Has there ever been a franchise where the appeal is so obvious but the movies so forgettable as the Jurassic Park sequels? Every time audiences flock to the cinema to see the magic of dinosaurs brought to life on the big screen, and every time they’re served some muddled storyline that just gets in the way of seeing people get eaten.
So in one sense Jurassic World: Dominion is a step forward – an evolution, even – for the series. This time, instead of one largely forgettable storyline that’s just an excuse for people to flee killer raptors, we get two.
It’s been four years since the last film and now dinosaurs roam the earth. Only not really, as evil corporation Biosyn – run by quirky tech genius Louis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), who was a bad guy back in the very first Jurassic Park but played by a different actor – has been awarded the contract to round them up and stash them away in a giant preserve in the European Alps where nothing can possibly go wrong.
Giant mutant locusts
The trailers for this film suggested a world where dinosaurs, having run amok, were pushing humanity to extinction. Disappointingly, we only get a few moments of dinosaurs in the human world; instead the real threat is a swarm of giant mutant locusts who are devouring crops. Strangely, they don’t seem to have a taste for crops grown from Biosyn brand seed. Hmmm, thinks Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern).
Despite the planet’s food supply now being in dire peril, the entire crop-eating world has zero interest in asking Biosyn why this might be. It’s up to Sattler to try and sneak into their corporate headquarters to get a sample from one of the locusts that Biosyn will hopefully have there … and not hidden in some secret lab under another name hundreds of miles away like something an evil corporation would actually do.
Sattler then stops by a palaeontology dig run by old friend Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to bring him along on her mission because she ‘needs a witness’ and obviously a man clearly still in love with her is the most reliable choice. Just to be absolutely clear, none of this makes any sense at all, but seeing Dern and Neill together again is more than enough to justify it.
Sequel … two?
While this sequel to the original Jurassic trilogy is going on, a completely different and largely separate sequel to the last Jurassic World film is taking place off in the woods where Claire Dearling (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are secretly parenting the clone child Maisie (Isabella Sermon) from the last film.
Raptor Blue (also from the last film) roams the wilderness with her own clone offspring; with clones bringing big money on the black market, evil smugglers aren’t far away (did Dolly the sheep ever have this problem?).
All of this is efficiently told. All credit to director Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World: Dominion is nothing if not competently made from top to bottom: this is a solid Hollywood blockbuster that rarely outright disappoints. And yet, much of this plot comes off as largely pointless – and that’s before we get to things like ‘the illegal trade in weaponised dinosaurs’ and ‘is a clone a real human – well, yes, obviously, just look at her’.
Partly that’s thanks to a script that mostly moves everyone (with the help of a smuggler pilot played by DeWanda Wise) around like chess pieces to ensure we get (a) plenty of chase sequences, before (b) everyone meets up to sneak around the Biosyn HQ just in time for everything to – wait, this can’t be right – ‘go wrong’.
And partly that’s because, while these movies are stacked with charming and likable actors who are easy to care about (even more so once Jeff Goldblum turns up, even if his kookiness here is dialled down to a low simmer) it’s the dinosaurs we’ve really come to see. People? They’re just there to be eaten.
Of course, almost nobody actually gets eaten. These are movies for kids, which means they’re movies for parents, and while kids desperately want to see dinosaurs shovelling people down their throats like stale popcorn, parents do not.
There are plenty of entertainingly effective action sequences where people are stalked by dinosaurs, but going by the end results the reason the dinosaurs died out was hunger because these versions seem like they’d be lucky to catch a cold.
And while the multiple dinosaur chase sequences are all exciting to watch, they underline one of the film’s big problems: the dinosaurs almost never act like animals. Aside from the occasional pan past a giant herbivore or someone patting a cute baby dino, what we get here time and again are predators relentlessly targeting humans in a way real animals rarely do.
At one stage there’s even raptors who, once you’ve been laser-tagged by an evil yet glamorous arms dealer (Dichen Lachman), will not stop hunting you down like a 65-million-year-old Terminator. If you can laser-tag your target, why not just shoot them?
The original Jurassic Park remains a classic because it brought dinosaurs to life. The action sequences there worked because the animals were acting like animals (and the practical effects used didn’t have the weightlessness of so much modern CGI). No matter how effective the action is in the moment here – and again, the scenes are well staged throughout – with the dinosaurs as little more than props, there’s no life in Jurassic World: Dominion.
Jurassic World: Dominion.
Director: Colin Trevorrow.
Writers: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly.
Starring: Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt.
Producers: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley
Produced by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, in association with Perfect World. Pictures
Distributor: Universal Pictures.
Rated M, 146 minutes.
In cinemas now