As I’ve always said, what’s out there in the mainstream gets covered to infinity and beyond on so very, very, very many entertainment websites and blogs. Many celebrities even chime in from time-to-time via Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook about what they thought of the biggest blockbusters. Because there’s an abundance of opinion on tentpole pictures, I do sit back and think about a flick before I sound off on it, if for no better reason than I’d like to have something fresh, original, or different to say about a project. I’d rather not echo the sentiments of popular opinion. Sometimes, still, that’s very difficult.
Today’s evidence: 2022’s Jurassic World: Dominion.
Yes, yes, yes. The wifey and I took it in with a family friend just this week. Honestly, the saga – and the way it has progressed “logically” – meant that this far and wide away from being something we’d pay money and brave the crowds for in its opening weekend, so we waited a bit. I guess it’s safe to conclude that – as popcorn flicks go – it’s suitable entertainment, though methinks it’s a far cry from even the guilty pleasure that was Jurassic World (2015).
IMDB.com credits the original screen story to director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly. Their plot actually is the convergence of not one, not two, but three separate storylines that inevitably come together at about the film’s midpoint. And in a stroke of marketing genius, the whole shebang even managed to wrangle in the original Jurassic Park (1993) regulars of Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), bringing the entire saga to a kinda/sorta conclusion but with still plenty of legroom for someone else to pick up the ball and run with it.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return as the franchise’s biggest action stars, and this time they’re jetting around the world to find two kidnap victims: Blue’s baby velociraptor Beta (played by pixels) and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). As fate would have it, these two captured characters are apparently bearers of the genetic secret to fixing all that ails anyone and everything in Jurassic science and beyond, so it’s only natural that scheming evil scientists would have their sights set on them. Once these ideas all converge, the action rarely relents, thrusting the audience through one visual rollercoaster ride of excitement after another … though it all grinds to a halt occasionally to give Goldblum a chance to deliver his trademark Goldblumisms.
Because the established cast filled up so much of the film’s available screen time, the new additions are, sadly, given largely stereotypical treatment. Campbell Scott seethes politely and professionally as the script’s central villain Lewis Dodgson – a cinematic reimagining of Apple CEO Tim Cook. (It’s really sad how all these storytellers just loathe capitalism, isn’t it? And, yet, they exist to make blockbuster movies? Oh, the irony!) DeWanda Wise breaks barriers as a former Navy pilot turned independent contractor Kayla Watts whose allegiances shift to the benefit of the good guys once we learn that she really does have a heart of gold. And Mamoudou Athie is essentially wasted as Ramsay Cole, a top Biosyn employee who is secretly working to see these dinosaurs kinda/sorta freed from their oppressive overlord Dodgson … or so it would seem. None of them really have any breakout scenes – a dinosaur movie will always be highlighted by dinosaurs, after all – but they still manage to slip easily into the narrative glove offered, but it would’ve been nice for them to feel like legitimate creations instead of carbon copy players.
And – dare I say it? – even the dinosaurs reeked of a bit of fatigue in this go-round for a saga that built its audience up by admiring these creatures long thought extinct? Jurassic Park – the first and the best – tapped into the visual wonder of science re-engineering whole species; the shock and awe of that experience resonates on screens big and small even today. Jurassic World rather respectfully fleshed out that original vibe for its commercial exploitation, effectively mirroring that script’s focus of finally seeing that dreaded theme park to life. But in Dominion the human/dino interaction has become almost commonplace; removing that singular magical undercurrent was a huge mistake as director Trevorrow really has no other choice at that point but to make them monsters no different than Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees … albeit much, much larger.
So, yeah, I was disappointed in Dominion … but I still had a bit of fun watching it all unroll.
Like the most successful summer spectacles, it establishes its own parameters and pretty much sticks to it. Though nothing new is brought to the table (or even hinted at), the formula still works when it’s tried, leaving the entire cast to coast on autopilot even though they’ve spent a fair amount of time warning us that the stakes have never been higher. And, yes, even though I didn’t feel the story made the best use of them, the cast from the original had an ample opportunity to re-unite in a few feel-good moments, a lesson that the knuckleheads who ran the Star Wars franchise into the ground might take notice of the next time they’re asked to reimagine an Empire.