Jurassic World: Dominion

It's hard to believe the Jurassic Park series is still considered a major franchise given how bad most of the installments are. Steven Spielberg's 1993 original is, of course, a masterpiece of blockbuster filmmaking – taut, exciting, and filled with a sense of awe. Jurassic World is kind of fun too, in its own way. The others are all varying degrees of mediocre or awful. Jurassic World: Dominion is arguably the worst of the bunch. Director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow doesn't seem to understand what everybody loved about Jurassic Park. Consequently, he's delivered a loud, chaotic picture that isn't exciting and offers no real fun.

Part of the problem is that Trevorrow seems to be taking a page out of the Fast & Furious playbook. That series started off being about underground street racing before morphing into espionage stories involving cars. Dominion has a beyond-stupid plot about an evil corporation, a human clone, and a scheme to control the world's food supply that may ironically end up wiping it out. Who cares about any of that? We want dinosaurs threatening people in a park, not endless scenes of humans trying to access restricted areas of a scientific facility.

The gist of this overstuffed, under-satisfying story is that human clone Maisie (Isabella Sermon) has been kidnapped by a corporation called Biosyn, run by the ethically challenged Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). They want to study her DNA. Surrogate parents Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) set off to rescue her. (The baby of Owen's “pet” Blue has also been snatched, so he has double the reason to go after them.) Meanwhile, original characters Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) have learned that Biosyn unleashed a new form of insect that melds bug DNA with that of a dinosaur. Those bugs wipe out any crops that aren't seeded with Biosyn product. Both groups end up at the corporation's headquarters, where they are met by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).

Does any of that sound even remotely entertaining? Jurassic World: Dominion oddly brushes the main attraction – the dinosaurs – into the background. They pop up occasionally for some absurd mayhem, yet lack the personalities they had in the original film. It meant something in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex showed up. Raptors had a specific way of attacking, so when they stalked the children in the kitchen, the sequence was nail-bitingly intense. Here, random dinos enter the frame intermittently for drab “action” scenes. Think again about that kitchen sequence in Spielberg's film. Two kids, trapped in a confined space, being stalked by previously-extinct creatures whose behaviors they can't begin to comprehend. That's scary. A nondescript dino staring at a character stuck in a tree? Not so much.

It's clear what happened. Trevorrow and Universal Pictures were more concerned with making something “EPIC!” than in staying true to the heart of the material. For all the thrills, Jurassic Park was simple in concept. Dinosaurs are brought back and go on a rampage. Jurassic World: Dominion wants to tell an EPIC! story that goes beyond the park and has worldwide implications. The elegantly basic sight of humans running across a field while being chased by velociraptors has been replaced by an EPIC! bit where a creature chases a speeding motorcycle through the streets of Malta, and the motorcycle has to drive onto an airplane mid-takeoff in order for its rider to survive. Trevorrow has no sense of tension-building; he just spews out moments of uninspired anarchy. More, in this case, is most definitely less. A lot less.

Too many characters serve to dilute any momentum the plot attempts to generate. Aside from mixing Park's stars with World's, there are multiple other new characters introduced, often with insufficient explanation to make their inclusion sensible. One of them, a pilot played by DeWanda Wise, is particularly shoehorned into the story with awkwardness. Really, the only pleasure Dominion offers is seeing Dern, Neill, and Goldblum together again. They're way more interesting than Pratt and Howard, who have been saddled with the task of playing dull people from the beginning.

From the sluggish start to the bombastic finale, Jurassic World: Dominion fails to deliver the good time audiences expect. Running an inexcusable two-and-a-half hours, the movie plods along, throwing a lot of lackluster EPIC!-ness at you, without any of it hitting the bullseye. After sitting through this sorry sequel, I'm ready for the Jurassic franchise to go the way of the real dinosaurs.

out of four

Jurassic World: Dominion is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action. some violence, and language. The running time is 2 hours and 27 minutes.