The sixth and depressingly uninspired entry in the long-running dino series feels like it was directed by a sentient movie studio
In theory, it should be simple to create a pretty good Jurassic Park movie. Dinosaurs. A couple of inventive set-pieces. Some ruminations on how playing God with prehistoric lizards was never going to end well. It is remarkable, then, how far the sixth entry in this now thirty-year-old franchise manages to phone it in while also making such hard work of the format: Jurassic Park Dominion is perhaps the most joyless two-and-a-half hour blockbuster in recent memory, a gargantuan mess that feels like it was directed by a sentient movie studio and not an actual human being named Colin Trevorrow.
The power of the original Park came in its striving for credibility – the script worked to convince you that this was something that might happen. That if you squinted hard enough you could just about believe the science made sense. All that has gone out the window, replaced with a plot so excessive and convoluted – and so far away from the hubristic lesson of the original film – that it feels purposely designed to stun the audience into apathy.
Following the laboured events of Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, we're now living in a world where dinosaurs and man are struggling to co-exist, explained to us via a news reel in the film's only enjoyable sequence. Dino-wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) and his scientist wife Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living out in the American wilderness with a clone (don't ask) called Maisie (Isabella Sermon). She's being targeted for her unique DNA by an evil corporation BioSyn, headed by Lewis Dodgson (yes, he from the original movie, though played here by Campbell Scott), who also employs Jeff Goldblum's chaos theorist Ian Malcolm, one of the film's few bright spots.
Events transpire that will draw two narratives together, but always in a way that feels clumsy and unnatural. Dominion has no ideas beyond: Do that famous bit from the other movies, only worse. It is an overlong and painfully laboured hodgepodge of scenes from the previous films (mostly the first one), only this time they've lost all tension and power because they've been plucked from their original context and shoe-horned into a bizarre narrative about genetically-engineered locust. The first Jurassic Park was about the awe of the dinosaurs. It treated the creatures with reverence and respect. This one is an insult to their memory.
Of course, the big appeal for long-time fans comes with the return of some of the franchise's most beloved characters. For a while, it’s nice to see Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) meditating on their declining place in the universe now that dinosaurs walk among them. But quickly the appeal fades because the dialogue is so clunky and obvious that even an actor of Dern's calibre can’t make it sound remotely human. Watch for the look in her eyes that suggests she suspects a terrible mistake has been made.
Few modern blockbusters have tried to do so much, but to such diminishing effect. So for some reason we get bits of Bourne, and Bond, but delivered with such little flare and creativity it's impossible to care. When we arrive on a shot-for-shot recreation of the famous “window jump” from The Bourne Ultimatum, you wonder who this movie is even intended for. Where are Dominion’s own window jump moments? Surely movies should strive to make their own iconic scenes – not lazily rehash those that came before. There’s not a second in Dominion that feels like it was directed by a person who cares about making something unique the way Spielberg did back in 1993.
“You never get used to it,” sighs Dern's palaeontologist partway through, petting one of the few animatronic dinosaurs in the movie. It’s a line that’s supposed to celebrate the inherent wonder of the franchise. But she’s wrong – you come away from Dominion feeling sick to death of it all. Stretched out over two and a half hours, it comes to feel like the cinematic equivalent of sitting through 65 million years. Except, ironically, there has been no evolution.
Jurassic Park Dominion is now showing in UK cinemas.Where to watch