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JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

 

Jurassic Park is one of those franchises that always seemed in want of a decent sequel to the classic original. While 2015’s Jurassic World managed to pique my interest by pitching audiences the idea of dinosaurs running amuck in a theme park after it opened, the final result still failed to ignite much enthusiasm in this reviewer. Still, $1.6 billion in worldwide box office can’t be wrong, so here we are with Jurassic World: Dominion, the third in the “world” trilogy and sixth in the series overall, finally arrived after a long pandemic-induced delay.

It’s been four years since the events of the previous film which ended with dozens of dinosaurs being released into the wild. Being ostensibly hard to track down, they have since bred and multiplied in huge numbers resulting in multiple clashes with human civilization. Not feeding the wildlife has never been more important. 

As expected with world-changing events, many private and special interests converge to exploit the exploding dino population including billionaire Lewis Dodgson* (Campbell Scott) who has built a dinosaur sanctuary deep in the Italian Dolemites. He’s also continuing the proud franchise tradition of genetic experiments with the help of franchise mainstay Dr. Henry Wu (Benedict Wong) who seems to have at last grown a conscience over the damage his work has caused.

Outside the lab, current series protag Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is out reenacting scenes from Valley of Gwangi out in the Sierra Nevada, rounding up dinos cowboy-style. Back at his secluded cabin, sorta-girlfriend Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) tries to keep young Maisie (Isabella Sermon) safe from prying eyes, mostly the ones interested in her clone origins. But there wouldn’t be a movie if they were successful, and one predictable kidnapping later, it’s off to Malta after receiving/extracting a tip from CIA contact Franklin (Justice Webb).

Meanwhile, a plague of giant locusts rivalling anything in God’s arsenal are ravenously devouring the human food supply. Next stop: Global famine. Returning to study these locusts is Dr. Ellie Statler (Laura Dern) who suspects that Dodgson’s company Biosyn is behind the locusts, a suspicion strengthened by an invitation from old colleague Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) who has invited her out to Biosysn’s facility. For seemingly no other reason other than getting the gang back together, she picks up Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) on the way over. The original cast is now (mostly) reunited.

The old and new casts are destined to collide at Biosyn, which basically functions as this movie’s “park” (Jurassic Lab?). It certainly wouldn’t be worthy of the franchise if the dinosaurs stayed in their cages so strap in for a series of set pieces with enough near-death experiences to rival The Hobbit franchise and stay till the end where franchise logo-model “Rexy” (the T-Rex) arrives for the final showdown for this year’s giant mutant dino.

I must preface my thoughts on this film with a declaration on the franchise’s ethics regarding the “rights” of dinosaurs. I’m a firm believer in the concept of human flourishing and was firmly in the “let them die” camp while watching the previous film. Given how introducing a frog to the wrong continent can cause mass ecological chaos, I doubt dropping long-extinct creatures into our current ecosystems would mesh well, no matter how much the strains of John Williams’ epic theme music and screen saver images of dinos alongside other animals wish us to think otherwise.

That being said, I’m not one to let major ethical concerns detract too much from my popcorn entertainment and I’ll admit that the film manages to deliver enough exciting set pieces and location eye candy (including scenes lensed in my home province of BC) to keep you from entirely regretting your ticket purchase. Returning to the franchise after J.A Bayona took the reins for Fallen Kingdom, director Colin Trevorrow keeps the characters and the plot simple and the cast mostly does their best with what little they are given. The film risks being overstuffed by juggling two generations of Jurassic cast but balances them better than expected, even if it does result in the longest runtime of the franchise (146 minutes).

The film definitely deserves cheers for wisely increasing the amount of animatronic dinos on display (mostly the younger ones). This helps it to approximate the verisimilitude of the original film’s dinos even if it still doesn’t quite match it. The 21st century CGI overload continues, after all. Jeers are mostly reserved for the character of Maisie who aside from having blood on her hands for unleashing carnivorous dinos on an unsuspecting human population in the last film, is now in an unfortunate insufferable early-teenage phase and somehow manages to get less interesting the more about her cloning-related backstory is revealed. 

Carrying the weight of five other entries plus marketing-driven fan service expectations, Jurassic World: Dominion succeeds more as a theme park ride than a film. It will satisfy that momentary need for summer thrills, but is far less likely to merit subsequent viewings down the line. By all means check it out, but given its preference for sizzle over steak, you might as well spring for the moving D-Box seats. 

6/10

 

 

Jurassic World: Dominion is currently screening in theatres worldwide

*Yes, that one. (We’ve got Dodgson here!)

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