Jurassic World Dominion takes hundreds of millions of dollars, Oscar-level talent, and two-plus hours of the audience’s valuable time, and shovels them all into a blazing furnace. The result is a hellish inferno that threatens to engulf any good vibes this franchise has left. Somehow, the filmmakers manage to make ravenous dinosaurs seem boring, while also rendering a reunion of the original Jurassic Park cast into a total non-event. Every Jurassic release since that one has looked a little tireder, but this one is downright haggard. Whatever heaven holds the Dodo bird, it’s time for these movies to join it there.
This third World epic assumes you’ve slogged through the previous two. (I binged both before screening this one. Fallen Kingdom made me want to slam my head through drywall.) It’s a few years after that second installment, and the dinos now live among us. That means we get early shots of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) on horseback, corralling a herd of Parasaurolophuses like something out of Lonesome Dove. He and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) have settled into the Montana mountains, with their adopted daughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon). Claire feels the dinosaurs are being exploited, and desperately wants to help.
Meanwhile, in what feels like a totally different movie, giant prehistoric locusts are devouring crops throughout the Midwest. Terrified, the farmers call in Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dean) to investigate. She quickly deduces that Biosyn, an evil conglomerate, is behind the sudden plague. Duly outraged, Ellie turns to Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to help produce evidence and expose Biosyn to the world. When Ellie and Alan show up at corporate headquarters, they find Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) acting as a shill for the company. Or is he?? (Winky wink wink, y’all!)
Because this movie drones for an exhausting 146 minutes, we still have gobs of exposition to unpack. Let’s see: Blue, the raptor from the previous films, mysteriously shows up at Owen and Claire’s cabin with its offspring. This baby raptor has an unexpected link to Maisie, and may offer a clue to Biosyn’s real plans. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott, looking a lot like Tim Cook) is the dastardly Biosyn CEO, whose machinations make 007 villains seem realistic. And there’s Dr. Wu (BD Wong), the geneticist who harbors guilt for his actions in the previous films. And there’s a hotshot cargo pilot (DeWanda Wise) with a guilty conscience. All this padding makes Dominion overlong, disjointed, and unexciting.
It also transforms a dynamic, all-star cast into something chemically inert. Pratt squints and scowls as if he’s righteously constipated; I really wanted someone to hand him a pack of Marlboros and a cup of coffee. Howard gets the most thankless role (and that’s saying something in this flick), but she runs, shrieks, and crawls through muck with great skill. At the same time, the OG cast sits awkwardly with the rest of the film, like oil on top of water. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching the Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. Notice the scene where the two casts meet: It’s sooo uncomfortable, like your grandparents caught your other grandparents watching porn. It really seems the screenwriters had nothing here, shrugged, and just turned in blank sheets.
As for the special effects, I feel CGI hit a ceiling a few years ago. Stuff like this is only gonna look so real, which means more digital tinkering only makes it look more fake. Maybe we’ve become spoiled–and I’m being cynical–but I never lost sight that this movie was built by a squadron of nerds with iMacs. The first Jurassic Park had boatloads more suspense, and it was created on machines running DOS.
Movies like Jurassic Park Dominion irk me. This film has a bankable, charismatic star (Pratt), a superstar producer (Steven Spielberg), a guaranteed audience, plus the best supporting cast and crew that money could ever buy. To borrow a baseball metaphor, this thing begins its life on third base and it still can’t score. That makes the end result all the more disappointing. The filmmakers have been so preoccupied with whether or not they could make more of these movies, it’s time to start wondering whether or not they should.
146 min. PG-13. On demand, and in theaters.