Here’s how that film franchise practice of “fan service” can bite you right in the arse. You bring back the stars of the original trilogy, have them share the screen with your “reboot” cast, and everybody watching is slapped in the face with this self-evident truth.
Nobody cares what happens to Chris Pratt, and poor Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t fare much better in the finale to the “Jurassic World” trilogy, “Jurassic World Dominion.” Not with Laura Dern, Sam Neill and His Hipness Jeff Goldblum back on the screen.
The original cast and the studio had their reasons for moving on. But damn, it’s great seeing Dern, Goldblum and Neill replaying their greatest hits like this. Every time the movie drifts away from them, we know we’re in the hands of lesser mortals.
“Dominion” is a perfectly-serviceable popcorn picture in that it does what it does well enough, even if we’ve seen tiny humans terrorized by prehistoric beasts five times before. Perhaps having a character say “You never get used to it” is a stretch, but we’ll allow it. Just so long as the screenplay has somebody bring up the “Jurassic World” theme park, the title of the first film in this trilogy, and Goldblum’s droll Dr. Ian Malcolm intones, “Jurassic Wooorld…did…not care for that.”
Director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow’s (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) takes us into a future where humans and dinos-on-the-loose are uneasily co-existing, a bizarre concept seeing as how the phrase “apex predator” has a new meaning, and plenty of variations in all the new/old carnivores on the loose on the land, sea and air.
The new threat is to humanity’s food supply, and it looks like this global conglomerate BioSyn (say it out loud) might be behind the oversized locusts threatening to devour everything and everyone in their way.
The new villain is a Muskian/Zuckerberglish megalomaniac played by Campbell Scott, a character happy to play God to get even richer, with nary a thought to consequences.
The imperiled kid is Maize (Isabella Sermon), cloned daughter of a long dead scientist, introduced in the last “Jurassic” film. She’s been promoted to most wanted” around the world because of who, or what she is.
And those keeping her safe and secluded are the former Jurassic World operations manager, now an animal/dino-rights activist Claire (Howard) and her hunka man-meat beau, the animal tracker/trainer Owen (Pratt).
With dinosaur poaching and illegal breeding all the rage, it’s only natural that bad guys figure out who this rebellious teen is and a way to steal her from her foster family, which is holed-up in the snowy forests of the Pacific Northwest.
The best things about “Dominion’s” first act are how Trevorrow & Co. transition from all this exposition-heavy introductory stuff and some idiotic and seriously fake-looking chasing-dinosaurs-on-horseback (in the snow) sequences to a straight-up James Bond action picture.
The kid and a missing velociraptor toddler are traced to Malta, a lawless locale where the black market rules and there are lots of ancient, narrow streets and aged buildings to chase one and all through.
A ruthless trader with a hint of raptor in her appearance (Dichen Lachman) must be confronted, a smuggling, swaggering, spa-and-hair-salon-haunting pilot (DeWanda Wise) must be befriended.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Dern) is seeing evidence of biological chicanery and food-supply tampering that points to our villain (Scott). There’s nothing for it but to get The Band Back Together.
The old crew get nice “introduction” moments — Neill, especially.
Dr, Alan Grant is back where he started out, a fussbudget bachelor paleontologist digging for dinosaurs, and there are adorable scenes where Neill sputters and blushes through the visit from old flame Ellie, now divorced with grown kids.
Goldblum’s Dr. Malcolm is already in the belly of the beast, trying to teach “The Ethics of Genetic Power” to the oligarch and his minions. Is Ian really a complete sellout? Not that we didn’t see that coming.
“The only play nooooow is…take the time we have left, and you know, squander it.”
Dern replicates her Oscar-worthy slack-jawed terror at being chased by this or assaulted by that.
And Scott does well at channeling the “Bond villains” among us — super-rich, super-ruthless guys that no one should mistake for being the brainiacs they envision themselves to be.
The action beats are OK, the CGI next-gen level, although I was startled to see how poorly the overcast and snowy greenscreen chases and action matches up with the shot-outdoors-in-real-daylight footage at some points.
There are new species of dinosaurs depicted, but they don’t recapture the awe and terror of earlier iterations of those beasts.
I’d call the story silly, but a movie where “dinosaur whispering” is kind of a thing has that hard-wired into it. That said, a LOT of science has come out since Michael Crichton wrote the novel this film franchise is based on. Who’s to say that pea-brained monsters aren’t trainable?
The little humor present here all spins around Goldblum and comes out of his mouth, which just underscores how deflating it is to see director/co-writer Trevorrow reduced to on-set traffic cop making the digital dinosaur buses run on time.
Because that’s a thankless directing job, trying to jam every surviving character who ever registered in earlier films back in here — plus Omar Sy and Mamoudou Athie. It just makes for a cluttered, derivative and somewhat soulless finale to a trilogy that millions embraced and some folks love.
Me? “Did not…care for that.”
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action, some violence and language
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Campbell Scott, DeWanda Wise, Isabella Sermon, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong and Omar Sy, with Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum.
Credits: Directed by Colin Trevorrow, scripted by Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow. A Universal release.