New from Every Movie Has a Lesson by Don Shanahan: MOVIE REVIEW: Jurassic World Dominion

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures


Maybe it’s the school teacher day job filling my mind, but Jurassic Park Dominion comes across like those brown rolls of school-issued paper towels. Do you remember them? Some rambunctious student makes a mess in a classroom or cafeteria and the formidable-looking and seemingly-infinite roll would be called upon to clean it up. They never worked. 

LESSON #1: THE DEFINITION OF A “SPECTACULAR MESS”— Their absorption capacity was laughable. You could wad together an amount rivaling Pee Wee Herman’s foil ball or try any number of bunching or folding techniques and it wouldn’t be enough, even on plain water. All they did was smear the mess around making, for the most part, an even more spectacular mess before a custodian was needed with a proper mop bucket. 

With Jurassic World Dominion, a spectacular mess has been present for years and every page of this script might as well be made of those brown industrial paper towels. Worst of all, there’s no janitor coming to clean up the mess and save the day. We’re left with the very expensive wreckage. Sometimes, just like in school, it’s fun to be part of the disorder, but that may not always be the case with this film.

In the years since the destructive volcanic eruption on Isla Nublar from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the rescued dinosaurs that were released have multiplied and spread across the entire planet. Their invasive presence has created an international conundrum of social safety, political contention, scientific division, and a corrupt black market of exploitation. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has morphed from her corporate suit origins deeper into her activist activities while secretly raising the controversial teen clone Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) as her surrogate mother alongside Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) in their rural cabin.

The strongest scientific response to the dinosaur situation since the collapse of InGen has come from their chief competitor BioSyn. Their CEO Dr. Lewis Dodgson (sharp fans will remember the character as the man seeking the embryos smuggled by Dennis Nedry from the original film), played by a curt Campbell Scott, has created a vast compound in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy to serve as a state-of-the-art research facility and a heavily-protected animal reserve. Behind the glossy corporate front, Dodgson seeks the powerful genetic potentials that lie in Maisie Lockwood and “Blue,” the soul surviving original Jurassic World velociraptor.

LESSON #2: ABANDONING PROMISING CONCEPTS– For all of those loyal fans who were eagerly intrigued by the escalating premise of humans and dinosaurs coexisting created in the wake of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, you get to enjoy that concept for about two reels, give or take, of Jurassic World Dominion. That’s it. Once Maisie and Blue’s child are nefariously kidnapped by BioSyn, the movie turns into an ill-fitting globe-trotting adventure that splatters that aforementioned spectacular mess. The Jurassic Park/World universe was built on intelligent, primal wonder. How it has been radically spun since has lost much of that dramatic anchor. With more patient intention and less reliance on cardiovascular expenditure, they had a hell of a heady concept to explore.

Instead, Jurassic World Dominion is all about one chase after another, most of which trample each other, never reach satisfying conclusions, bury the old wonder deeper than the fossils themselves. It’s as if director Colin Trevorrow, his co-screenwriter Emily Carmichael (Pacific Rim: Uprising), and longtime writing partner Derek Connolly (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) dumped the pile of dinosaur toys and human action figures on a table, picked up one or a pair at a time, and then flipped a coin to decide where something chases it or it does the chasing of something else.

Owen and Claire ignore the authorities to travel to Malta to retrieve Maisie only to run into a benevolent pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise of The Harder They Fall) and new laser-guided hybrid velociraptors sicced on them by lavish dinosaur smuggler Soyona Santos (Dichen Lachman of Severance). Concurrently, Jurassic Park original Dr. Ellie Sattler finds herself investigating BioSyn’s link to a rampant swarm of prehistoric locusts that threaten Earth’s agricultural system to the point where she enlists the help of Dr. Allen Grant (Sam Neill). Their old friend Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) plays the inside man at BioSyn to sneak the scientists in as guests. 

When Allen and Ellie reach the restricted levels to discover Maisie and the baby raptor in their locust investigation, all while Owen, Claire, and Kayla try to break in from the outside. The messes have now swirled together. All the while, the new and name-dropped bigger, newer, and deadlier dinosaurs stomping after and hunting any human dangled in their paths are sideline for human chases and the white noise yawn of the locust subplot. Typical to blockbusters that force action for the sake of action, the number of wild and inane pitfalls from all of these doopy pursuits add up quickly.

Admittedly, there are a few crossover moments between the popular cast members of the two trilogies that have their dream fulfillment charm. Seeing the undaunted Ellie and Claire team up to beat down some bugs is a welcome yet minor treat for the Strong Female Characters crowd. Likewise, when Maisie and Allen follow the lead of our favorite raptor wrangler Owen to put forth that same famous pose of an outstretched hand of heeling dominance, the giddiness is measurable. Earnest themes of people depending on each other and how replicas attempt to match originals become more heavy-handed than genuine.

No matter, we’re back to the chases and mess because the buildup to those moments come from preposterous flimsiness on screenplay paper towels that is not strong enough to make those mini-climaxes matter. That silly, heroic, and memed-to-death hand only works in the movies. Real-life beastial adversity bites that wannabe hand of bravery right off. Get back to that tangible carnage. The true individuals who need that stop-yourself hand are the next execs and psychotropic-enhanced aspiring screenwriters who will, against the advertised conclusion Jurassic World Dominion promises to be, feel the need to start another lucrative mess of movies. Listen to the hand and stop.

LESSON #3: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TOTAL CONTROL– Much like the God-playing antagonist characters of the movie, no one has learned anything since 1993, both in the movies and in the Universal Pictures writing room. Scientists are still screwing with forces they cannot control, and the big corporation everyone thinks is well-meaning shows their true, greedy colors to earn a violent comeuppance in the denouement. No smart screenwriter has broken that narrative loop to do something daring or different. When they flirt close to trying, or at least consider the notion of better paper towels, these scripts devolve back to the same spills and thrills we’ve seen over and over. Ian Malcolm said it best. It’s all “unchecked avarice.” 



from Review Blog

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