‘Jurassic World Dominion” introduces chaos reality: a crowded, convoluted movie experience

“Jurassic World Dominion” (2022) – In 1993’s “Jurassic Park”, Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking thrill ride, mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) conveyed doubts about opening a dinosaur theme park.  He contended that the dinos’ behavior and biology are volatile, and Dr. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) hadn’t accounted for all of the forthcoming-prehistoric scenarios. 

“See, the Tyrannosaur doesn’t obey any set patterns or park schedules.  The essence of chaos,” Malcolm says and adds, “It simply deals with the unpredictability in complex systems.  The shorthand is the Butterfly Effect.  A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking, and in Central Park, you get rain instead of sunshine.”

As we know, Ian was correct, as the out-of-place animals stirred colossal carnage, and the 1993 on-screen awe earned nearly a billion dollars at the box office and spurred four sequels. 

In 2022, director/writer Colin Trevorrow (“Jurassic World” (2015), “Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012)) and co-writer Emily Carmichael (“Pacific Rim: Uprising” (2018)) corral monster-movie ideas into the series’ fifth sequel, “Jurassic World Dominion”.

Unfortunately, this bloated, scattered 146-minute film (that feels even longer) crams several key characters from the previous movies for nostalgia and moneymaking sake to help prop its tagline, “The Epic Conclusion of the Jurassic Era.” 

The conclusion?  Well, before the series ends, the filmmakers introduce chaos reality:  a crowded, convoluted movie experience.

“Dominion” constantly flashes shiny objects in the form of (seemingly) six-dozen impossible-to-live-through clashes that fill the screen with as much noise as possible.  The problem is that habitual life-or-death confrontations soon become routine exercises that numb us into submission, and the film’s sky-high stakes – the potential elimination of the planet’s food supply – are forgotten. 

Rather than take measured care with logic and pacing, the movie apparently focuses more importance on featuring our friends – Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen (Chris Pratt), Alan (Sam Neill), Ellie (Laura Dern), Barry (Omar Sy), and Ian – constantly facing various hopeless scenarios that feel clinically engineered from a plastic lab.

Let’s set the homogenized stage. 

Some time has passed since “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018), and Earth is a damn mess.  Jurassic creatures roam every corner of the planet, disrupting the fishing industry, American Midwest crops, urban skyscrapers, aviation, and you name it.  They are everywhere, and a five-minute newsfeed just after the movie begins explains all this.   If you want to feel powerless, Trevorrow, cinematographer John Schwartzman, and the special effects team succeed as they present a sense of worldwide dread.  So, they zero in on two plot lines. 

First, Owen and Claire live like Mountain Family Robinson.  They’ve pseudo-adopted Maisie (Isabella Sermon). She’s 14. Owen and Claire “have” to protect her, and their velociraptor friend Blue has kin of her own.  Unfortunately, Maisie and the little raptor don’t remain chilling in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the red-headed couple flips a switch from happy home mode to Indiana Jones vibes as they are willing to look – to the ends of the Earth – for them

Owen and Claire turn up in Malta, and by sheer serendipity, within a few minutes, she stumbles upon one of a handful of people (DeWanda Wise) on the island nation – a place with a land mass of 122 square miles and a population of 500,000 – who could help her locate the two missing kiddos.  Wow, imagine the luck?  Claire should play her Powerball numbers on Saturday.  

Alan (Sam Neill) and Ellie (Laura Dern)

Meanwhile, Ellie drops in sandy, dusty Utah and at Alan’s paleoanthropological site.  They reconnect after three decades because she wants him to follow her to Biosyn Headquarters, so they can – together – acquire a sample of a manufactured locust.

You see, Biosyn is the new Jurassic Office Park, led by gray-haired introvert-genius Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), who seems like the long-lost CEO cousin of Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) in “Don’t Look Up” (2021).  Of course, he’s a bad guy, and it’s up to Ellie, Alan, and Ian (who, after 30 years, is still as snarky as you remember) to uncover Biosyn’s nefarious deeds.

Lo and behold, Claire, Owen, and their new trusty pilot, Kayla (Wise), arrive at Biosyn too, so they and Ellie, Alan, and Ian can dodge large and small critters via tired and staged conflicts. 

For instance, Ellie and Alan enter an indoor locust farm without detection, but a security guard finds the footage of their intrusion 12 minutes later, not live during the actual break-in.  One would think with all the money poured into the place that…well, never mind. 

In another scene, Claire finds herself without a weapon in an unnatural habitat – that hosts something called a Giganotosaurus – and (spoiler alert) she somehow survives. We also witness a violent plane crash (that leaves two other heroes without a scratch or even a mild case of whiplash), a motorcycle chase, a foot pursuit on an ice lake, and a battle between a pair of titans recycled from at least one other “Jurassic” picture.

Kevin Jenkins’ production design and Michael Giacchino’s score seem tip-top, and hey, the dinosaurs look great.  Still, these efforts slide into the background because the terribly familiar mano a dino choreography – even though some scaly baddies attempt to shake down a motorcycle and airplane – just isn’t as remarkable to behold in the sixth film, especially when the attacks occur whenever someone isn’t droning on about the moral implications of dinosaurs living in the 21st century.

Remember 1993’s “Jurassic Park”, when two kids – Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex (Ariana Richards) – couldn’t breathe while hiding in the kitchen from velociraptors in one of the most well-crafted nail-biting moments in recent action-adventure history?  Do you recall that you couldn’t find oxygen, as one could cut the theatre’s tension with a razor-sharp dinosaur tooth?

Sigh, 1993 was a long time ago.   

Turning to the human characters, Claire and Owen don’t show much chemistry, but these two likable humanitarians/Rambo-types support each other, mainly when jagged raptor scares are imminent. Hence, we are NOT rooting for a sudden breakup through their demise or infidelity.  Looking at the other pair, the script and Neill establish Alan’s endearing pining for Ellie after all these years.  The film teases a potential romantic dynamic that keeps us engaged with the elder statesman and stateswoman, but they are so occupied with not being slaughtered that a here-and-now affair seems impractical.  Maybe, when life slows down and dinosaurs are no longer causing worldwide headaches. 

When exactly will that happen?

Kayla (DeWanda Wise) and Owen (Pratt)

The new characters didn’t particularly connect with me, although Biosyn Communications Director Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie) has some nice moments, and Kayla carries a convincing tough-as-nails persona. 

However, Dodgson has all the menace of an agitated pigeon. Carmichael and Trevorrow also include another scientist, Charlotte (Elva Trill).  They repeatedly assert – through various mentions – that she could be the most brilliant mind the world has ever seen.  Fantastic, Charlotte makes Albert Einstein look like George the Animal Steele or Dennis Rodman.  We got the message…a few times.

As far as other mentions, “Jurassic World Dominion” wraps up with another news clip which ties the loose threads that the 141 minutes of crowded dinosaur chaos didn’t address. However, this bit of filmmaking mercy is welcomed because we didn’t need another 60 minutes tacked on to this flick.

⭐ 1/2 out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Directed by:  Colin Trevorrow

Written by:  Colin Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael

Starring:  Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Omar Sy, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Campbell Scott, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon

Runtime:  146 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Image credits: Universal Pictures

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