Producers: Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley Director: Colin Trevorrow Screenplay: Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Campbell Scott, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Scott Haze and Dichen Lachman Distributor: Universal
“Jurassic World? Not a fan,” mutters Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) at one point in this third movie of the second trilogy inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1990 potboiler about cloned dinosaurs. Bless Dr. Malcolm—he’s fussy and vain and outspoken, often saying things other characters wouldn’t dream of uttering aloud. But in this case he’s spot on—“Dominion” is nothing to cheer about, though it will doubtlessly be a monster at the box office. It’s as much a genetic duplicate of its predecessors as the critters that run rampant in it are of their ancestors, and its frenetic pacing is likely to exhaust even the most rabid fans of the franchise, especially given an unconscionably long running-time.
Not that there isn’t some cause for applause in the reunion of Goldblum with Laura Dern and Sam Neill, who appear in this installment for the first time since Steven Spielberg’s groundbreaking special-effects extravaganza of 1993. It’s nice to see the three of them together again, with Dern’s Ellie Sattler and Neill’s Alan Grant finally getting together romantically nearly two decades after they were obviously destined to be together.
Other than that, and the introduction of a couple of new characters, there isn’t much in the movie you haven’t seen before. There are scads of dinos scampering about, of course, and the effects team supervised by David Vickery, have done a fine job realizing them. As usual, when live-action humans are integrated with them, the result isn’t terribly convincing, but that hasn’t troubled audiences overmuch for two decades, and is unlikely to do so now.
The problem with “Dominion” isn’t how it looks—Kevin Jenkins’ production design and John Schwartzman’s cinematography are fine, too—but the narrative contrived by Emily Carmichael and director Colin Trevorrow, a farrago that, as edited by Mark Sanger, jumps back and forth among interlocking plotlines like a stream of cliffhangers from forties serials, each episode ending with a sudden swipe and a crescendo in the busy score by Michael Giacchino.
The overall scenario follows from the end of the last installment, “Fallen Kingdom,” in which young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), herself cloned from her mother, a brilliant scientist, released the dinosaurs from her supposed grandfather’s estate into the California wilds. She’s been adopted by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former manager of Jurassic World park but now head of an underground dino protection group, and her significant other Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the park’s erstwhile dino whisperer, who have secreted her away in a remote cabin to protect her from those who would use her as a test subject. Living in the nearby forest is Maisie and Owen’s favorite raptor Blue, along with her inexplicable kid Beta.
But the adoptive parents’ precautions prove insufficient to deter a rebellious teen like Maisie from bicycling into town, where she’s spied by Rainn Delacourt (Scott Haze), who kidnaps her and Beta. Claire and Owen follow the trail to a black-market dino bazaar in Malta, where, in a long-winded action sequence, they reunite with Barry Sembèn (Omar Sy), another erstwhile park employee now a dashing French agent, and escape the attempts of Soyona Santos (Dichen Lachman), a stern-faced woman dressed totally in white despite the dusty locale, to off them with a gizmo that marks them as targets for her trained dinos. Luckily they find an ally in free-wheeling pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who manage despite all sorts of dangers to get them to where Maisie and Beta have been taken—the compound of a firm called BioSyn in the Italian Dolomite Mountains, surrounded by an area that the company’s head Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) has set aside for the dinos to live in. Supposedly he and his chief scientist Henry Wu (BD Wong, who’s been with the series from the beginning) employ them in beneficial medical research.
Also arriving at the compound, but as guests rather than interlopers, are Sattler and Grant, who are tracking down the source of an outbreak of giant locusts that are devastating much of the world’s farmland. Noting that the swarms don’t attack ground planted with BioSyn’s genetically modified seed, they suspect that the insects have been engineered by Dodgson as a means of gaining control of the global food supply. They’re right, of course: though he proclaims his New Agey benevolence, Campbell portrays him as one of those oily tech-moguls whose surface niceness is merely a cloak for his dark commercial motives. (In his case characterization is provided by a habit of popping candies into his mouth.) They find Malcolm there, serving as a sort of resident kibitzer who soaks up the adulation of the staff.
It’s Wu who’s most anxious to meet Maisie: it was he who developed those terrible locusts, and he believes her DNA will be key to reversing the process by creating a non-reproducing species whose introduction will short-circuit the critters at a single generation—and redeeming himself for his past misdeeds. Also turning against Dodgson is his amiably low-keyed aide Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie), who, along with Watts, becomes an indispensable ally as Grady, Claire, Ellie and Alan try to survive repeated dino and locust attacks, rescue Maisie, return Beta to Blue, and short-circuit Dodgson’s malevolent schemes.
Trevorrow handles the action with aplomb, though as the movie drags on the repetitiveness of it all and the predictability of the plot grow increasingly tiresome, and the propensity to use sudden appearances of dinos for shock effect takes on a mechanical feel. None of the returning cast members fare particularly well with characters that are mere one-note sketches, though it’s always to watch Goldblum do his deadpan kvetching routine; but Pratt definitely comes off worst, his habit of fending off some ravenous creature by simply extending his palm in a “halt” gesture and starting the beast down growing more laughable each time he does it. Newcomers Wise and Athie add some freshness to the mix, she with her feisty female Indiana Jones vibe and he with his quiet, knowing one.
One can’t complain overmuch about “Dominion” being an uninspired, unnecessary sequel—after all, the same could be said of its four predecessors—but how enticing just another overstuffed helping of a familiar dish will be even to long-time diners is a matter of doubt. Kids who have a thing for dinosaurs—and there are still a lot of them—should be enthralled, however, by the sequences involving them—though they’ll probably react to the people scenes separating the dino stuff like youngsters used to when an obligatory romantic interlude interrupted a western or sci-fi movie.
As to this being a “final” installment, that claim should probably be taken with a ton of salt.