Monday, June 13, 2022

Film Review: Jurassic World - Dominion


Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable

Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

I've said this before, but I am very easy to please as a moviegoer.  I am willing to forgive a lot as long as the movie can make me feel something, whether it is wonder, awe, fear, excitement, romance, or humor.  But if you fail to make me feel anything, then your movie is a failure.

And that is the case with Jurassic World: Dominion.

The movie takes place a few years after the last film.  Dinosaurs are now roaming all over the world because Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) let them out at the end fo Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Maisie is also in hiding because people want to unlock the magic of her clone DNA.  Because of this, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are essentially raising Maisie in the Alaskan woods where Blue the Raptor is also running around with her new baby raptor Beta.  When Maisie and Beta are kidnapped, Owen and Claire must go around the world the save them.

One of the things about Dominion that is different than the the two previous films is that there is an entirely equal plot line playing out simultaneously.  Giant locausts are destroying crops all over the world leading to world-wide famine.  Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) returns as she suspects DNA manipulation.  All of the dinosaurs not in the wild or the black market are sent to a sanctuary in the Italian mountains, run by a tech billionaire Lewis Dodgeson (Campbell Scott).  His company, BioSyn (because I guess "Evil Corp." was already taken) employs Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who invites Ellie to their labs.  Ellie seeks out Alan Grant (Sam Neil) to help her prove that Wicked Science-, sorry, BioSyn is behind the locust attacks.

So the good news is that you get two Jurassic movies for the price of one.

The bad news is that both movies are terrible.

It is very unfortunate that this movie came out so soon after Top Gun: Maverick, where the lack of CGI created a strong visceral and emotional investment.  In Dominion, everything feels incredibly artificial.  In an early scene where Owen wrangles some free-range dinosaurs, there is nothing of the wonder found in the original Jurassic Park or even in Jurassic World.  This has been a continuing problem in this franchise, where they rely more and more on CGI.  In the original Jurassic Park, the computer graphics are integrated with the gigantic practical creatures.  The effect is that we suspend our disbelief and totally invest in the story.  Dominion fails here.

One of the problems is that this movie doesn't seem to understand its own franchise.  The introduction of the giant locusts is so odd.  I understand it as a plot device, but it is not in keeping with the theme of dinosaur mayhem.  The series has been building to the idea of contending with dinosaurs in the real world outside of an isolated area.  But we get so little of this that it feels almost like a bait and switch.  

In terms of plot structure, this movie has the same problem that Inglorious Basterds had: the two main storylines are too separated.  They do converge towards the end, but the jumping between both plot lines feels more tedious than engaging.

The biggest detriment to the story is the character of Maisie.  The screenwriters have built a story with her at the emotional core.  The problem is that she is a terrible character.  Sermon does a fine job, but we encounter Maisie as a whiney teenager.  Owen and Claire have rules about keeping her on their property, but she constantly ventures out.  Instead of making this feel like the understandable actions of an adolescent, it just feels so frustrating.  On Maisie's part, she feels ABSOLUTELY NO REMORSE for unleashing a plague of deadly creatures onto the world.  Every person in who gets killed by a dinosaur is her fault and she doesn't care.  Instead, we are meant to be totally emotionally invested in her quest for her own identity.  There is a reason why the children in the Jurassic movies were not the main characters on whom the plot rested.

Also because of the two parallel stories, none of the characters have time to really shine.  Fallen Kingdom was saved from being worse than this movie because it allowed Pratt's charisma to shine through.  But his Owen has so little to do that this is impossible.  (He does, however, have one incredibly awesome and manly moment with a dilophosaurus that had me laughing with delight).  Alan and Ellie awkwardly rekindle their romance, but it does not have any space to breathe.  Ian is so marginalized that he mostly sits around snacking making snarky comments, as if he is in the theater with us commenting on the movie's ridiculousness.  He has so little consequence to the story that the most heroic moment he has is undermined by someone else doing it for him.

The new characters are so bland that they make no impact. No-nonsense pilot Kayla (DeWanda Wise) has no personality other than being tough.  Dodgeson is a sniveling megalomaniac who rationalizes away his evil.  This is a far cry from Jon Hammond, who was so incredibly likable and engaging even as he was horribly wrong about everything.

Strangely, this is the most unintentionally pro-gun movie I have seen in a long time.  Over and over again, I kept thinking to myself, "If only these characters had machine guns, they would be fine."  And even when characters have guns, they DON'T USE THEM.  In one scene, some federal agents with guns are confronted by raptors.  Instead of shooting the raptors (who I must remind you ARE NOT BULLETPROOF), these trained officers decide to run without firing a shot.  One of them gets corned inside a small boat while a raptor keeps sticking its head through a small opening.  Instead of SHOOTING THE RAPTOR IN THE HEAD, he only fires upward to try and get out through a window.

All movies have logic problems, but we forgive them because we invest in the story.  But if we don't invest, we don't forgive.  It's hard to explain how asinine the story elements are so


-lumberjacks immediately listen to a 12-year-old they don't know about how to handle dinosaurs.

-Blue is reproducing asexually in the wild.  This means that she must immediately be captured or killed because the deadly raptors cannot remain unchecked.  No one brings this up.

-Only our heroes find it suspicious that the Megalocausts don't eat the crops made by the bad guys.

-Maisie is the clone of Charlotte Lockwood.  We find out that Charlotte made Maisie and gave birth to her, thus making her the mother of her own clone.  I turned to my wife during the movie and said "Is it me or is this absolutely grotesque."  But no, it is meant to be a heart-warming moment.

-why would guest lecturer like Ian be given access to a top-secret lab?

-Maisie is told that her and Beta's DNA can be used to save the world from the Megalocusts.  Her response is to run away and set Beta loose.  At the end of the movie, with no new revelations or motivation, she agrees to help.

-Claire gets hunted by an herbivore

-the sealed off lab with the Megalocusts has it attached to a large vent that they can swarm out of and into the park.

-some dinosaurs have vision based on movement until they don't.

-Awful Tech-, sorry, BioSyn hits a button that recalls all of the dinosaurs into the main campus out of the park.  And yet, it doesn't effect the dinosaurs that have to remain to kill someone the plot wants dead.

-Why do the T. Rex and the FreddyKrugersaurus team up Tag Team Style?  They use the same trope in the original Jurassic World, but this fight was so unearned that it defies logic.


Jurassic World: Dominion had a chance to course correct and bring this series to a thrilling conclusion.  Instead, you will be glad that this franchise may be going extinct.

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