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‘Jurassic World Dominion’ doesn’t quite dino-soar

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Look, dinosaurs are cool. We can all agree on that. Movies about dinosaurs, however … that’s a bit more complicated.

Back in 1993, “Jurassic Park” completely altered the cinematic landscape, showing a generation of moviegoers what was possible. Now, some three decades later, the fifth sequel to that film – third in the legacyquel “Jurassic World” trilogy – shows us that over time, magic always fades … even if the magic is dinosaur-shaped.

“Jurassic World Dominion” is … fine. Perhaps a little less than fine. Colin Trevorrow is back behind the camera, directing from a script (such as it is) he co-wrote with Emily Carmichael. It is a big effects-laden movie that isn’t all that concerned with character development or narrative cohesion, instead opting to throw a bunch of locations and dinosaurs at the wall, mix in some nostalgia casting and call it a day.

The plot – such as it is – is both overstuffed and riddled with holes; don’t worry if there are stretches where you’re not sure what is happening or why – it seems as though perhaps the filmmakers were in the same boat. Still, it’s better than the previous installment. Largely because it would have to have actively tried to be worse, but hey – better is better.

And again – dinosaurs. There are a LOT of dinosaurs. Just an absolute s—t-ton of dinosaurs, which is always going to be pretty cool, regardless of the comprehensibility of the story that surrounds them. So even if the movie as a whole isn’t good (and it isn’t, not really), it doesn’t matter, because it definitely delivers on the dinosaurs, and hey – if you’re not down for various flavors of dino-action, then what are we even doing here?

So we’re four years after the events of “Fallen Kingdom” – the eruption of the volcano at Isla Nubar and the dino-chaos at the Lockwood estate. Dinosaurs have spread across the globe, uneasily sharing space with humanity. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a sort of dinosaur rights extremist, trying to shut down those who would exploit dinosaurs. She’s living in the Sierra Nevada mountains with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt); the two of them are also secretly serving as the guardians for Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the cloned granddaughter of John Lockwood who is the subject of international interest.

Oh, and Blue, the velociraptor Owen trained, conveniently lives nearby – with a baby raptor that she apparently conceived solo. Genetics!

Anyway, the biotech company Biosyn, thanks to CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) has established itself as the sole entity responsible for capturing and protecting dinosaurs at their compound in Italy. Biosyn operatives find out about both the baby raptor and Maisie and opt to go ahead and take them. Despite Owen’s efforts, they are successful.

So Owen and Claire have to go rescue Maisie. They wind up traveling across the world, tracking the kidnappers to Malta. The bad guys slip through their fingers, but they meet pilot/adventurer Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who agrees to help them along their way.

Meanwhile, paleobotanist Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) and paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) come back together; they have suspicions about Biosyn and decide to find out more. Easy enough, thanks to an invite from everyone’s favorite chaos theorist Ian Malcom (chaos agent Jeff Goldblum), who works for Biosyn and has many suspicions of his own.

Everyone descends on the Biosyn compound after their various globetrottings and – you’ll be shocked to discover – it turns out their suspicions of nefarious activity are in fact well-founded. And if they can’t come up with a solution to the sinister machinations that have been set in motion, it could mean the end of the world. Or, you know, something like that.

I just spilled a lot of ink trying to break down this plot and honestly? There’s even more nonsense in there. We go to what feels like a dozen different locations for a dozen different reasons. At one point, there are giant bugs for reasons that even when explained don’t make much sense. Every character’s actions are either rote or incomprehensible. Over the course of the bordering-on-interminable 146-minute runtime, we’re confronted by moment after moment that simply doesn’t make much sense.

On the other hand – dinosaurs.

Look, I’ll concede that I will always miss the texture that practical effects bring to movies like this. The CGI is impressive, but it carries with it a flatness and a sense of separation. Still, what we get here is pretty cool. There are a handful of striking and genuinely impressive set pieces; the film does a great job of invoking and weaponizing the differences in scale (get it?), building some moments of action-packed intensity that are quintessential examples of modern blockbuster filmmaking.

So yeah – the human-dinosaur interaction is cool. I just wish the human-human interactions measured up. The connections between these people are seriously lacking; we don’t know anything about any of these people beyond a throwaway detail or two, and the film isn’t the least bit interested in anything more than that. This means that we rarely have any real sense of why people are making the choices that they make. Things happen and other things happen and there’s little rhyme or reason and then the credits roll.

There’s an obvious self-awareness to “Dominion,” a desire to ensure that audiences are walked through the connections to not just the previous movies in this trilogy, but to the rest of the franchise. I’m all for Easter eggs, but there’s a whiff of toxicity to this nostalgia; it’s fine to remember things in context, but too often here, the remembering IS the context. References for the sake of references. Just another example of the film’s myriad narrative issues.

The cast is fine. Pratt and Howard – both talented on their own – continue to lack chemistry as a unit. They simply don’t click in the way that the film so desperately wants us to believe that they do. There’s little dimension to either, though they both give it their all even so. Wise is quite good; she seems like the only one who isn’t already over the whole Jurassic thing. Campbell Scott gives us standard tech billionaire – overly casual dress, weird haircut – but not much more, leaving us wondering what his deal is.

Loved seeing Dern, Neill and Goldblum together again, even if this film essentially banks on our previous relationship with them; there’s little development for any of them, though they’re clearly having a good time getting the band back together. A fun reunion, but the shoddy writing means that that’s all it is.

“Jurassic World Dominion” isn’t great. The script is jumbled and overwrought, undone by an effort to tie up far too many loose ends while also going deep into fan service. The performances are flat and largely uninteresting; not bad so much as blah. And yet … there’s still a modicum of that movie magic here, thanks to the presence of those big, brutal, prehistoric beasts. I can’t say the movie is good, but I also can’t deny that I had a good time.

My advice? Set the bar low, turn off the critical thinking, sit back and enjoy the ride.

[2.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 13 June 2022 14:42

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