Jurassic Park arrived in 1993 prepackaged for commercial success. With those red and gray jeeps and the toothsome logoJP was an entertaining film about the dangers of monetizing nature’s wonder with a built-in marketing plan.
in comparison, Jurassic World Dominion, the sixth (!) installment in the franchise, is the Happy Meal of Jurassic Park films. A pale plastic imitation of the original, filled with fleeting moments of pleasure.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, the original Jurassic Park remains a great reminder of what makes him a peerless action filmmaker. The movie takes its time, waiting a full hour before the storm hits the park and the security systems fail, effectively trapping the scientists and the park owner’s grandkids in a dinosaur-filled jungle.
Suspense missing from 6th installation
Before chaos descended, Spielberg prepared us. He introduced the park and the various characters, setting the stage for the iconic moment where owner John Hammond says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” — and the John Williams music soars as high as the Brachiosaurus.
Spielberg knew enough to let the moment breathe, pulling the camera wide. As the man behind Jaws he understood the power of anticipation. Hence the rippling water in the cup before the first fearsome reveal of the T. Rex. Spielberg also understood the importance of the lost art of spatial awareness.
When we watched young Tim race down a tree to escape a falling car, Spielberg shot the sequence in a way so that the audience understands exactly where the tree, the car and Tim are, as opposed to the current fashion where each action sequence is a cinematic slurry of close-ups.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World Dominion offers none of Spielberg’s confidence and clarity, instead wooing us back with a cross-generational gathering of Jurassic characters. We have the OGs, with Laura Dern returning as Ellie Sattler, who in turn recruits Sam Neill as the grumptastic Alan Grant — plus the only mathematician who can get away with wearing leather: Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm. Then, there’s the new generation, with Chris Pratt returning as Owen the raptor whisperer and Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, now the helicopter mother of the clone Maisie.
Once again, there’s an evil corporate titan looking to plunder dino DNA. Campbell Scott plays Lewis Dodgson, an awkward amoral Steve Jobs-type who inadvertently lets loose a new species of super-sized locusts that have begun decimating the world’s food supply.
Perhaps predictably, in this installation, dinosaurs have gone from being majestic to a nuisance. Cluttering up campsites. Bothering beachgoers. Instead of grandeur, we have gimmicks — such as the laser-guided raptors who chase Owen around Malta, like a Cretaceous version of The Bourne Ultimatum. As for Pratt, I find him to be more effective at spoofing heroes a la Star Lord, rather than this dino-rustling cowboy.
The film also makes time for a few new faces, including the get down‘s, Mamoudou Athie as an idealistic comms expert and DeWanda Wise as gung-ho pilot Kayla. Welcome additions hampered by generic dialogue and a shallow backstory.
While Dern and Howard’s characters get a few moments to bond as two women practiced in the art of rescuing themselves, Goldblum shows again why he’s a screenwriter’s dream, with his ability to turn the most innocent line into gold.
From fresh to fossil
When it arrived in ’93, the original Jurassic Park was much like an amusement park ride. You got the slow part at the beginning when you notice all the details, settle in — followed by the absolute chaos of the climax. But the latest installation feels like we’re on autopilot. The bumps along the way don’t feel as fresh, the novelty of the dinosaurs has long faded and not even excavating a few favorite characters can make this ride worth the admission.