacing of this sequence makes it particularly exciting despite itself. While there is never a single moment where we are made to believe that any of our protagonists will be harmed, it’s a solid roller coaster sequence done mostly well.
There are tags galore to previous entries, and at one point a T-Rex is framed to look like the classic franchise logo yaaaaaay. There are Spitters, Compys, Raptors, a T-Rex, and yet another Brachiosaurus who is left behind by ignorant rich people to be violently purged in CGI flames. Yes, all your favorites are back. And again, Jurassic World Dominion is a lot of fun if you turn your brain off (ugh) or do drugs before it starts (yay!). This sense of fun puts it above its immediate predecessors, both equally stupid, and allowed me to enjoy myself despite myself. I liked it, but it is terrible by most metrics.
Basically, I expected “terrible and not fun” but got “terrible and kinda fun.” It’s a fool’s errand to hold this sequel to any expectations higher than that. A sad state of affairs for blockbusters, but hey, we’ll always have Top Gun: Maverick.
I reiterate: I’m talking a lot of shit here, but I quite enjoyed my time watching this movie. It’s okay to slurp up some mindless slop now and again, it just stings a little when the slop thinks of itself as filet mignon.
If the latter entries of this series is to be believed, and dinosaurs do one day make a return here in the real world, a couple of road flares and a few instances of “talk to the hand” will apparently keep them at bay. Yeah, there’s the whole “a relationship based on mutual trust and respect” malarkey often spouted by whatshisname regarding his ability to train raptors, but in practice, the best way to control any dino is ostensibly to put a hand up in front of yourself and say “shh, girl.” Good to know.
At the screening I attended the audience was given complimentary Jurassic World baseball hats, which were sponsored by Carl’s Jr. as evidenced by the additional logo embroidered into the back. That about says everything.
I like the part when Ian Malcolm yells at Dodgson for being a greedy corporatist. That was nice, if also cluelessly meta.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Written by Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Michael Crichton
Starring Crisp Rat, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and a whole lotta pixels
Rated PG-13, 146 minutes