By now, it’s pretty clear that the magic of “Jurassic Park” can’t be recaptured.
Universal has put a slew of writers and directors up to the task of adapting Micheal Crichton’s excellent sci-fi novel, and out of the six films they have made, only two of them have been successful at catching lightning in a bottle.
Of course, the first film to do this was the original 1993 “Jurassic Park.” After the flops “Always” and “Hook,” Steven Spielberg made his triumphant return to theaters with a tense and adventure-filled take on the monster-film subgenre. The dinosaurs came to life like magic. With an ensemble cast featuring Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Wayne Knight and newcomer Samuel L. Jackson, this film was a sure-fire hit. General audiences loved it, and the film went on to make over $1 billion at the box office.
Then “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” four years later to a lukewarm critical reception. After this, Spielberg stepped down from the director’s chair of the Jurassic Park franchise. When “Jurassic Park III” arrived in 2001 and bombed, fans lost hope. Like the “Jaws” franchise, it seemed like this one was doomed to be a one-hit-wonder followed by a train of mediocre sequels.
Almost 14 years later, however, the world of “Jurassic Park” came back to theaters with the release of “Jurassic World.” In a surprising turn of events, it was actually pretty good. Even though it followed a similar plot to the first “Jurassic Park,” this film was a tense, beautiful and bombastic return to this world. Fans were happy — at least for a little while. The sequel, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” was exactly what the fans didn’t want. It was as action-packed as the first, sure, but it lacked substance, wonder and emotion.
It’s a curse, and “Jurassic World: Dominion” certainly isn’t the film to break it.
From the get-go, the film is confusing and shoddy. The film opens with a quickly cut-together sequence of a NowThis report about dinosaurs becoming a part of daily life. After this, the video drops the bomb that a clone of the daughter of one of the guys who founded the original Jurassic Park has been kidnapped. In the theater, I had no memory of the previous film in the series, so this shocked me. It’s such a strange, utterly out-of-left-field plot point. I laughed out loud in the theater because of how crazy it sounded. These enormous drops of exposition as well as the frantic editing made me feel like I was having a fever dream.
Now that that’s out of the way, maybe it’ll be better from now on, right? Maybe that was just a “previously on ‘Jurassic World’” thing, right?
No — not really. For the most part, actually, it gets worse.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” follows Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, and Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, as they chase after a baby velociraptor and their surrogate clone-daughter Maisie Lockwood, played by Isabella Sermon, after they were kidnapped by sinister genetic corporation Biosyn. Additionally, the film follows the original cast of “Jurassic Park” as they follow the mystery behind a pandemic of gargantuan locusts.
Production-wise, this movie is pretty mediocre, if not absolutely awful. Unlike the original “Jurassic Park,” or even the first “Jurassic World” movie, the special effects are wholly unconvincing. No dinosaur in the film even looks close to real, and the actors alongside them don’t make it any better. There are, however, dinosaur animatronics in the film, and those don’t look convincing either, but it is nice to see more practical effects in the modern age. As far as design, the dinos are exactly what you’d expect, although there is a new, unexpected type of dinosaur which I actually enjoyed. Other than that, the dinosaurs were standard and derivative of previous films.
As I mentioned, every actor is terrible in this movie. Even those that have proved themselves prior, like Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, all phone it in for this one. No character is convincing, nor fun to watch — except Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum. This, I suspect, is because Goldblum wasn’t playing a character. He was simply being himself, as he does in almost every role. He’s charismatic, funny and the best part of the film by far.
The writing didn’t do the actors any favors, though. The dialogue felt cheesy, stilted and forced. Even though this is the third film in the sequel trilogy, the film still feels the need to rely on nostalgia, so much so that it was borderline annoying. The two “romances” in the film were so unbelievably forced that they felt nonsensical, even wrong.
I would adore relaying to you the plot of the film beat-by-beat to convey how awful it is, but we all know that nobody wants to read that, so you’ll have to settle for this: it’s bad — nonsensical, even. The cloning plot makes no sense, and the ham-fisted commentary on corporate greed couldn’t be more on the nose. It feels like two completely different films were haphazardly mashed together. The first half is this globe-trotting adventure based around the black market trade of dinosaurs, while the rest is set in a research facility that might as well just be Jurassic Park again. The second half is better than the first, but that’s not saying much.
The action, while sporadically good in the previous two films, is almost sickening to watch in this one. I can attribute this to a mix of bad editing and cinematography. Shots don’t really lead into each other, and the film cuts them together so quickly that it’s hard to tell what’s going on. It’s dizzying, frantic and amateurish. For some inexplicable reason, however, the second half of the movie is somewhat easier to watch than the first. I’m not sure, but I think this might be because there’s less motion in the second half. The number of cuts between two high-velocity shots in quick succession in the first half made me genuinely nauseous.
One thing that this film severely lacks is tension. In the original “Jurassic Park” and even “Jurassic World,” the audience knew the danger. In the original, characters established in the opening acts would die next to characters we cared about. We knew the danger the main characters were in. It kept us on the edge of our seats, wondering what would happen next. Tension is essential to keeping an audience’s interest.
In this film, I think I only saw one character other than the main characters die. Every situation the main characters were in, they got out of without consequence. What results from this lack of stakes is complete and absolute boredom from the audience. For most of this film, I was completely disinterested in these characters and what they did, as I knew no harm would come to them. They would see a dinosaur, it would roar at them, they would scream and widen their eyes and they would get away. Rinse and repeat for roughly 2 ½ hours, and you’ve got “Jurassic World: Dominion.”
I’ve never wanted to walk out of a movie theater until I saw this film. I kept thinking about what else I could do with my time, and how much money I spent on tickets and concessions. I rolled my eyes, I groaned and I cringed. Do not see this film, it isn’t worth your time.
Final Score: 2/10