Friday, June 10, 2022


Opening in the multiplexes this weekend:

Jurassic World Dominion--Before discussing this supposed finale to the Jurassic Park series, I should offer my usual disclaimer: I'm a lifelong dinosaur geek. A movie with dinosaurs starts at as much of an advantage with me as, say, a movie about fighter jets does with a military aviation buff.

So take this into account this when I tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic World Dominion. Which I did.

The premise here is that dinosaurs have become a regular fact of contemporary life, usually as a danger or a pest. The movie begins with an enormous Mosasaur ruining the day of a commercial fishing boat, and from there director Colin Trevorrow, working from a script he co-wrote with Emily Carmichael, serves up one sequence after another of Mesozoic mayhem, as the revived reptiles cause traffic accidents, harass children, intrude on industrial sites and so forth. The beasts are also, of course, poached, illegally bred and otherwise exploited by humans.

The plot mixes the characters from the recent chapters, like Chris Pratt's raptor whisperer and Bryce Dallas Howard's Jurassic Park administrator turned dinosaur-liberation activist, with the heroes from the first film, Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum. Pratt and Howard are attempting to recover their adoptive daughter, the cloned child of a deceased JP scientist, as well as a young velociraptor, the offspring of Pratt's beloved Blue. Both have been kidnapped by a bio-engineering firm headed by creepy CEO Campbell Scott, and spirited off to an isolated research facility and dinosaur preserve in the Italian Alps.

Meanwhile Dern, startled by an invasion of locusts the size of baguettes that are decimating crops across the U.S., also suspects that the bio-firm is scheming, in the words of Simon Bar Sinister and Tears for Fears, to rule the world. She recruits her old pal Neill to help her infiltrate the facility, where Goldblum is gadfly-in-residence, and get proof. Eventually both sets of characters, along with an extremely glamorous pilot (DeWanda Wise) and a handful of other sympathetic parties, converge.

Along they way they are menaced by dinosaurs and other genetically-engineered perils. Raptors stalk our heroes through the streets and over the rooftops of Malta like assassins in a Bourne thriller. Dimetrodons chase them through amber mines. A giant flying Quetzalcoatlus attacks a plane in midair. Monstrous Giganotosaurus and sentimental favorite Tyrannosaurus Rex brawl like Japanese kaiju.  And that's aside from the worst outbreak of giant grasshoppers since 1957's The Beginning of the End.

Best of all, maybe, is an eerie, dreamlike sequence in which Therizinosaurus, a predator that resembles an enormous downy pheasant with claws like giant salad forks, towers over Howard as she lowers her pin-up-beauty face into a swampy green pool. This scene is a good example of a strength that has benefitted the whole series but is particularly pronounced in Dominion: the superb sound effects. For all of the movie's visual effects splendors, it's the sounds of the creatures, from the enveloping yet somehow muted bellow of the T-rex to all of the distinctive squawking and hissing and clucking and chittering of the others, that really make them scary.

On the downside, with as much objectivity as I can muster as a sucker for dinosaurs, I must note that the dialogue in Dominion seems bland and inexpressive; even Goldblum has to push his comically diffident delivery harder than usual to wring laughs out his lines. And the story is so unnecessarily scattered that the movie loses momentum at times.

Trevorrow is an admirably free-wheeling talent; he made 2015's Jurassic World a wild ride. With a tighter, more streamlined rescue-mission plot, this one could have been similarly edge-of-the-seat. On the other hand, if it was a tighter movie, it might have lost some of its eccentricity, and therefore some of its magic.

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