Jurassic World Dominion

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I was chatting to a close family member about going off to see the new Jurassic Park film and he responded, ‘They’ve made a second Jurassic Park film?’. ‘Second?’ I replied, ‘this is the sixth!’.

This wasn’t a really surprising conversation though because none of the sequels have had anything like the cultural impact of the first one. Spielberg’s original film was so massive, groundbreaking and influential when it came out that it still eclipses every instalment that has come after. The first of this second trilogy, Jurassic World, made big bucks when it was released, it remains the seventh highest grossing film of all time*, but even that has proved quite forgettable by comparison.

*The first Jurassic Park of course became the highest grossing film ever on its release in 1993, taking the title that Spielberg’s own E.T had held for eleven years. It is at number forty one on that list even now, three decades and a hell of a lot of Marvel movies later.

What was great about the first film was the ideas, born of Michael Crichton’s book, and the incredible way in which they were realised on screen. Every sequel has then struggled to do something new in relation to this. Part of the problem is that none of the follow up directors have been Steven Spielberg, who is a genius at this kind of film, but even he couldn’t recapture the magic with the one extra he did. The most tense scene in Jurassic Park: The Lost World didn’t really involve dinosaurs at all, it had Julianne Moore going up against a pain of glass, rather than anything paleontological.

This latest movie, Jurassic World Dominion does have lots of cool ideas of its own but they are little ones; jeeps chasing through a breeding herd of triceratops, cowboys on horseback lassoing Parasaurolophus, a majestic parade of Apatosaurus, a swarm of Prehistoric locusts. There are many other examples but I thought I’d stick to the ones in just the first fifteen minutes. What it doesn’t have is much of a story to hold them together though. You could argue that this is a problem with all of the Jurassic Park movies, possible even the original, but it is worse here because the film is a fairly staggering and totally unnecessary two and a half hours long.

Surprisingly what it also does is take the really good idea set up at the end of Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, that dinosaurs are now living among us like the other animals, and largely abandons it. There is a prologue that plays with this (and oddly an almost identical epilogue – things don’t move on much in that extended running time) but pretty quickly it drops the action in an illegal dinosaur trade centre or a corporate jungle reservation. All of the subsequent Jurassic Park movies have struggled to find a reason to take its heroes back to the friggin park and this one had the perfect solution already; bring the park to them. No though, it seems they really don’t want to stray far from formula.

Speaking of which, now that the rules of legacy sequels are really established, more than they were seven years ago when Jurassic World 1/Jurassic Park 4 came out, they have brought back the original cast. It is great to see Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum together again (but sadly not Joseph Mazzello or Ariana Richards) and they mix nicely with the newer cast. It somehow doesn’t feel like the event it should though. I feel if they played it differently this could have measured up against things like Ghostbusters Afterlife and The Force Awakens but somehow it all comes across as a little low key. There is certainly no sense of peril for anyone involved and a lot of the prehistoric predators they are up against seem too clumsy or too hesitant to be a threat to any of the good guys. In fact these dinosaurs don’t attack anyone as much as you’d expect. A few antagonists meet grizzly ends, including one that has a nice symmetry with a connected death in the first film, but most of the villains suffer more cuts in the editing than they do from teeth or claws.

Jurassic World Dominion isn’t a terrible film but it is definitely a mediocre one, and it is most certainly about an hour too long. It is probably the ending this series deserves but only because none of the four sequels that came before it were particularly necessary either.

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The Ripley Factor:

The thing that does have to be celebrated about all of the Jurassic Park/World movies is how they have used their female cast. Dern set the model for doing her part and not waiting for men to save the day when she went to turn the power back on in ‘93 and has been ably followed by Moore, Téa Leoni, Bryce Dallas Howard, Daniella Pineda, Isabella Sermon and DeWanda Wise, mostly in sensible footwear.

Women in Jurassic Park are often the most intelligent, forthright and capable and in many respects drive the plot more than the men. This final (we’ll see) movie manages this well too. You’d think this would be common now but unfortunately some box office beasts are not yet that evolved.

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