Saturday, 11 June 2022

Film Review: Jurassic World – Dominion

Director Colin Trevorrow returns to the world of Jurassic Park for the sixth and supposedly final film in the saga, Jurassic World: Dominion

Clocking in at a smidge under two-and-a-half hours,  Dominion is the longest of the Jurassic films yet – and it feels long too. From the Midwest to Malta and the northeastern Italy, the film's first act bounces around, catching us up on the ballooning ensemble cast. 

Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) have shacked up in a cabin along with their adoptive daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), Franklin (Justice Jesse Smith) has scored a job with the CIA, Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is teaming up with old flame Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to investigate tech giant Biosyn Genetics, and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is now a famous author on the subject of chaos theory.

Some clunky plot mechanics about cloning, feral locusts and a global food shortage bring the group together; uniting old and new for a legacy sequel that doesn't understand that empty nostalgia is no match for telling a genuinely interesting and compelling story. 

Rather than a rousing finale, Jurassic World: Dominion is a film of two distinctly different halves; the first, an international espionage conspiracy thriller (featuring dinosaurs) and the second, something more akin to what we've seen before, where people are plonked into a strange place swarming with prehistoric nasties. 

Neither half really clicks together to form a cohesive whole; while the first half is something different, it simply isn't a good attempt at what it's trying to do. Strong-arming dinosaurs into a globetrotting spy caper tests the limits of the Jurassic format, straining the boundaries of what works and what doesn't.  

The overlong second half – once the cast are all in the same place, a high-tech compound in the Dolomite Mountains where Biosyn's CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) is cooking up a conspiracy – at least returns us to familiar territory. Credit where it's due, there's a string of genuinely good sequences and scares here – where dinos stalk our heroes through a swampy forest, a derelict mineshaft, across an icy lake.

A shame then, that this arrives a little too late to save the film was itself. Rather than keeping thing simple, Dominion builds on some of the baffling plot threads of its predecessor, Fallen Kingdom, and steers the series into some seriously strange places.

In prioritising plot, Trevorrow and his cowriter Emily Carmichael, have forgotten to do anything outside of the bare minimum with the film's characters. 

Like, how do Pratt and Dallas Howard's characters actually grow and change in this film? Truth is, they don't – they're more or less the same bland, two-dimensional people that they were at the start. 

Say what you like about Trevorrow's first Jurassic film, but at least Owen and Claire had an arc in that one. Here, they have one goal, and the plot doesn't accomodate for any exploration of their life or relationship outside of that singleminded focus. Pratt might as well be a cardboard cutout of a man with a frowny face, while Dallas Howard has regressed from 'career-driven go-getter' in the first film to 'freedom fighter' in the second and now 'mom in a wooly cardigan' here. 

Is it nice to see the old cast back again? Sure, but what made that original cast so compelling in the first film – action and scares alongside interesting ideas and themes – is boiled down to its most basic elements here, plus the occasional 'nudge nudge, wink wink' moment of course. 

The film tries its hardest to conjure up some excitement or rapport between the three, but it doesn't come. Grant and Sattler are pitched into an autumnal romance (are we supposed to think there was something there all along?) while the script isn't sure what to do with Malcolm at all. Occasionally their scenes are underscored by John Williams' classic leitmotifs, in an attempt to evoke some kind of Pavlovian feeling of youth and wonder. It doesn't work.

The Verdict: 4/10

A film about dinosaurs living amongst humankind has no right being this boring. Some neat ideas and some well-executed scares are somewhat wasted in this overlong and bloated misfire.

Jurassic World: Dominion is in cinemas across Australia now.

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