Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
There’s something unfortunately symbolic about “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which combines old and new DNA from the near-three-decade-old franchise and generates a pretty mindless mess. The nostalgia factor gives the movie an initial jolt, and there are, of course, some dino-sized thrills, but not enough to lift this XL-sized mediocrity out of the gene pool’s shallow end.
Even the marketing campaign comes across as a rather conspicuous fib, billing this as the saga’s “epic conclusion,” which is questionable in terms of the first half and hard to swallow in the latter, since, like dinosaur DNA, while the blueprint might be altered, these kind of box-office attractions are too enticing to leave dormant for long.
With Colin Trevorrow back in the director’s chair (having also kicked off this trio of “Jurassic World” movies) and sharing script credit with Emily Carmichael, the story brings back Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, picking up where “Fallen Kingdom” left off in terms of their oversight of Maisie (Isabella Sermon), now a restless teenager.
Yet the emotional core comes from reuniting the stars of the 1993 original — Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum — with the years having been kind to them, even if the writing hasn’t.
Indeed, the convoluted plot operates on parallel tracks that only gradually begin to intersect, with giant prehistoric locusts sweeping across the land, creating an existential threat to the food chain. All signs rather transparently point to a classic corporate villain, Biosyn Genetics, whose bespectacled CEO (Campbell Scott) seems to have been unceremoniously plucked from one of the later Bond movies.
“Jurassic Park” (both Michael Crichton‘s book and the movie) contained an underlying “Don’t fool with Mother Nature” warning, and “Dominion” overtly incorporates what anyone paying attention will recognize as an environmental message.
Still, any more serious themes and ideas are overshadowed not just by the size of the supporting characters, but the absurdity necessary to eventually assemble everyone in the same place. As for some of the nail-biting escapes, let’s just say checking one’s brain at the door, reptilian or otherwise, certainly helps.
The two existing groups pick up a few key additions, perhaps most significantly DeWanda Wise (Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It”) as a fearless pilot somewhat reluctantly drawn into the adventure. But other than a kinetic chase with Pratt keeping his motorcycle one step ahead of rampaging raptors, the action proves too scattered and repetitive to deliver much sense of jeopardy, despite the customary technical wizardry at work.
The most pleasing elements thus reside in the occasional quieter moments, from unexpected interactions to snippets of John Williams’ original theme to Goldblum’s chaos-theory-spouting Ian Malcolm’s “Life finds a way” snideness, reminding those around him that what they’re doing is dangerous and stupid. He’s right, but to the extent that the second critique often applies to the script, his admonitions come with a heavy side of irony.
Given that this is the sixth “Jurassic” movie — with a 14-year gap in the middle — it’s not like Universal Pictures has thoroughly exhausted the title (although there have been other offshoots, such as an animated series). Based on past performance, it’s hard to see “Dominion” as the end of anything, particularly if the movie can tap into the renewed jet-propelled life that movie-going is exhibiting this summer, currently fueled by another sequel.
Like many a monstrosity concocted in the lab, “Jurassic World: Dominion” falls short of its potential, which doesn’t mean it won’t be a success. Because just as life finds a way, when it comes to a title with this level of built-in name recognition, sequels somehow find a way, too.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” premieres June 10 in US theaters. It’s rated PG-13.
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