About halfway through the movie, a character utters the line ‘Jurassic World? Ugh, not a fan.’ Now, that character is referring to the theme park Jurassic World, which was as ill-advised an idea as there ever was, but it made me think of Jurassic World the movie. I remember rolling my eyes when I first saw the trailer back in 2015, but who would’ve guessed that the first in the Jurassic World trilogy turns out to be the best one. Of course, Hollywood would always milk a $100-million grossing movie for all its worth, let alone one that fetched over $1.5 Billion!
Honestly, I could barely remember much of Fallen Kingdom apart from the preposterous dino fossil auction scene. Four years after the Indoraptor debacle that destroys Isla Nublar, all kinds of dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the face of the earth. Early in the movie, former Velociraptor-trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) is seen lassoing a dino the size of an elephant with a giraffe-like neck as if they’re some cowboys trying to capture a wild stallion. You’d think Covid pandemic is bad enough, it’s absolutely ludicrous to think humans could actually survive alongside these wildly engineered beasts even for days, let alone years. Forget the T-rex, Spinosaurus, whatever-asourus, seeing those crops-eating giant locusts alone is likely enough to make us extinct within months.
As in most monster movies, while the creatures are bad, the humans are actually worse, especially when they work for a nefarious corporation. Life finds a way, is what the late Dr. Hammond said in the original Jurassic Park, well… so do greed and stupidity, two lethal combinations. As InGen, the company responsible for the doomed theme park is no more, this time we’ve got a rival company Biosyn Genetics, led by a Tim-Cook lookalike Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). The last time I saw Scott was in 1991’s Dying Young, can’t say I miss the guy and he’s definitely one of the lamest things about this movie. There’s one particular scene where he’s frustrated that had the entire theater laughing in hysterics.
We always have to crank our suspension-of-disbelief sky-high whenever we go into a movie like this one, but even so, there’s only so much one can sit through. What Spielberg did with the original is quintessential movie magic in that it made the unimaginable world it concocted seemed plausible, and his directorial touches made us watch in awe and be scared sh**less in equal measure. Colin Trevorrow and co-writer Emily Carmichael add more terrifying creatures and place people in preposterous situations here simply to drive the excessive, bombastic action set pieces. As exemplified in the last three Jurassic World trilogy, more ferocious dinos don’t exactly translate to better thrills, in fact, the opposite is true. I kind of yawn whenever these ravenous creatures show up, often to steal food from or bicker with each other whilst the humans end up being collateral damage.
Now, one thing I give props to Trevorrow is the setting in Malta. I read that he wanted to see dinosaurs roaming around an ancient city, around centuries-old stones, as if to contrast how much more ancient those things are. We’re so used to seeing dinos lurking in the jungle or tropical locations, so seeing them in a desert-like town, city streets and frozen lakes, etc. at least add a smidgen of novelty. That said, the constant frenetic action tramples the story and everything else. It’s as if the filmmakers are trying to one-up Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible… ‘Sure Tom Cruise can elude and outmaneuvered goons on a hilly, twisty terrain, but can he outrun a pack of Atrociraptors?’ Ay caramba!
The only bright spot is seeing the reunion of the trio from the original trilogy: Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum reprising their roles as Dr. Ellie Sattler, Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm, respectively. It’s a testament to the original actors’ brilliance as the best parts here involve these three in various shenanigans. I love the flirtatiousness of former lovers Ellie and Alan who still look really good three decades after the first movie! Ellie is now a divorced mother of two while Alan still pretty much lives for his paleontology work. Malcolm is a father of five and still looks as suave as ever! The chaos theorist once again senses something is afoot at Biosyn and at least here he’s given a bit more to do than in the last one.
One actor who seems ready to be done with all these dino actions seems to be Chris Pratt. Owen looks bored and boring virtually from start to finish and his hand gestures + pouty lip to supposedly control the raptors look even sillier than ever. He’s not the first actor to phone it in, but at least others can be more adept in concealing their indifference. At least Bryce Dallas Howard can still manage to deliver an emotional performance when it counts, especially as Owen and Claire are now playing adopted parents of teenage Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) who was in Fallen Kingdom. Lead geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) sort of got a bit of a redemptive arc in the end, but it feels too little too late.
In terms of effects, naturally the technology is even more advanced that the creatures look more realistic. They actually use even more animatronics than in previous movies, eighteen of them to be exact, but mixed them with computer graphics more seamlessly. It’s ironic though, despite all that, the most memorable–and terrifying– dino-encounter scene remains to be the first time we saw the T-rex on that fateful rainy night in the 1993 original… they simply can’t recapture that magical feeling even five more movies later.
As for the music, though Michael Giacchino is credited as the main composer, it’s John Williams’ iconic score that gives me goosebumps. Even in just a few notes gives me such a wonderful nostalgia to the good ‘old Jurassic Park. The rest of the score is barely memorable.
In short, gone is the sense of wonder that began 29 years ago, what’s left is doldrums and dread of seeing a once-fascinating IP become so, so insipid. At nearly 2.5 hours long, it waaay overstayed its welcome… well it really never had much reason to exist to begin with. I’ve always been a proponent of original stories over rehashed ones or those capitalizing over a popular IP. Having just seen this one AND Lightyear back to back, I feel even more strongly about that sentiment. I sure hope this is the end as there’s really no more interesting dinosaur-related story to mine anymore.
I said in my Fallen Kingdom review that that movie was already past its extinction date. I suppose one thing Hollywood can’t ever seem to do is quit while they’re ahead.
Well, what do YOU think of Jurassic World: Dominion?