The film is at its best when the original Jurassic Park crew are onscreen.
Director Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow based on characters by Michael Chrichton
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Omary Sy, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott
If there’s one thing that is sad about the final chapter of the second trilogy based on Chrichton’s Jurassic Park, it would be the complete erasure of anything resembling character in Chris Pratt. Once one of the shining upcoming comedic action actors of the previous decade, he’s shrunken down to a mere caricature of himself. My daughter called it without saying a word, when the first time he appears on screen, she puts up her hand in the pseudo stop motion he first tried on Jurassic World and hasn’t stopped doing in the subsequent two films. He’s got all of the variety of any NPC not played by Ryan Reynolds. This is all he’s allowed himself to be at this point for any film not touched by James Gunn. Horrible.
The story at the root of Jurassic World Dominion is actually enough to carry the first half of the film in decent order. Dinosaurs are loosed upon the world and there are hints of ecological disasters as a result. There is an effort underway to route as many of the beasts as possible into sanctuary by a genetics company called Biosyn. They are also into other genetically altered things, like grain, in a not so subtle nod to Montsanto. When a plague of giant locusts sweep across the midwest, eating everything except for the Biosyn grain fields, we kind of get an idea where the film is headed. Fortunately it does not stop there.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the rockies, Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Howard) are raising young Maisie Lockwood (Sermon), a character I almost completely forgot from the trasheap of Fallen Kingdom. They’re also keeping an eye on old Blue, the raptor who is Grady’s buddy, per se. In a storyline hinted from the first movie, Blue has asexually reproduced an identical baby that Maisie calls Beta. Of course both the genetically cloned granddaughter of Hammond’s silent partner and Beta are kidnapped and carried off. You can have a free ride on a frozen brontosaurus if you can guess where they are headed.
The film is at its best when the original Jurassic Park crew are onscreen. Their missions vary, so I won’t explain much more than to say the screenplay is brought to life when they’re onscreen and barely limps along with the two Jurassic World heroes. Even so, there are some nice setups (Black Market in Malta), some weird scenarios (what could feed two brontasauruses in the frozen tundra?) and the absolutely hilarious reclamation project of Dr. Henry Wu (Wong) that keep the film chugging along through the first two acts.
It’s the final act where everything starts to wear thin. They have some absolutely gorgeous beasts throughout the film and we get to see them in a variety of scenarios. All of this is clumsily offset with what George Lucas might call “poetry, because it rhymes” as we see a predictable set of situations that mirror what we’ve scene done better in previous films.
Using some great special effects over many difficult to light situations, they just present a story that doesn’t reach 5th grade level. We’re eventually just praying for Sam Neill to make one of his great facial expressions, Laura Dern to show her graceful grit and Jeff Goldblum to just do more of that Goldblum stuff. At least they aren’t saved this time by a 13 year old hacking a computer that Dennis Nedry locked.
For her part, Howard is finally not the worst part of the film. She works as well as the newer characters (like Sy, Wise and Sermon) by just trying to stay alive. The fact that we can tell who lives (anyone with half a heart) and dies (those with less than half) by the first time they appear on screen is not wonderful, but all of these things bring more life to the film than Pratt.
If you see Jurassic World Dominion, see it on the big screen first. You may not see it again, unless you get tired of seeing the original and you just want something that “rhymes” with “it” running away from some pretty cool beasts.
(**1/2 out of *****)