It's in the opening moments of Jurassic Parkour, also known as Jurassic World Dominion, that it becomes incredibly apparent that Colin Trevorrow intends to razzle us and dazzle us but in the end only manages us to frazzle us with nearly 2-1/2 hours of mind-numbing mimicry, laughably godawful dialogue, action sequences completely devoid of thrills or chills, and such a jarring lack of chemistry between characters that by film's end one has to conclude that we'd all be better off if the human beings become extinct here.
While continuing to be popular, the Jurassic films long ago lost their cinematic spark and nearly every film since Spielberg's original has failed to discover that which made Spielberg's 1993 film such a beloved work of wonder. At one point the highest grossing film of all-time, Jurassic Park managed to weave together a tapestry of excitement and silliness, humanity and humor all into a film that found its way into our hearts and minds.
If you're like me, you've kept showing up for these films hoping that someone, anyone, would figure out how to once again tap into that sense of wonder.
That someone is not Colin Trevorrow.
There were times while I was sitting in the packed house promo screening for Jurassic World Dominion that I found myself longing for the silly animatronics of Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost or even the mindless yapping of The Flintstones' Dino. There are moments in Jurassic World Dominion that seem to promise that we've turned a cinematic corner and are headed toward something special, however, they end abruptly and Trevorrow, co-writing alongside Emily Carmichael, ends up making the safe and familiar choice rather than the bold and exciting one.
Jurassic World is action-packed, though with the exception of one Malta-set piece that feels like we've stumbled onto a Tom Cruise set the action here is stunningly devoid of anything resembling suspense, thrills, anxiety, or urgency. In this case, Amblin's not just the name of the production company. It's also Bryce Dallas Howard's acting style.
The story, meaningless as it is, involves Chris Pratt's Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire having gone into something resembling hiding in an effort to protect Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the cloned child from Jurassic past whose genetic make-up makes her a prime target for poaching evildoers. Of course, there's also a familiar dinosaur or two around because, well, that helps the whole "We're in hiding!" argument. Oh, did I also mention this hiding place is within walking distance of "town" for Maisie and their home is about as secure as my own home in one of Indianapolis's worst neighborhoods.
You already know what happens, don't you?
Yes, you do. You really, really do.
It's no secret that originals Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum are back here. There's a wee bit of exhilaration the moment they show up on the screen, though that moment is quickly set aside by fiercely predictable dialogue, a complete lack of energy, and actors who appear to know the film they're in now is nothing in comparison to their original effort.
While theoretically Jurassic World Dominion is about, well, dinosaurs, we spend a good deal of the film dealing with swarms of genetically altered locusts, an effort by your stereotypical corporate villain Biosyn to impact and ultimately control the global food chain. They are helmed by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), a weird Lewis Carroll reference that is either nonsensical or I just can't figure out. He comes off with the demeanor of Apple's Tim Cook, though Campbell Scott can't seem to figure out what kind of a tone he needs and he vacillates between cartoon chaos and a sort of cultish figure. He's given so many little tics that go nowhere - for example, his relentless snacking is referenced early in the film but it simply never becomes meaningful.
Jurassic World Dominion is tonally all over the place. It's not helped by a Michael Giacchino score that is among the worst for this usually dependable composer. It's as if Giacchino read the script and announced "This doesn't make any sense. I can compose that!"
The only real exception to the lack of direction here comes from DeWanda Wise, from The Harder They Fall and Netflix's She's Gotta Have It, as a mysterious pilot who reluctantly gets drawn into Maisie's rescue. Wise seems ot understand that this plays out as part Saturday serial and part family adventure with heart. She's a swashbuckler in the Indiana Jones sense and the entire screen lights up everytime she's present.
Pratt is perfectly fine within his limited range, though silliness abounds here and he's asked to expand a bit outside his comfort zone. It doesn't help that he and Bryce Dallas Howard continue to have zilch in the way of chemistry. Neither Pratt nor Howard are strong enough actors to overcome insipid dialogue their faux familial set-up that simply never convinces. Like Pratt, Howard is fine in the right role. This simply isn't it. Her maternal scenes with Maisie are cringe-inducing and she continues to be completely incapable of projecting any sense of urgency even when running, or in her case speed walking, from dinosaurs that could easily squash her if they wanted to.
While there are dastardly dinosaurs here, what's truly remarkable here is simply how few dinosaurs are truly interested in going crunch n' munch on their human counterparts.
Goldblum gives the film his usual lightly humorous spark. Dern, as well, adds as much heart and humanity as she possibly can. Sam Neill is always a welcome presence, though all three are hindered by a script that never lets them cut loose.
It's difficult to describe just how exasperating it was to watch Jurassic World Dominion. It's not so much because I expected greatness, but because there's simply so much talent present here that it's devastating to watch it all go to waste. Sometimes, even the most talented people can't overcome a script that betrays them and a filmmaker who keep forcing the film to live in the past rather than move forward into the future.
Jurassic World Dominion constantly reminds us that its director is the same director who gave us The Book of Henry rather than feeling fresh and unique and inspired like the filmmaker who gave us Safety Not Guaranteed, the latter being a film that took risks this film can't even imagine. Jurassic World Dominion is, instead, about as timid as seemingly every dinosaur the minute Owen holds up his hand.
Jurassic World Dominion calls us into a better way to live but never builds the sense of urgency and never makes such a life one worth living. Inept in painful ways and devastatingly uninspired, Jurassic World Dominion is easily one of 2022's most disappointing cinematic experiences.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic