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Humans let down the dinosaurs in Dominion: Movie Review

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

One of my all-time favourite movies is the action masterpiece Jurassic Park. It’s a fan favourite too, as one of the highest grossing movie franchises in history. This weekend, Jurassic World: Dominion arrives as a "conclusion" to the 30-year series. Sadly, the film makes a great case that it’s time for the series to go extinct.

The sixth film in the series (and third of the new trilogy that began in summer 2015) is the longest and most bombastic yet. Tracking the dozens of characters old and new feels exhausting as an audience member, and it’s pure chaos trying to remember the core details from too many plot lines with too many characters.

What’s most disappointing is how great the potential was on the concept: dinosaurs have now integrated into the human world! And the heroes from both the original and revamped movies are teaming up! Yet less than 10% of the film’s run time focuses on either of those promising (and teased in the trailers) ideas.

Dominion’s story is a jumbled mess, with way too much happening over two and a half hours. There are enough events and cameos to fill a mini-series as opposed to a movie. And if you haven’t seen all the other Jurassic flicks, you’ll be totally lost.

Case in point: the film opens with a boring, exposition-crammed news report recapping major events from the first five films and pseudo-history to remind the audience of who everyone is and what’s going on. If that’s really necessary to our understanding after we’ve seen the movies already, that’s proof your plot is greatly over complicated.

What it’s actually about are two missions led by various sci-fi heroes: one is a rescue mission by Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) to rescue their adopted daughter. The other is Laura Dern’s return as Dr. Ellie Sadler, now needing to prove a big tech company is behind a project that’s sabotaging worldwide food supply.

The women masterfully take centre stage, especially Howard, Dern and Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood who lead the two main missions to expose and take down the evil BioSyn Industries. (As in "Bio sin." Apparently movies with a T. Rex don’t need subtlety.)

The whole cast is great, and the large amount of screen time for franchise favourites (including Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and B.D. Wong) is lots of fun. But the big “team up” moment doesn’t come until the final half hour, meaning the story doesn’t come together for almost two hours. That’s a lot of set up to make us sit through before the real action starts.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Director Colin Trevorrow (returning from 2015’s Jurassic World) is skilled at crafting specific scenes, especially in building suspense across several great human vs. dinosaur showdowns. This is also one of the most balanced and truly scary Jurassic Park movies - it’s just the right amount to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Putting all the scenes together to tell one clear story is where Trevorrow falls short. Great action stories have one clear problem that we’re working to solve and one clear villain. This has multiple of both (though there is one so-bad-it’s-funny unifying baddie in the end.)

And this doesn’t even start on the dozens of scientific plot holes rampant through the script. One example is the running speed of the velociraptor chase in Malta. How is Claire equally just out of reach from the creatures while both running on foot and then also escaping in a 60mph truck? She couldn’t possibly outrun a real dinosaur that long.

Thankfully, the dinosaurs deliver big time with true popcorn thrills and outstanding visual effects. The animatronics, effects, and creature designs are dazzling every time they appear, with the new dinos being as menacing as they are interesting.

So the dinosaurs deliver on the excitement. The humans on camera and in the technical departments are doing their best with a chaotic story. But the humans who wrote this nonsense have let audiences down immeasurably.

In my opening night screening, the audience was restless and bored until the climactic finale. Multiple families with grade school kids walked out of the theatre. Not because it was too frightening - because the kids were bored trying to keep track of who each of the 20 named members of the ensemble are and why they matter.

Dominion is a big disappointment because it’s only one part dinosaur movie and nine parts confusing chatter about the ethics of pseduo-science.

Jurassic World: Dominion

4 out of 10

PG, 2hrs 27mins. Sci-Fi Action Adventure Thriller Epic.

Co-written and Directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Isabella Sermon, Jeff Goldblum, Mamoudou Athie, DeWanda Wise and Campbell Scott.

Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, 5 Drive-In, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.

Side note: if it’s a great summer movie you want, Top Gun: Maverick and Doctor Strange 2 are both still playing and terrific. It’s a terrific time to go out to the movies. Just not for Jurassic World: Dominion.