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Jurassic World: Dominion

Year: 2022
Production Co: Amblin Entertainment
Studio: Universal
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Emily Carmichael/Colin Trevorrow/Derek Connolly
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon

The elements are all here – chases, dinosaurs, adventure, amazing locations, a sense of danger, humour and to sweeten the pot the cast from the original film (s) are all back to fulfil elder statesperson status.

But this third go round from Jurassic Park's triumphant return to screens is proof of what one great filmmaker told me in an interview once; being a director is all about tone.

Because after Jurassic World worked so well, recapturing the indelible Spielbergian spirit while being self-aware enough to poke fun at its own existence, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom expanded the whole premise without forgetting what worked about it, this is a toneless mess, with several creative elements breathtakingly amateur.

It's a couple of the years after the events of Fallen Kingdom and human beings have had to try to live with dinosaurs in the world, by befriending, banishing or killing them.

Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) live in the mountains, raising Maisie (Isabella Sermon) a teenage girl with the plummiest, most out-of-place accent you've ever heard in a Hollywood film who turns out to be a clone created from research done in the second film I'd completely forgotten about.

They're keeping her secret because the company that's currently cornered the market in dinosaur research for pharmaceutical purposes, Biosyn, would do anything to make her their biotechnology guinea pig, whereas Owen and Claire just want her to have a normal childhood.

But she's increasingly frustrated at her life of secrecy, and when she gets jack enough of it she runs away, unaware she's being tracked by Biosyn bounty hunters who swipe her and the baby velociraptor of Owen's scaly friend, Blue, and carry them off.

Biosyn is run by a smarmy Musk/Zuckerberg tech billionaire type, Dodgson (you might not realise, but he's the same guy Dennis Nedry sold the embryo samples to in the original film) who you know from the first instant he appears is crooked and will be the main antagonist.

Then there's Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), investigating a plague of giant locusts attacking crops across the Midwest but leaving the ones bioengineered by Biosyn alone, making her wonder if they're not behind the monstrous insects.

Believing their DNA is from the cretaceous period, she goes to see the only man she trusts, Alan Grant (Sam Neill), still digging in the desert for bones after all these years.

He reluctantly agrees to travel to Biosyn with her to get to the bottom of the mystery and once there, they reconnect with Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who works as a sort of philosopher-in-residence for the company. Malcolm is fully aware of what Biosyn and Dodgson have been doing and wants to expose them, recruiting Ellie and Alan to the cause.

Meanwhile, Owen and Claire hightail it to Malta to follow Maisie after a tip-off, finding themselves embroiled in an underground dinosaur exchange market and sparking off a thrilling chase by evil looking assassin raptors through the streets of the city.

The team up with (deep breath) yet another character, a devil-may-care cargo pilot who's been running contraband for Biosyn and now sees the error of her ways when there's a child in danger. She agrees to take Owen and Claire to Biosyn's secluded valley in Italy's Dolomite mountains where they run their dinosaur sanctuary/research lab and find Maisie, so eventually everyone teams up.

When they all finally get together you expect a frisson of excitement something like when the OG Star Wars cast showed up in the new trilogy, but everybody seems so disinterested in being there you'll feel the same.

For such an overstuffed plot so much of it's completely superfluous, only there to set up the next chase or action set piece and carry people from point A to point B so they can execute the next set piece in the sequence.

And almost nothing about it works. The visuals are all stuff we've seen a million times. None of the gags are funny. The action scenes are dreadfully pedestrian. It even keeps going back to classic monsters from the original film - the venom-spitting dilophosaurus and the old, tired T Rex yet again. At least the original film in the Jurassic World had the reach to create a new monster.

Worse still, the human characters – which should be the strongest element, considering how much love they engender – are so thinly conceived, there's nothing else to enjoy but the odd dino-scrap. The stuff that should be fun, like the odd moment of humour or even callbacks to classic Jurassic Park / Jurassic World moments, fall flat.

In something of a parallel to the way visual effects has taken over high-end filmmaking, we have CGI filling almost every frame while the characters stand there (or run, or scream, or ride motorbikes) and still seem bored whereas the same characters were so full of charm in the original film when VFX was only just coming of age and took up barely any screen time.

Two tidbits on casting that struck me as well. For such an established career and so much goodwill because of his past roles, Sam Neill just isn't that good an actor – especially not in stuff like this. It feels like he considers it cartoony fare so he gives it a cartoon-level delivery.

I'm also midway through watching Parks and Recreation as I write this review, the show that gave Chris Pratt his start in the industry. A hairy, shlubby lunk in that show who's genuinely funny, it seems like he was just waiting for the chance to be a hunky hero that entire time, because he plays the same scowling, heavy-lidded alpha male in every film I've seen him in since then.

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