Jurassic World Dominion: like watching the same movie over again
- Credit: Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment
Certificate 12A. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Scott Campbell and Jeff Goldblum. Running time: 147 mins.
The thing about dinosaurs is that they were fundamentally thick and dull. 165 million years on Earth and what did they do? Nothing. No development, no evolution, no change.
Like the Mitchells in Eastenders, they were stuck in a mindless cycle of feeding, fighting and fornicating, determined that whatever the setback, no lesson would be learned and they’d remain none the bloody wiser.
Their spirit of caution and routine is properly honoured in the Jurassic films. When Spielberg unleashed the technological marvel of the original, smartphones and the internet were future wonders. Humanity is always on the move - except in Jurassic Park movies where nothing evolves, there is no artistic development, and we are always, stubbornly, defiantly, none the bloody wiser.
It’s taken two films to get there, but Dominion finally promised a Jurassic World movie that matched the title. The first Jurassic World film was Jurassic Park but in a different Park. Jurassic World 2 went back to the original island for its first half but then became Jurassic Park in a big house, which was at least an unexpected route to take.
Only in the last couple of minutes were we teased with an actual Jurassic World, a film where dinosaurs roamed the earth and terrorised 21st-century existence. This was down to some kid freeing them from their cages when they were about to be poisoned. Unleashing an extinction-level threat against humanity because it would not be ethical to stand by and watch them die - how’s that for virtue signalling?
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And for a while, JW3 tentatively explores this brave new world, while all the time sticking to what it knows. To signify that this is planned to be the the last milking of the dinosaur cash cow, the film combines the new Jurassic cast – Pratt, Howard – with the original one – Neill, Dern and Goldblum.
They provide the various routes into the story, all leading to Biosyn, a sinister tech firm run by Scott Campbell. The plot takes in a Jason-Bourne-with-dinosaurs section in Malta that is novel but frustrating, but after an hour the film is heading to its final destination, a hi-tech Bond villain lair in the Dolomites inside a protected Dinosaur enclosure. Abandon any ideas of watching dinosaurs stampeding down the Golden Gate Bridge or battling it out over New York. It's truly spirit-crushing to see the film pack up the limitless possibilities available and head for the tried and tested.
The Biosym compound isn't technically another Jurassic Park, but the difference is minimal. And what do they do there? Exactly the same as in all the other films, but with less sense of jeopardy. There is a serious issue of hero overcrowding in Dominion. Alongside the two casts, the film gathers at least three more hero figures which are considered indispensable and in some of the worst sequences they are all clumped together in a big group surrounded by dinosaurs. If there is an innovation here it's introducing the concept of safety in numbers.
The shock is how much more interesting the original cast is than the new one. 29 years ago I came out grumbling about why Spielberg had picked such dull leads in Neill and Dern, but they're much more fun than Pratt and Howard. No reflection on the actors, just the thinness of characterisation.
Colin Treverrow has been brought back to direct the last instalment of one mega-budget trilogy after getting the boot from Star Wars. His direction is uninspired but it's the lazy, tired script that he cowrote that's the problem. The plot is just a chain of coincidences and ooh-look-who’s-arrived-in-the-nick-of-time.
And yet, if you are happy to watch the same Jurassic Park movie over and over again – and $5 billion says many people are – then this will probably do you fine. There's still fun to be had. Perhaps the only striking thing about Dominion, which pushes its eco message very hard, is its casual acceptance of the possibility of human extinction. I wouldn't say it's in favour of it, but it seems open to arguments.
And if the only use we put our dominion over the whole of the earth is to make and watch the same Jurassic Park films over and over again, maybe we won’t be that big a loss.