The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World franchise all started as a screenplay about 40 years ago when the late Michael Crichton was proving himself to be a so-so filmmaker. Yes, Westworld, The Great Train Robbery and especially Coma proved that he could be a filmmaker with a wide range. However, he had made Looker and aside from satisfying the desires of many people raised on The Patridge Family who wanted to see Susan Dey nude, the movie is a mess.
So, it was only natural Crichton would stick with his day job, after proving Gene Simmons was scarier without the demon make-up in Runaway. And just like that the book Jurassic Park hit the bookshelves following a bidding war to adapt it into a movie and Steven Spielberg ready to put Hook behind him, had a surefire hit on his hands. As a 14-year-old, I marveled at seeing the movie in the mediocre theater in my home town the Saturday afternoon after it opened.
But by the time I had graduated college, Jurassic Park III was released and part of me wondered why did they go back to the freaking islands after what happened twice before. And probably a lot of other people thought the same thing. The stories behind the production of that movie are the thing of a different post. But I was amazed to know they didn’t even have a working script when they were getting everything going and just turned it into a big chase scene. And a velociraptor talked. In a dream sequence, but it still talked.
Jurassic World like many things seemed to bigger, brighter and better. And it showed the fat guy from Parks and Recreation can be an action star. Crisp Rat, I mean Chris Pratt, was on top of the world in 2014, with Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie. And Bryce Dallas Howard is Ron Howard’s daughter.
Okay, that’s a little harsh, but her character was just so wrong for the movie. Everyone kept waiting for her to become dinosaur chow or even sacrifice herself in some last minute redemption. Instead she ran in high heels, which is possible but hard to believe. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom basically said to its audiences, you know that brachiosauraus that Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) was so amazed at in the first movie, well, it dies a horrible death being engulfed in lava.
Yet the movie set up the idea that the dinosaurs will live in our world…in the final few minutes. But that’s what you save things for in the next sequel, right, baby? Well, not really. And that’s the problem with Jurassic World: Dominion.
Aside from some early scenes and later scenes of dinosaurs co-existing with other animals and people, the crux of the movie involves genetically modified grasshoppers the size of Shih Tzus threatening the world’s ecosystem because they’re eating all the wheat and other crops that we need. They made this movie back in the 1950s but it was called The Beginning of the End and starred Peter Grave.
So, if you’re expecting The Raptor That Ate Paris, you’re get The Day of the Locust instead. Not to say it isn’t nice to see Grant, Satler and Malcolm together again. But it seems more like director Colin Trevorrow, who co-wrote it with Emily Carmichael (as well as Derek Connelly who gets a “story by” credit) added them all together just to appease the fans.
Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Howard) are back and finally a couple living remotely in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Owen works with the agents with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to round up dinosaurs. Claire, who went from the ice-cold corporate hartlet she was in first World to an Eat-the-Rich dinosaur-rights activist that she risks her life and the life of others, to get a sickly little dinosaurs to safety. You see in the four years since Owen and Claire basically released the dinosaurs that were being held in black market cages, they’ve actually increased the black market around the world. Owen and the DFW people even run into some poachers pretending to be DFW agents who pull guns on them.
But there’s something more precious to them. Owen and Claire are taking care of Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a genetically cloned young woman. Maisie is being sought by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), who is the CEO of Biosyn, which Congress has ruled is the sole legal owner of all dinosaurs in a ecosystem. Of course, you don’t got to be a genius to know that Biosyn is behind the huge grasshoppers threating the world’s crops.
The plot is all over the place as the movie is jumping from one place to another before we have any time to really realize what is going on. There’s a black market in Malta. There’s locust threatening crops in Texas. There’s Bisoyn’s facility in northern Italy. This is more of an action movie that seems like a James Bond/Jason Bourne thriller. And it’s no surprise that Owen becomes the hero driving a motorcycle through Malta where dinosaurs run amok so he can drive it into the rear of an airplane as velociraptors chase him.
Owen and Claire are finding Maisie who’s been kidnapped as well as a young velociraptor that is Blue’s offspring. Blue is the raptor that Owen raised from a baby and has a bond with him as she lives nearby their home in the Sierra Nevada range. There’s too many characters and too many subplots in this movie that it just seems boring. We’re introduced to Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie), a young head of communications at Biosyn, who is actually a plant. We’re introduced to Kayla Watts (DaWanda Wise), a former Air Force pilot who flies dinosaurs to and from black market locations but gets a heart of gold and decides to help Owen and Grady.
And then there’s Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), who seems to have survived even though it looked like he met his maker at the end of Fallen Kingdom. He seems to have mellowed out a little bit and realized that 30 years of messing with Mother Nature might have severe consequences. This time around, he’s more passionate about correcting his wrongs. There’s also a scene so both Grant and Malcolm can both say they remember him.
What’s worse is the movie is so anti-climatic that I lose interest. There really is no big bad dinosaur this time. There’s a fight between a T. Rex, a Therizinosaurus, and a Giganotosaurus that’s over with so fast you might miss it. Even Dodgson doesn’t really come off as a slimy-enough villain. Part of the reason is you can tell Scott really isn’t into the role and must have gotten a nice paycheck. Considering that the actor, Cameron Thor, who originally played him in the first Jurassic Park, is currently in prison on a child sex abuse crime, they had to choose a different actor. And Scott has proven to be a great actor when the material is great.
The connection back to the first Park movie may have been a problem that Trevorrow tried to bring everything full circle. But was anyone really sitting around for the last 25 years thinking what exactly happened to Dodgson. As Dennis Nedry said in the first movie, “No one cares.”
What audiences really cared about was seeing kind of what they were promised. Even a blink and you’ll miss it gag about Malcolm being told to button his black shirt by Kayla with a simple head shake seems too much of a wink to the first one. But what made the first one and even the second Park fun to watch was the magic that Spielberg brought to the movies. I felt some of that magic in the first World movie, but it was missing from Fallen Kingdom and defintely here.
Dominion is on its way to make $1 billion worldwide. Producer Frank Marshall has said they might return to the francise in the future to see if they can do anymore with it. There are images of triceratops walking with elephants in the sunset. That should be a nice end to the franchise but I know that we probably get another trilogy. Hopefully, it’s done better.
What do you think? Please comment.