Jurassic World Dominion is a testament to how Hollywood betrays its audience, where movies are marketed and validated by societal outrage or division and actors are only used to further a marketing agenda by a morally corrupt business model.
Starring: Isabella Sermon, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Chris Pratt, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill.
This has been a very difficult film to review, which is part of the reason it wasn’t delivered last night for you to read this morning, and is now overdue from me having to spend actual money to go and watch this disastrously pathetic movie again today.
I’m fortunate enough to have access to films before they are released, and am compensated for my reviews in advance by not having to buy a ticket at a cinema. This time, I had to know what it would feel like to spend $30 to see a film that I had trouble sitting through even when I was watching it for free, and afterwards I legitimately would have felt better being scammed over the phone for imaginary Bitcoin.
The people in charge of making these films aren’t stupid, they have access to incredible amounts of data and they have staggering financial resources to pour into marketing and understanding how to best manipulate their audience for money.
They know exactly what they’re doing, and that’s using an established intellectual property to spark societal discussion by splitting the audience into comfortable groups – toxic, vile, racist, bigoted dinosaurs (pardon the expression) on one side, and the unsung, selfless, moralistic hidden heroes on the other.
So, where do we go from here? What do I say about this film that isn’t going to be buying into a predictable cycle of pseudo-marketing psychopathy? There’s almost no way to critique this film without sounding like a total asshole, and I guess that’s just the role I’ll have to take for this one, so hold on to your butts.
We’re told the film is supposed to function as both the conclusion to both the original and resurrected franchises and blends a number of stories into its narrative:
Following the destruction of previous dinosaur island sanctuaries, dinosaurs now exist in our society and apparently, everybody has just accepted this with zero pushback or wider discussion, with the world now split into good people who want to protect dinosaurs as the gentle, loving, doe-eyed creatures they are, and evil people who want to exploit these vulnerable new creatures for their own personal gain.
But, what about Jurassic Park, you ask? Couldn’t we say that Richard Hammond was evil, for simply exploiting these creatures to begin with, to create what is essentially a tourist attraction?
Thankfully this is addressed multiple times, as we now have a new hero in the form of Charlotte Lockwood, the real genius and driving force behind the entire genetic experiment project and who devoted her tragically short life to only doing good, saving and improving the world through genetic experiments, while all of her other, spotlight-central colleagues were just building their silly old theme parks (that’s about one word away from a direct quote).
Her clone, Maisie, is an exact copy except that her mother managed to ‘edit out the unwanted DNA’ that would make her sick, and the obvious connection here they want you to make is: If Maisie is a clone of this genius woman who could have saved the entire world and made everything perfect, then we need to protect her at all costs. She holds all the answers, both in her existing DNA and the edited version of her v2.0 self, and even tells us at the end of the film that ‘It’s what she (Charlotte) would have wanted’.
But the film again keeps this on the surface level and refuses to add any complexity to the situation. Was Charlotte’s outpouring of motivation and dedication to her research a result of her response to an increasingly finite lifespan? Was her worldview created and motivated and cemented by her interactions, her experiences, her existence in that time and place, and would it really be wise of us to say that a mentality formed and finalised 30 or 40 years ago would be relevantly welcome or informed today?
At this point in the review, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t brought up, well, any other characters, and I should rectify that below with a summary of each person’s role in the film:
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) can communicate with and control all dinosaurs with his hands, feels best at home with a knife or a gun in his hand, is seemingly waterproof and sweatproof, and at one point tries to unsuccessfully murder his girlfriend. He speaks in gravel-soaked one-liners and is now a weak, over-bearing father figure.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is now a dinosaur freedom fighter, desperately escaping poachers, experimenters, and gunshots to rescue Milk-Cartoon Dino Kids that resemble the vulnerable innocence of a seal about to be clubbed to death. She is now a free spirit but grounded, reflective and insightful, and a renegade vigilante with high levels of hand-to-hand combat and intuitive fighting skills. She is also a genius-level problem solver.
Alan Grant (Sam Neill) has clearly lost his mind, as he forgets which accent he should have, spending the first 10 minutes trying to choose between Scottish, New Zealand or Cinematic America as the basis before bumbling his way almost silently through the remainder of the film. He spends his time bickering, being completely oblivious, and screaming like a child while following others around and showing zero confidence, courage, or agency.
Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is the person you call when you don’t know who to call, the saviour of the organic farmer, the proponent of destroying evil synthetic corporations, who has thankfully spent so much time transforming herself into the paleobotanist version of Sarah Connor that there isn’t an industrial electrical cable she can’t hack open with an axe, or a steel door she can’t crowbar open to save everyone with great ease. An unfortunate side-effect of this is that she has forgotten how to take her sunglasses off without looking like a malfunctioning robot.
Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is very much the same repetitive, pseudo-intellectual lothario that he always was, though is more occupied with being the comic relief for moments where his controversial personality can be used for maximum effect. Thankfully, he still manages to learn and grow throughout the film, finally discovering his shirt buttons after one character speaks volumes with a single, disgustingly disappointed look at his bare chest.
Henry Wu (BD Wong) has been (apparently) recently released from the isolation psychiatric ward he’s been held in, but thankfully they let him keep the clothes and hairstyle. Now realising the terrible error of his ways, it’s up to this often-sidelined and dismissed scientist to save the world. Thankfully, he does, but that’s not the real victory. No, the real victory is that he doesn’t just take the credit for himself, like a chump, but gives all the credit to the real hero, Charlotte Lockwood.
Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) is as intimidating and menacing as a stifled sneeze, somehow owns a multi-billion/trillion-whatever company, BioSyn, but is somehow the dumbest person in the entire universe. He owns and operates a cutting-edge technology company and completely destroys his own company by creating terrible technology. Obviously dies a complete failure, and we’re thankfully given an extra few seconds of his echoing scream to really let us know that it was brutal, horrifying, and painful.
Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) is a pilot who I assume had her own DNA blended with Dwayne Johnson to allow superhuman feats of strength and a contract that ensures nothing but zingy zings, snappy snaps, and a cool, calm, collected exterior that only hits at the deeper emotional pain constantly both driving and limiting the character to outlaw life. She gives necklaces to strangers in toilets, and presumably seduces people to later exploit this information at her convenience.
Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie) is Head of Communications at the evil BioSyn but thankfully wears the ASOS Summer Clothing Collection to signpost his good intentions to the audience early on. He’s a complex human being with a heart of gold, simply shrugging off and smiling to himself at his unnoticed background assistance for others that makes him pivotal to both protecting the characters and ensuring the world can be saved. So pure of heart that he still shows sympathy to the villain even as the world literally burns around them.
Do I even mention dinosaurs at this point? There’s a T-Rex, some dinosaurs with feathers because of authenticity, and a new Apex Predator and the only semi-decent five seconds in the film featuring a Dilophosaurus and some flickering lights.
But it’s not a film about dinosaurs, it’s a film about locusts. It’s not a film about theme parks, it’s a film about corporate greed and exploitation. It’s not a film that celebrates the heroes we know, it’s a film that gives us new heroes to celebrate and only provides reasons to dismiss our attachment to our previous ones, creating and examining the flaws in characters only to highlight the lacking of flaws in others.
It’s a shame, because I was, as most people might be, quite excited about this film, about revisiting my childhood and recapturing even a fraction of that initial joy and excited, adventurous anticipation in being transported to a world where dinosaurs exist.
What can I actually say about a movie that I feel is undeserving of any emotion, good or bad? The words I’d use to describe how bad this film is would have more energy in them than the film deserves. I could call it hollow, but it’s barren. I could call it soulless, but it’s a void of nothingness.
There was every reason in the world to make this film, and make it in any number of ways to please any number of people, to create an experience that people could enjoy, that would transport them to a world of magic and wonder and adventure and imagination. Instead, we get an experiment, chopped up and edited with its DNA altered to be more palatable to a singular vision, an unrecognisable ghoul with a synthetically manufactured heart and soul.
I’ll close out this review by returning full circle, and ending with a quote from the original 1993 film by the great Ian Malcolm:
“You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now…
You’re selling it, you wanna sell it.”
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