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Jurassic World Dominion (12A)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Laura Dern, Sam Neill
Review: RJ Bland
It's hard to believe that Jurassic Park is 30 years old next year. Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking blockbuster based on Michael Crichton's novel about a dinosaur theme park gone wrong is still rightly heralded as one of the greatest films in cinema history. And somehow it still feels timeless. It cost $63m (a LOT of money back then) to make and to date and has taken around a billion dollars worldwide. Spielberg went on to direct a (rather loose) adaptation of Crichton's follow up book The Lost World in 1998 and the trilogy was completed three years later with the Jo Johnston's lean Jurassic Park 3. And now we have a brand new Jurassic trilogy. Director Colin Trevorrow's re-imagining of the concept was realised with Jurassic World (2015) – a film that was generally well received despite not being able to quite match the quality of the original. Its sequel, Fallen Kingdom (2018), was darker and more mean spirited and generally less appreciated. Universal have indicated that the third film in the new trilogy, Dominion, would be the last Jurassic World movie and to add to the occasion, got together the old gang for the final send off – with Goldblum, Dern and Neill all reprising their roles from the originals. Everything has been set up for a glorious send off for one of the cinema's biggest franchises – but did Dominion manage to pull it off?
Set three years after the events of Fallen Kingdom - the ending of which saw a batch of dinosaurs escape into the wild - Dominion opens with a quirky reel of how they have adapted to their new surroundings. And by that, we mean basically everywhere on Earth. Deserts, forests, ice cold tundra, cities - somehow, they are on every continent. And have multiplied ten fold too! As we're left to ponder what the future holds for these animals, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are hiding out in the rural mid-west with sort-of-adopted daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) in tow. The fact Maisie is a clone makes her a wanted person and the dysfunctional family clash over how to keep her safe. Unfortunately, a merc has tracked them down and snatches Maisie away (along with the baby of Owen's velociraptor chum Blue) Owen and Claire begin a globe-trotting journey to get her back. Meanwhile, a swarm of giant prehistoric-looking locusts have begun chomping their way through the world's crop supplies and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is on the case. She soon suspects that shady genetics company BioSyn are somehow involved and ropes in old pals Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to get to the bottom of it...
You may notice that there is a distinct lack of actual dino drama in the above and that's because, well...they're not really the main players in this one. That's not to say that we don't get to see any and they aren't front and centre of most of the action scenes. But Dominion isn't really about them. It's about espionage and genetics and food production and abduction. At times it feels like we are watching a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie. The desire to push the envelope is commendable; it means that the story is broader and bigger in scale, yet ultimately more loose and less focused.
More ground may be covered but there is ultimately no real take-away from much of it.
The dinosaurs themselves are hugely impressive as you'd expect and the mixture of CG and animatronics is a winner. We're treated to a selection of new terrifying iterations too, alongside some of our old faves. There's the Atrociraptor (think Velociraptor, but bigger), the Gigantosaurus (the biggest land carnivore to have ever existed) and possibly the most terrifying of the lot – a Therizinosaurus, which looks like a mash-up of a Velociraptor, a turkey and the Babadook. Trevorrow also gives us some solid action sequences too, with a thrilling high speed chase through the streets of Malta a particular highlight.
Unfortunately the plot and characters don't quite match up. Global food production is indeed an important subject but in terms of movie stakes, it's a bit 'meh'. And Claire and Owen's attempts at retrieving Maisie also don't really land any emotional punch because...well, the girl is just rather annoying. The stakes in a 145 minute disaster movie with dinosaurs should be higher than this but as the film hurtles towards its climax, we're never really quite sure what the end game is supposed to be (other than scene-by-scene escape from dinosaurs that keep appearing).
The biggest disappointment of Dominion however, is the handling of the ensemble cast. Firstly, there are just too many of them. By the time the World and Park characters meet up, we've added a few more to the gang in the mean time. There just end up being too many cooks. Whilst it is undeniably great to see Neill, Dern and Goldblum back together, their chemistry just feels a little off – although a big part of that is the fact that are working from an inferior script that gives them little chance to engage on an emotional level. And whilst there was some initial spark between Claire and Owen in Jurassic World, they seem to be going through the motions at this point and it's difficult to invest in that relationship in any great way. There's a charm and warmth that Dominion lacks that ultimately made Jurassic Park so bloody brilliant. But then that's why Spielberg is so darn good. He's able to give us the spectacle as well as giving us the feels (Oh god I hate that saying). Dominion may do the former but it fails at the latter. And considering that this is the end of the Jurassic journey, it's especially frustrating.
Jurassic World Dominion is an action-packed but messy juggernaut of a film. The return of legacy characters adds a welcome nostalgia and it'll satisfy those looking for a fun popcorn movie. For those who wanted an explosive end to the franchise however, it doesn't truly deliver the goods.
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