With “Jurassic Park’s” wide-eyed sense of wonder and scientific discovery well in our rearview mirror, “Jurassic Park Dominion” is a scientific fiction film that does not feel too far ahead of our contemporary scientific fact. Sure, we are not going to see dinosaurs roaming city streets anytime soon. But solemn warnings about genetic engineering and misuse seem trite in our own climate-altered, cloned, artificially intelligent and post-pandemic dominion.
Such is also the case with seeing dinosaurs on our silver screens. Once a technological movie marvel, “Jurassic World Dominion” further consigns every this-raptor and that-asaurus as any other movie kaiju and cogs in just another loud, computer-generated creature feature.
“Dominion” is set four years after “JW: Fallen Kingdom,” when the world’s remaining dinosaurs were rescued/rounded-up and then released in a fit of moralistic pique by cloned moppet Maise Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). As a result, dinos now live among us, frolicking alongside our children, nesting atop our skyscrapers, and lurking beneath our oceans. The initial worldbuilding of “Dominion” is its most interesting quality. Maltese bazaars sell dinosaurs as pets and rotisserie dinos as food. Farming operations illegally breed dinos like cattle. It is amusing when two brontosaurus wander into a logging operation and even more curious to see how to coax them out.
The bad guy du jour is Lewis Dodgson, CEO of genetics conglomerate BioSyn (the character was portrayed by another actor in the original “Jurassic Park”). The company has its mits in two separate plot threads. The first involves a swarm of giant, genetically altered locusts that are devouring any crops not planted using BioSyn’s strand of seed. Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler drags old pal Alan Grant (Sam Neill) out of his latest dino dig to fly to BioSyn’s remote research facility to suss out the link between BioSyn and humankind’s latest self-inflicted biblical plague.
Meanwhile, raptor-wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living off the grid, playing parents to Maise and Beta, the offspring of Owen’s pet raptor Blue. BioSyn’s goons abduct Maise and Beta because, well, reasons. Reasons that could have been (and ultimately are) achieved by some honest conversation rather than kidnapping. Pratt and Claire are aided by random mercenary Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who, for some unknowable reason, was not cast as the adult version of Ian Malcolm’s daughter from “The Lost World.”
The two Jurassic acting worlds eventually collide along with innumerable CGI concoctions. “Dominion” has two redeeming moments. The first is a taut scene in which a close-up camera follows Claire as she crawls along the ground into a pond, trailed by a giant avian Therizinosaurus, its long talons dug into the muddy bank and beak hovering just above the submerged prey. The other is Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, who has become resigned to humankind’s inevitable demise and figures he’ll make a buck or two off it in the meantime. Goldblum is the only actor who grasps the insanity of it all: when recurring geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong) looks for an escape from his latest ecological calamity, Malcolm (with Goldblum’s distinct cadence) mutters, “Uh, nooooo, uhhh, not that guy. Uh, it’s always, THAT guy.” It is no coincidence that the rest of the cast, particularly Neill and even Pratt, find their funny only once on-screen with Goldblum.
“Dominion” lands on some unearned, undeveloped notion of peaceful coexistence, which pretty much flies in the face of the “Jurassic” saga’s entire premise. A saga that, like the dinosaurs, had its time and should now be allowed to go extinct.
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