The word “dominion” is uttered once in Jurassic World Dominion, in an oblique, irreverent allusion to Genesis 1. “Not only do we lack dominion over nature, we are subordinate to it,” asserts Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in one of his trademark, smugly iconoclastic epigrams. Later in the same speech, though, Malcolm turns with surprising optimism to the power of genetic science to shape the future. Does he really believe this? Is this speech coherent? Is the film itself coherent?
It turns out that there’s a rationale for the speech, sort of, but it’s the kind of thing that merely pushes the incoherence back a step. Trying to explain Jurassic World Dominion is like pulling a loose thread that keeps getting longer until there’s nothing left to unravel. Even by the standards of prior Jurassic World movies, it’s a deeply stupid movie, full of inexplicably dumb choices not only by characters who are allegedly smart, but also by the filmmakers whose work must speak for itself. Granted, the original Jurassic Park dumbed down the brainy Michael Crichton novel, but it also knew the plot was there to serve the thrills and spectacle of the premise. Jurassic World Dominion has so many moving parts — so much plot, so many characters — that for long stretches it loses track of the dinosaurs altogether. And neither the plot nor the characters are worth our time.
For a while it seems Dominion wants to be the franchise’s Mission: Impossible. Instead, it’s the anti–Top Gun: Maverick.
The achievement of this summer’s extraordinary Tom Cruise legacyquel includes projecting the characters, themes, and trajectories of the original Top Gun more than three decades into the future, gracefully revisiting nearly everything fans loved about the 1986 blockbuster while also shrewdly patching up its issues and improving on it at every turn. Jurassic World Dominion can’t even manage to carry on the themes and trajectories of its immediate predecessor, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, let alone any of the prior Jurassic films. Maverick almost makes Top Gun a better movie retroactively. Jurassic World Dominion can’t touch the Jurassic Park trilogy, but, capping the Jurassic World trilogy, it makes its two predecessors retroactively worse.
Here is just one example. The entire plot of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is driven by a single force, one that’s been there from the first Jurassic Park movie: the enormous dollar value of dinosaur specimens to big-money black-market buyers, from private collectors to pharmaceutical or military industrial researchers. (Many have argued that the bids seen in Fallen Kingdom’s elite auction sequence, in the mere tens of millions, were absurdly low.) Dominion also features a black-market setting, located on the European island nation of Malta — but, far from catering to an ultrawealthy clientele, it’s a rough, sleazy joint with booths grilling dino meat and a dogfighting-style pit for, you know. What conceivable sense does it make for dinosaur flesh to be counted so cheap? Granted that the last film ended, absurdly, with turning dinosaurs loose on the world, so that all sorts of people can now get their hands on them, the specimens at liberty are presumably fewer than the assets of the defunct Jurassic World theme park. (These are creatures genetically designed not to breed on their own. Life finds a way in at least one case, but that seems to be the exception.) If there were 10,000 dinosaurs of all species combined to start with, it would be a lot — and that’s before the predators started picking off the others and one another. Of those that survived, not all were smuggled off Isla Nublar; some were left to die. Of those who were turned loose, some have been recaptured, killed, or snapped up for private and corporate interests.
Apparently velociraptor is the cowbell of dino design and the filmmakers are Christopher Walken.
Pratt more than delivers. You could almost say he manages to stand in for Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern. He’s got Neill’s toughness, Goldblum’s humor and Dern’s down-to-earthness. His character, Owen Grady, is Jurassic World’s velociraptor trainer, and in a terrific early set piece Pratt persuades me that he’s capable of standing up to three raptors armed with nothing but charisma and nerve.
In the twenty-odd years since Jurassic Park pioneered the use of photorealistic computer-animated living creatures integrated into a live-action film, computer animation has become even more prevalent. Yet in all that time, it’s hard to think of a single blockbuster spectacle that uses computer imagery to achieve a similar sense of awe and grandeur.
Jurassic Park in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.