In preparation for the latest Dinosaur extravaganza, I recently watched all the other films in this series. There is a reason that Steven Spielberg is the most celebrated director of our times and Colin Trevorrow is a journeyman with only bits of occasional inspiration. Two suspense scenes in the first two Jurassic Park films show you what a master Spielberg is. The initial T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park is one of the most tense, frightening and well directed scenes in a movie ever. In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the attack on the trailers adds on tension in each moment that Spielberg makes work so much longer and more effectively than anyone else has managed to do. Trevorrow, for all his gifts, simply does not have the instinct that Spielberg does. His tension building scenes are too abrupt, too frequent, and sometimes over the top in a way that he can’t quite pull off. It’s not meant as an insult to say he is no Spielberg, it is simply an acknowledgement that his films have not been able to work at the same level.
Jurassic World Dominion is not a failure because of the action scenes, the problem is actually the opposite, the action scenes fail because the rest of the movie cannot quite justify them, I was willing to go along with the revamped “Jurassic World” because it stemmed from a solid idea, that built on what came before it, and even though it stretched the concept a bit, it managed to work. “Fallen Kingdom” and “Dominion” don’t have the right premise going for them, so the stringing together of solid action beats with bad story ideas and dumb characters, just won’t cut it. I enjoyed the moments of action in the film that employed the main characters from the two sets of film groups, but the secondary characters are underwritten, somewhat unnecessary and disposed of either too soon for us to enjoy their comeuppance, or without much drama.
These posts never give away spoilers and I try to refrain from simply recapping the film as part of the discussion, which is a good thing in this case because I’m not sure I could keep it all straight. Characters come in who start off as antagonists, then end up as allies and allies disappear after a few scenes and are never heard from again. There are genetically created murder locusts, that may threaten the world food supply, but then they may simply be a marketing tool for genetically modified crops, but then the geneticist who created them demurs and maybe we want to get rid of them. It simply depends on the scene as to which way the evil corporation is going at the moment. There is no logical consistency in the objectives of the antagonists and the heroes have mixed motives for their actions as well. There are a bunch of shady characters who are acting out of greed, but sometimes they just seem to be malevolent for the sake of being evil.
All of this is happening in a universe that is not vey well thought out. There are dinosaurs in the wild, dinosaurs nesting in urban areas, dinosaurs in nature preserves, dinosaurs in illegal breeding factories, and dinosaurs in private possession. Despite all of the potential dino death surrounding everyone, the culture moves on as if the threat does not exist, until it is in your face. Are the velociraptors creatures to be feared and potential rivals to our dominance of the planet? Or are they creatures to be pitied because they are hunted, and misunderstood? The film makers do their best to get as many different dinosaurs into the story as they can, and sometimes they come across as teddy bears, and other times as venomous snakes from the outback.
As dangerous as a dinosaur might be, the human characters are the ones that present the biggest menace because they all offer a moment of pontification and exposition that just might kill…your interest in what is happening. Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Laura Dern, Sam Neil, Jeff Goldblum, B.D. Wong, and Campbell Scott all have a moment when they provide exposition and supposed philosophical insight into the events that are happening. Remember the scene where Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neil are warning John Hammond at the dinner table in Jurassic Park? Well it feels like that happens every ten minutes in this film. It’s as if TED Talks become the standard way that people communicate with one another. The most human and realistic moment comes when Ellie Stadler voices exactly what the audience is thinking after listening to a guru like Steve Jobs monologue from Dodgson. “What?” It drew a laugh, but even such meta awareness doesn’t stop it from continuing. Everyone sounds like Jeremy Rifkin or Al Gore at some point, and it just gets to be too much.
Aside from the schizophrenic story telling, cartoon characters, implausible technology and unexplained political realities, the movie was fun to watch for two and a half hours. If you want high tech thriller mixed with old school adventure, just drop down to the subterranean hyper loop of Elon Musk, I mean Lewis Dodgson, and follow Sam Neil’s Dr. Grant as he plays ‘Indiana Jones in the Tunnel of Dinosaurs”. Just don’t get distracted by the flaming killer locusts who will distract you until it is time for the two apex predators to face off in a climax that means nothing. If you put some Raisinettes in your popcorn, along with some Hot Tamales, you will have done a more logical job of gene splicing than this movie, and you will enjoy consuming that a lot more than the film.