LOS ANGELES, June 8 (UPI) — “Jurassic World Dominion,” in theaters Friday, begins with a premise full of inherent drama. It then proceeds to make an incompetent movie about something else entirely.
At the end of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the dinosaurs got free and escaped into human populations. A movie about humans having to cope with prehistoric creatures in the modern day would be thrilling and dramatic, but that’s not what “Dominion” is about.
“Dominion” begins with Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) hiding Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the girl created through DNA experiments in “Fallen Kingdom.” When hunters capture Maisie, Owen and Claire go to rescue her.
But first, the company Biosyn is introduced with its CEO, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Biosyn has the exclusive rights to collect the roaming dinosaurs, but it doesn’t do anything that interesting throughout the film.
Instead, Biosyn also sells seed to farmers, and has created a species of locust that only eats non-Biosyn crops. That’s how Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) gets on the case, and she asks her old Jurassic Park colleague Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to join her.
What follows is presumably intended to be James Bond with dinosaurs, as both pairs travel the world to achieve their goals. International action set pieces with dinosaurs sound good on paper, but when you can’t even do one thing well, piling more on top of each other exacerbates the issues.
A “Taken”-style fight scene does not improve when a dinosaur interrupts it. A scene in which a character ejects from an airplane looks so shoddy, it’s astounding that a Hollywood movie, in a franchise that pioneered visual effects no less, can’t pull off a basic aerial sequence.
Director Colin Trevorrow and the visual effects team failed to do the proper research and development on putting dinosaurs in new environments. “Jurassic World Dominion” sets its dinosaurs in places so dark that all you see is an ugly mass of muddy shapes.
Plus, when those new locations kick up dirt and snow during stampedes, whether location effects or computer-created elements, it just makes this the ugliest “Jurassic” movie of all. Considering the last movie took place inside a house, that’s saying a lot.
When the actors are allowed to sell the scene, they perform convincingly. Howard is compelling in a long take in which the focus is on her moving slowly through water while a dinosaur waits, but surrounding her with busy, shoddy effects undermines her.
Even if the film trusts its actors to sell the danger, the sound will drown them out. A brutal sound mix is just a cacophony of vehicles vrooming and crashing while dinosaurs roar over the musical score.
There’s even a scene in which characters shout at each other while dinosaurs fight and a helicopter flies over a burning environment, and you can’t hear anyone.
The original “Jurassic Park” debuted the DTS sound system. It is a shame to hear the franchise devolve into this, and you know big chains like AMC will play it too loud.
“Jurassic World Dominion” collapses under the weight of its unwieldy plot. Every time it bounces from Owen and Claire to Ellie and Allen, it spends way too much time away from the other main characters.
Those hunters become completely irrelevant once the film doesn’t need them anymore, and there are many more characters explaining their motivations, including Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who now works for Biosyn. Series like “The Fast and the Furious” set a much better example for smoothly balancing ensembles of characters.
By the time the new characters meet the classic “Jurassic Park” characters, they have nothing to talk about. They’ve all heard of each other, but that’s it. By the time they recreate some of “Jurassic Park”‘s iconic poses, it’s too little too late.
Hopefully, the failures of “Jurassic World Dominion” will make people re-evaluate how good Steven Spielberg‘s first sequel, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” actually was. But if anyone actually wants to see a genetic locust biochemical farming movie with their dinosaurs, “Jurassic World Dominion” is the only genetic locust biochemical farming dinosaur movie of the summer.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.