Film review: ‘JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Jurassic Park was one of the event films of the 1990s and a movie many would recall as fondly as ET or Star Wars. Based on the excellent Michael Crichton novel, the film combined revelatory photorealistic dinosaur special effects with a mostly exciting, if at times, cheesy adventure story built around revolutionary science and technology concepts. Although not as rigorously as the book, the film also examined the dangers of hubris and scientific endeavour driven by the desire for glory and profit. The problem was that, once these issues had been explored and we’d seen the big reveal of the dinosaurs, there wasn’t much room left to move.  Consequently, the various sequels of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchises had diminishing returns and tended to fall into ‘dinosaur chases humans’ formula. The latest instalment, Jurassic World: Dominion, initially promises something more excitingly inventive and intellectually complex before reverting to the familiar Jurassic template. This film is also yet another ‘legacy sequel’ designed to grab those lucrative Gen X bucks by having favourite characters from the past return to the fold.

The film picks up where the last instalment, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom left off with thousands of dinosaurs having escaped Isla Nublar and spread across continents as a contemporary form of wildlife.  As the world tries to grapple with the fact that once prehistoric creatures are now part of the ecosystem, a new threat emerges as enormous, seemingly engineered, cicadas begin ravaging crops across the planet. Investigating the mystery, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) receives a tip off from none other than Professor Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) that this calamity may be linked to a biotech behemoth named Biosyn and its owner, the slyly named Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott).  Needing help uncovering the source of the plague, Ellie reunites with palaeontologist and possible love interest Alan Grant (Sam Neill).  At the same time, Jurassic World’s kick ass raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and girlfriend, dinosaur rights activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) have absconded to a forest hideaway in an attempt to protect adopted daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) – who was apparently cloned from a Jurassic Park scientist – from poachers working for Biosyn who want to pilfer her DNA.  Inevitably, the two parties converge on the corporate meanie’s high-tech lair and dinosaur park where chaos, technological breakdown and toothy beasties munching on humans is guaranteed.

The film’s opening sequence should have many viewers excited.  A TV news report informs us about the dinosaurs living in our world and handily recaps the Jurassic Park history in a way that recalls the opening of the excellent Neil Blomquist sci fi satire District Nine.  This segment tantalisingly suggests the film will explore a global canvas and ethical issues such as animal rights for dinosaurs, genetic tampering, cloning and the activities of big biotech and agribusiness.  Steadily, though, the more cerebral issues about scientific ethics give way to scenes of humans running like crazy from hungry dinosaurs.

In attempting to unite the Jurassic Park and World strands of the franchise into one big dino extravaganza, this film tries to tick too many boxes (action movie, monster movie, sci-fi film, Gen X nostalgia and contemporary issues parable), spreads itself too thin and doesn’t completely succeed in any of these endeavours.

Some of the action scenes are exciting and well-constructed with intricate set pieces and mostly realistic effects but others feel ‘by the numbers’ and lack a sense of genuine threat.  Situating events in different locations around the world does, however, allow for a greater variety of settings and environments including tropical jungle, snowbound North American forests and even the ancient streets of Malta. The film almost turns into ‘James Bond with dinosaurs’ at one point as Pratt and Howard are pursued by bad guys and raptors through Malta’s cluttered streets and across rooftops.

Disappointingly, the nostalgic character reunion feels a little flat.  Despite director Colin Trevorrow directly referencing scenes from the original Jurassic Park, this movie doesn’t generate the wistful feeling clearly intended.  Also, while their individual performances are fine, neither Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Chris Pratt nor Jeff Goldblum is given enough opportunity to stamp their authority on this film, define its tone and connect emotionally as they might have done in a Spielberg-directed film.

Amid the supporting cast, Campbell Scott, as Dodgson is a fairly creepy mix of corporate villain and new age guru but he also isn’t given the chance to make an indelible impression.  DeWanda Wise, as rebellious, no-nonsense pilot, Kayla, who aids Owen and Claire is, however, a welcome addition to the series, in part because her character seems designed to evoke Han Solo.

For those who have loved each Jurassic film, this should satisfy their dino fix and those wanting action escapism will find this a reasonably enjoyable ride. Those tiring of the franchise and desperately hoping for something strikingly different, though, will probably feel that, in the end, they’ve just seen more of the same.

Nick’s rating:    

Genre: Sci fi/ Action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Colin Trevorrow.

Release date: 9th Jun 2022.

Running time: 146 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.


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