I have a hard time buying that dinosaurs and humans could live together in any kind of harmony. Food would be an issue: How hard would it be for a Brontosaurus to knock over a grain silo and go nuts? And what would a pack of Velociraptors do once they stumbled upon a pig farm in Iowa? Imagine the inflation of bacon across the nation. Plus, there’s the whole infrastructure thing. One sauropod wandering through town would topple bridges and crater interstates—billions of dollars in damages, not to mention the sheer number of casualties. And what of the noise? You can hear a lion roar five miles away on a clear day. One T-Rex bellow would shatter every last window in the vicinity, to say nothing of your eardrums.
And, yet, here we are in Jurassic World Dominion, living side by side with all the dinosaurs who escaped from Isla Nublar. Fishermen must contend with Ichthyosaurs for their catch, and reprehensible dealers have created an extensive black market for breeding and selling designer dinos—easily the most believable aspect of the movie. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), full of guilt for her role in all of this, becomes an eco-terrorist to liberate these captured creatures. In one scene, she and her cohorts break into a farm and free a baby Triceratops. As they flee the scene, the baddies chase in Land Rovers, only to be met by a herd of adult Triceratops in the surrounding field. Considering their size and three-horned faces, I suspect Triceratops don’t need much help when it comes to jailbreaking their kin.
Details, details. Claire is in hiding with Owen (Chris Pratt)—who still communes with dinosaurs by raising his right hand and giving them Zoolander’s best Blue Steel—and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). She’s a clone, but we don’t have time to get into why. A plague of Crustaceous-period locusts the size of watermelons is on the loose, and if no one steps in to stop them, they’ll consume our food supply and our food’s food supply in a few weeks. Good thing Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is on the case. But for a conspiracy this big, she’ll need backup. So she calls old pal Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) for help. And for love. It’s worth noting that Dern makes a commendable effort to bring any of this to life while Neill uncomfortably chokes on both his lines and his accent. Some actors cash their checks more convincingly than others.
Sattler figures the answer to the locust lies high in the Dolomites, specifically in a security compound/utopian society that would have made a Bond villain jealous and Walt Disney ecstatic. The man behind this Wakanda-EPCOT is mega-billionaire/new world leader Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), sporting a Steve Jobs crop and mannerism landing him somewhere on the high-function side of the spectrum. Lucky for Sattler and Grant, their old pal Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is Dodgson’s resident Ted talker. Will wonders never cease?
Written by Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow, who also directs, Dominion is a movie bankrupt of ideas. Everything in this bloated 146-minute mess either exists to remind you of the previous five Jurassic installments or is co-opted from other better movies. Even the effects—what look to be a combination of animatronics and CGI—are second rate. One of the wonders of 1993’s Jurassic Park is how convincingly Steven Spielberg, Stan Winston, and the team at ILM blended the two into magic. Almost 30 years of technological advancement and a substantially bigger budget have not improved things.
Not that more money and faster computers can solve a flabby screenplay and cardboard characters. In some ways, Dominion feels like one long chase—bikes, planes, transport pods, and jeeps, oh my!—routinely broken up with long slogs of expositions and rapid-fire location changes. Tension is not derived from characters in danger but from loud sound effects, a thrumming score, and the endless pursuit of dinosaurs that are fast enough to keep up but never fast enough to catch anyone.
It’s cheap to compare Dominion with its progenitor, but my mind often longed for the economy of Spielberg’s touch. Consider the moment in Jurassic Park where Ellie is trying to close a door in the compound, the same door a Velociraptor is trying to push open. In one shot, three very long, very menacing claws wrap around the edge of the door. The sight of the claws, the click against metal, Ellie’s eyes going wide—it’s enough to make you pucker. In horror, the less you see, the more your mind works to fill in the gaps. And there’s nothing a filmmaker can put on screen as terrifying and specific as what your brain can cook up in a split second of suggestion.
Instead, Dominion tries to outplay the audience at every turn. While Spielberg knowingly relied on less, Trevorrow and company load Dominion in the hopes that more dinos, more characters, more action, more jet setting, more exposition, more plot (one of which takes up at least 90 minutes of the movie’s runtime and ultimately amounts to a hill of beans), more quick cuts, more shrieks, and more cheap scares will provide all the stimulation they need to distract from the dino-sized deflation of their movie.
Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay by Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow
From a story by Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Based on characters created by Michael Crichton
Produced by Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott, BD Wong
Universal Pictures, Rated PG-13, Running time 146 minutes, Opens June 10, 2022