Early in Jurassic World: Dominion, there’s a series of mini-disasters indicating how, now that dinosaurs are roaming the Earth, we all automatically become prey. A fishing boat is toppled by a gigantic undersea beast, a little girl is chased down a beach by baby dinosaur predators, and a dove released at a wedding gets snatched out of the air by a swooping pterodactyl.
If that doesn’t sound too bad, considering what the worldwide carnage would be if you had any imagination whatsoever, it’s because the movie’s setting up for the lugubrious ending, when horses are running the Western plains with Parasaurolophuses and elephants are roaming congenially with Triceratops, just one big Peaceable Kingdom. See, all our environmental catastrophes are easily solved if we develop a bit more interspecies tolerance and eradicate one bad corporation, conveniently named BioSyn Genetics, which is pronounced “bio-sin.”
Jurassic World: Dominion is a terrible movie, hacked up by editor Mark Sanger, who frequently seems to lose interest halfway through action scenes, and featuring the most sickeningly oversweetened film score I’ve ever heard, courtesy of composer Michael Giacchino. The film’s so badly made, it’s inspired critics to wax nostalgic for the supposed genius of Steven Spielberg’s first Jurassic Park back in 1993. Remember the glass of water that shook when the Tyrannosaurus rex was coming? Yeah, those were the days, when filmmaking giants walked the earth alongside their CGI dinosaurs.
But now there’s just some guy named Colin Trevorrow trying to keep the franchise going. Writer-director Trevorrow desperately borrows from every nostalgia-inducing film franchise he can think of to liven up the latest sequel — bits of action and amusement from the old Indiana Jones warhorse, the beloved Bourne movies, the James Bond flicks. None of it’s any use, as far as making an action-adventure film that’s actually good. But on the other hand, it doesn’t matter, either. People have decided en masse that they want to go to the theater to see the movies of the 1980s and ’90s revived, and nothing can stop them. Jurassic World: Dominion isn’t going to make the astronomical profits of Top Gun: Maverick, but it’s doing very well internationally. Jurassic World: Dominion is even pulling up the numbers of the weak Firestarter remake, because these ’80s and ’90s nostalgia films are being paired together at drive-ins.
But the franchise is so exhausted by this point that nothing can save it. Certainly not bringing back all the main cast members from various Jurassic Parks past — Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, B. D. Wong, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard — to mingle awkwardly together, most of them looking embarrassed to be there. In his first on-screen reunion with Laura Dern, Sam Neill appears to be on the verge of a small stroke, clearly having forgotten how to perform in these rote blockbuster movies in which you have to ham it up just to keep up with the big loud CGI. Dern has it down, though — just see her pause ostentatiously in the doorway after what’s supposed to be a scene of fraught emotion, tossing her blonde mane, and striking just the right note of wry corniness with her line, “So are ya coming, or what?”
There are a few newly developed characters, such as Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the cloned daughter of the late industrialist John Hammond, who started all the trouble by reviving dinosaurs and creating Jurassic Park in the first place. Maisie is in hiding off the grid with her self-appointed guardian Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), until radical dinosaur-stealing environmental activist (Bryce Dallas Howard), trying to atone for her old sins as a corporate executive at Jurassic Park, comes busting back into his life. They fail to prevent BioSyn’s abduction of Maisie, and have to chase around the world after her, following the trail of supposedly cynical mercenary pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) who switches sides to join forces with the good guys midway through, and — oh God, does it really matter?
Jeff Goldblum, who always had the best role in the franchise as the ironic one-man Greek chorus, is back as Dr Ian Malcolm. But now he’s working a cushy job as a kind of in-house chaos theorist at BioSyn, which is run by CEO Dr Lewis Dodgson. Dodgson has ever-culpable Dr Henry Wu (B. D. Wong) working on a secret project involving giant, genetically altered locusts that are eating the world’s crops, allowing Jurassic World: Dominion to indulge in topical lamentations about the approach of our environmental doomsday.
As Dodgson, Campbell Scott — who always a strangely bland presence considering his powerhouse actor-parents, George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst — has seemingly been hired to weaponize his blandness. How could such a pale, boring, soft-spoken CEO in a gray sweater be such a malevolent threat to the whole world?
Because capitalism, that’s why. There’s always been a lot of loose talk about Jurassic Park as an anti-capitalist message film deploring corrupt techies and lawyers and corporate execs trying to monetize genetically engineered dinosaurs, which promptly eat the hordes of paying customers who flock to see them. Always with plenty of hunger/eating/consumption metaphors:
Even the crudest big-picture, broad-strokes take on Jurassic Park reveals its overt message: science run amok; hunger for profits above concerns for safety; ambition leading a genteel but headstrong multimillionaire, John Hammond, into the creation of a slowly unfolding human/dinosaur disaster. But in the era of the pandemic, it’s clearer than ever how deeply capitalist rapaciousness is embedded in Jurassic Park’s DNA.
The message was always easy to spot, as was the recognition of the meta-consumerism going on, with Spielberg and Universal Pictures monetizing ever-bigger and more ferocious CGI dinosaurs to drag in paying customers, making the logo for the movie ads and the assorted junk they were merchandizing the same as the one advertising John Hammond’s Jurassic Park.
It’s proof that despite any talk of subversion, there’s nothing more slickly incorporated into a Hollywood tentpole film than a vague anti-corporate-greed message.