Movie review: Jurassic World – Dominion

(courtesy IMP Awards)

Endings matter, especially when it comes to the stories we tell.

We might not be able control much about our spotty, blighted existence but one thing we can most certainly influence, and to hopefully satisfying effect, are the stories we tell, and how they end.

Get the finish right and you are covered in glory; get it wrong, or spectacularly fail to stick your landing, and you are pilloried from here to … well, to King’s Landing.

We need things to end well, or at least with some sense of finality, good or bad (preferably good) which is why a lot of people have been waiting for Jurassic World: Dominion to land in theatres to see what does happen when dinosaurs get loose on modern-day Earth and play havoc with contemporary ecosystems and good old Homo Sapiens who is, when it comes to T Rexes or Giganotosaurus, merely a snack along the way to a full-sized meal.

A number of weeks in from its release worldwide, it is fair to say that the reviews haven’t been favourable overall with Rotten Tomatoes currently sitting at 31% and Metacritic at a slightly but not really healthier 38%, with many reviewers citing a raft of compelling reasons why Jurassic World: Dominion simply isn’t worth your time.

Ending therefore squibbed, stuffed up, missed and otherwise done away with, right?

Not necessarily; while it’s true the movie is a whole lot of action in desperate search of a reason to be, a frenetic rush to the finish line that lays spectacle on top of spectacle in the hope it will all mean something and affect us in some way, it’s by no means lacking in blockbustery escapist fun.

While it often feels like a Bond film – there’s epic global settings, a villain in the form of Biosyn CEO Dr Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) who “evilness” is telegraphed well ahead of time with subtlety not this film’s strong suit, titanic battles and good duking it out with evil with morally grey undertones, and yes great amounts of cheese – meets the Bourne franchise meets a 1950s cliffhanger cinema serial, what Jurassic World: Dominion is at heart is a great big ball of epic blockbuster edge of the seat fun.

(courtesy IMP Awards)

Could it have been better?

Quite possibly; certainly the whole living with dinosaurs scenario, which could’ve been wonderfully explored and used to epically arresting effect, is essentially shoehorned into a videoblogger piece at the start of the film where we see T Rexes scaring drive-in cinemagoers or Pterosaurs nesting atop skyscrapers in New York City (it’s exposition for what follows and not much more).

It’s catchy and cool, but beyond the alluring idea of the Jurassic – really the Cretaceous but hey, that’s not as snappy to say – slamming right into the Anthropocene, Jurassic World: Dominion doesn’t really do much with the chaos this would cause, or the wonder it might cause although one scene in which a Dreadnoughtus (or possibly a wanders amiably, if confusedly, through a lumber yard to the evident awe of all witnesses.

Still, director Colin Trevorrow, who co-write the screenplay with Emily Carmichael, does have some fun with the idea of the prehistoric crashing with all the finesse of an Atrociraptor – like Velociraptors but even more aggro if that’s possible and clearly it is, narratively speaking anyway – asking us to imagine a world in which scientists with extreme ethical issues and smugglers like Soyona Santos (Dichen Lachman) have spread land, air and sea prehistoric creatures far and wide.

Much of the film’s storytelling drive comes from the way in which these organised crime figures make life difficult for the heroes of the current trilogy, Velociraptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who are living out in the snowy woods with their adoptive 14-year-old daughter Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) who is, wait for it, the cloned adoptive child of Benjamin Lockwood’s – John Hammond’s partner from the early films in the franchise – and who might just hold the secret to ending the scourge of giant Cretaceous locusts that have arisen from nothing. (Psssst not so; they’ve been engineered and someone – it’s Biosyn! Hey not a spoiler, again Jurassic World: Dominion is not remotely subtle a whole lot of stuff).

Maisie’s very existence is intriguing, as is what happens to her, but like so much in this compellingly frustrating movie, it really isn’t given much room to breathe, much like the appearance of Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, Sam O’Neill as Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and even B. D. Wong as regretfully flawed geneticist Dr. Henry Wu who’s there to atone for his sins, who while they are given considerable time to shine, fail to have their storylines be given the requisite time needed to do justice to them.

(courtesy IMP Awards)

At its heart, Jurassic World: Dominion isn’t actually a bad film.

What it is is a number of really cool ideas struggling for air and room to move in a film that even at 146 minutes long, isn’t big enough to contain them, especially when, and let’s face it this is why we flock to the Jurassic Park/World films, we have to spend a lot of time showing people running, screaming, shouting and being chased, and sometimes eaten, by dinosaurs.

C’mon, while we love the exploration of the morality and ethics behind the idea of bringing dinosaurs, pterosaurs etc back from extinction, we are really here to watch Carnotaurs stalk and eat people in Malta or T Rex and Giganotosaurus fighting it out in Biosyn’s dino sanctuary in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy or Dilophosaurus enacting justice upon wrongdoers, which they do again in Jurassic World: Dominion for the first time since they, a shaving cream container and a duplicitous worker ensured Jurassic Park had its own impressive morality play moment.

We want all the carnage, mayhem and action and we get it, and while it’s undeniably fun in a brutally vengeful fashion, it means that some of the film’s weightier moments, and the actors charged with bringing them to life, don’t quite get realised as fulsomely as they should have.

The narrative overcrowding also means that the gloriously good bringing together of the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World teams feels a little rushed and half-baked though it does mean more potential meals for the carnivores and more chances for the heroes of the piece to quip some funny, pithy lines.

In the end, and yes, this is the end and not as bad a one as you may have been led to believe, Jurassic World: Dominion is a greatly enjoyable film to watch evoking the thrills and spills of the original films with a heady dose of modern epic blockbuster globalism, giving us dinosaurs aplenty including belatedly some feathered ones, and taking us on another ride along the road of humanity’s endless capacity for hubris.

Sure, it’s flawed and attempts too much and that’s disappointing when with some judicious editing, it could have ticked all its narrative boxes and still satisfied, but overall Jurassic World: Dominion is the kind of escapist fun blockbusters overall should be, and Jurassic ones especially are expected to be, and it diverts and delivers the sort of ending we need and crave with the promise that, in a world where people and prehistoric beast now co-exist, it might simply be a pause before another manic dino beginning.

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