Dinosaurs divide the population into two types: those who love them and those who couldn’t care less. Somehow, “Jurassic World: Dominion” doesn’t inspire either stance. With its unfocused story and bloated plot, the movie plods to its conclusion as if anticipating extinction at the hands of other summer films. Even the resurrection of fan-favorite characters Drs. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Sattler (Laura Dern) and Grant (Sam Neill) failed to salvage it.
For an entry in a series of reboots which excavate previous films for content, the premise begins strong. Dinosaurs have invaded modern ecosystems. The film raises important questions in its first dozen minutes such as, “Can dinosaurs be integrated into the modern world?” and “Is it ethical to kill them all just because they’re unnatural?” Unfortunately, these questions are left unanswered.
Instead, the film spends the next two hours of runtime focusing on a plot involving genetically engineered cicadas produced by InGen wannabe, Biosyn Genetics. The cicadas are targeting the seeds of crops not produced by Biosyn. Everyone’s going to starve unless someone stops them. The world had a big enough problem on its hands with the dinosaurs; the only reason the cicadas are introduced is so Dr. Sattler can rope Dr. Grant into an investigative journalism stunt to have Biosyn shut down for terrorism. As if paleobotanists and paleontologists are known for their expertise in bioengineering. A more compelling way to bring Grant into the story would be to address the existential crisis he’s surely having now that his job’s rendered obsolete.
The film’s story is also divided into a kidnapping plot involving Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen (Chris Pratt) and Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Quite a bit happens here. Claire and Owen visit an underground dinosaur trading bar, get in a plane crash and run from dinosaurs in a jungle and on a frozen lake. Meanwhile, their 14-year-old ward, Maisie, is held captive at Biosyn because she’s a genetic clone, and they want to reverse-engineer her to strengthen their cicadas … or something.
Forgive the lack of coherence, but events in the film are just that: events. The story can barely maintain its focus across all its ideas. When subplots do overlap, they do so in a contrived manner, such as all seven main characters happening to stumble into one another out in the jungle. Oh right, there was a seventh character: a pilot who gives up dinosaur smuggling to aid Owen and Claire in their search. Her role, beyond bailing the others out of trouble, is so minimal that her name escapes me.
In lieu of a plot or characters, dinosaur action becomes the film’s main focus. The diversity in fight scenes is appealing to those who just want their action fix, as characters fend off herds of raptors, run from a T-Rex and witness several battles between two of the film’s largest species. But while there’s plenty of carnage, each fight feels floaty. It’s like the dinosaurs are action figures being slapped together. And despite that being the film’s draw, it still doesn’t feel like enough time is devoted to the dinosaurs beyond being scary setpieces. When the film concludes with a fuzzy message about coexistence, the viewer can’t help but realize they’d forgotten there were ever dinosaurs devastating society.
Overall, “Jurassic World: Dominion” is the quintessential summer blockbuster. It’s chock-full of explosions, chases and the kind of hand-waved science fiction only a middle schooler could find compelling. Once one reawakens to the black screen at the end of the runtime, the adrenaline may linger long enough for a comment on which act of dinosaur violence was most entertaining. Then the movie is left to fossilize in our memories.
Title: Jurassic World: Dominion
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum
Director: Colin Trevorrow
If you liked: “Jumanji: The Next Level”
Shamrocks: 2 out of 5