This Sounds Like a Really Stupid Plan

Jurassic World: Dominion

I won't deny that it's astounding to me that we're somehow not only at a sixth Jurassic ParkWhile ever kid has dreams of seeing dinosaurs, Michael Crichton gave that dream a reality, at least on paper. His two Jurassic Park books spawned a movie franchise that's gone five movies strong (with no signs of slowing down), all because people love seeing dinosaurs made flesh. film but, more specifically, a third Jurassic World movie. After the terrible fiasco that was Jurassic Park III, we had all, as a society, agreed that this whole series of films should be allowed to expire, to be appreciated as fossils that could never be resurrected again. Except, of course, that's not the point of the films, nor of Hollywood in general when they have a franchise that could be milked.

And yes, sure, Jurassic World is watchable. It's big, it's loud, and it's very, very dumb, but it does manage to transcend to some kind of stupidly-fun level of entertainment. You can get away with that once, Universal did, and it worked. But then, as before, they went back to that well again and again. That's how we get the insipid Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a movie I've seen twice now but can barely remember at all. And now we have Jurassic World: Dominion, probably the last film in the series to feature the Jurassic World cast, but likely not the last Jurassic film we'll ever see, not when there's dino money to be made.

Let's be clear, that, whatever joy could be had in the early films is absolutely gone in this movie. The producers on this film decided that the best way to keep making money was to eke every last bit of nostalgia from the franchise. That's how we get a film that somehow builds on one plot thread barely anyone cared about from the first Jurassic Park, with heroes from the first three films, mashed up against a plot line featuring the characters from the newer movies, all stitched together like some Frankenstein experiment that shambled out of the lab and started eating the audience. It's big, and brass, and dumb, sure. The series has managed to maintain that. But what it lacks in smarts it also fails to reclaim in fun. This, right here, is the worst film in the series so far, and I feel like I have to now go and apologize to Jurassic Park III. Who knew you really weren't that bad?

The film opens with a long and drawn out recap (via newsreel) of everything that's happened in the series so far. Dinosaurs are real, they escaped containment, and now they live among us. Shot after shot shows us how humanity is (or isn't) learning to live alongside their resurrected giants, and the world will never be the same. Except then the film basically contradicts this by saying, "eh, the more things change the more they stay the same." It seems there's a new plague of locusts slowly flying their way across the West and Midwest, eating all the crops that aren't grown by genetic-engineering corporation Biosyn. Once Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) gets a hold of one of the locusts she realizes they're engineered prehistoric insects, and the hunt is not on for proof! She'll need help, though, in the form of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).

Meanwhile, out in the middle of nowhere (aka, the far U.S. West), we meet back up with Owen Grady (the always bland an average Chris Pratt), who has been working as a dinosaur ranch hand, collecting then and getting them off to safety. His girlfriend (wife or whatever, the movie isn't specific), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been traveling around the world, freeing dinosaurs from corporate captivity and reporting illegal activities to the new world authority. Together they've been raising Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the cloned "daughter" of genetic scientist Dr. Charlotte Lockwood, trying to keep the girl safe. Unfortunately, corporate interests from Biosyn are on the lookout for Maisie and the second they spot her they come to collect. They take the girl (and also the newly born velociraptor baby from Blue, who is living in the woods nearby) and take them to the Biosyn headquarters. Now Owen and Claire have to fight to get their adopted daughter back, whatever the case.

The first big problem with Jurassic World: Dominion is that it has way too much plot for the movie to get through smoothly. The film is predicated on getting the old cast -- Dern. Goldblum, and Neill -- together with the newer stars -- Pratt, Howard, and Sermon -- so that we can have everyone together. The issue is that, because the first Jurassic World was something of a soft reboot, keeping a bit of the history of the films but ditching all the characters, we haven't seen any of the heroes of the original films (barring one very short cameo of Ian Malcolm on TV) in these new movies. More to the point, these old characters haven't ever met the new ones, so trying to put all of them in the film together requires a lot of machinations in the plot, a lot of pretzel-twisting of the story just to make it work.

You can see this in how the two main plots of the film never really intersect. Dr. Sattler is chasing the dino-bugs and the devastation they're causing. This is an ecological threat and, arguably, would be something dino freedom fighter Dearing would be interested in. But instead of saying, "hey, I know this woman who used to work for Jurassic World but not fights the corporate interests using this bio-tech for evil," she instead goes off to her old friend Alan Grant and they have their own adventure for the first hour-plus of the film. Meanwhile, Owen and Claire chase their daughter, who has been kidnapped, and if both sides of the story weren't tied to Biosyn, their plot lines would literally never meet up. They're literally on two different adventure that only intersect because the film has to have one bad guy for everything.

I'd actually put forward that having two different films, completely, would have better served this story. Owen and Clair chasing after the kidnappers, having a globe-trotting adventure the likes of which would make Jason BourneLost without his memory, but bearing a particular set of skills, Jason Bourne has to figure out who he is and just why everyone seems to want him dead. jealous, actually sounds halfway cool. Sure, it would require writers better at, well, writing, and certainly ones that were smarter, to actually pull off that story (so not screenwriters Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow), but I could see that adventure, on its own, working. That would be fair.

Similarly, having Sattler come back into the fold, maybe because of a tip from Claire, to start investigating ancient bugs also seems cool. That's a very Michal Crichton-style adventure, discussing the evils of science and the unforeseen circumstances when you play god. That sounds like it's own globe-trotting adventure, one that could be fun from a more intellectual perspective. Think two ladies having a James BondThe world's most famous secret agent, James Bond has starred not only in dozens of books but also one of the most famous, and certainly the longest running, film franchises of all time. adventure, but with more biology talk. Between those two film concepts you suddenly shift the series into globe-spanning adventures with teams of scientists coming together to kick ass and save dinosaurs. It begins to resemble The Fast and the FuriousStarted as a film about undercover policing in the illegal street-racing community, this series has grown to encompass a number of different genres and become one of the most bankable franchises in the world., just smarter, and that's a formula I can get behind.

But because both of these storylines are mashed together into a single film neither gets the room it needs to breathe. I assume the corporate mandate was, "bring back the old cast in this sixth film, just in case we don't make another one, but you also have to have the new cast." And because of that, this horribly grafted together "story" happens. Because neither side gets to breathe you have Sattler on her adventure, dragging Grant and Malcolm along for the ride even though they add absolutely nothing to the plot. They're literally just there because they were in the previous films. By the same token, Owen and Claire make "friends" with a pirate pilot, Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), and we're suddenly supposed to start caring about this character who really only exists in the third act as a means to ferry the other characters around. It just doesn't work.

Caring about the characters isn't really what this film is interested in. If it were then it would let the new leads of the series, Owen and Claire, have consistent character motivations. Claire went from head of Jurassic World in the first of these new movies, to someone fighting to save dinos, to, now, mostly just a mom who occasionally rats on corporate interests. She doesn't feel at all like the character from the first film in either of her later appearances, and the fact they made him into a mom seems far removed from her previous personality. She liked her nephews in the first film, but not enough to really be near them for most of it. Making her into a mom feels like they twisted her to do it because she's a lady and "all ladies want to be moms." But that's not really her.

Owen comes across slightly better, but only because there really wasn't much character to him to begin with. He likes working with dinosaurs and sexually harassing Claire. Now they're in a relationship together (because everyone has to be straight and monogamous, I guess?) and he's going around, dealing with dinosaurs while raising a kid. I actually buy him raising a daughter just because he seemed parental towards Blue in the previous films, but otherwise there's so little to Owen that whatever they do to him is worth less than a shrug. Claire shouldn't be with him because, really, he's kind of a creep, but Owen just gets to continue being Owen (whatever that means).

Stranger, though, is the way the film twists up Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Dodgson first seen in the original film (where he was played by Cameron Thor), and in that film he was just a corporate enforcer, a security stooge. Somehow he goes from that role to scientist for Biosyn (in an animated appearance in Camp Cretaceous) to suddenly acting as the wunderkind CEO of Biosyn. How, exactly, did he do this? This fool from the first film that trusts disgusting oaf Nedry to get dino embryos for his corporate benefactors. That's the guy you expect to brilliantly run a corporation? Really?

But then, considering his stupid plans, I guess it does make a certain amount of sense. His plan, remember, is to have his prehistoric locusts eat all the crops in the world that don't come from Biosyn's engineered seeds, and then, I guess, hold the farmers hostage until they buy only Biosyn products and make Biosyn all the money ever. Except that's, essentially, bio warfare wages on the corn belt of the U.S. (and then, presumably, the world). If you think the governments of the world aren't going to see that all the Biosyn crops are fine and everyone else is eaten and dead and then somehow fail to put two and two together, you're an idiot Dodgson. They'll figure it out in an instant. Hell, the fact that they weren't already at Biosyn's door with search warrants (and an arrest warrant for the CEO) just illustrates how stupid this film is.

Even better (or worse, I guess) is that, somehow, Sattler thinks she has to go to Biosyn to get the evidence of this, despite already having a giant bug in her possession. She could show that to the USDA, then just wave at a map with circles on it saying, "all of these are safe, Biosyn farms." Then she could put on sunglasses and walk out, cool as shit, because she just blew the whole case wide open. But, again, this doesn't happen. No, we have to have all the characters at Biosyn so they can meet and save the day together.

The final bit of stupidity comes when Dodgson decides, "crap, Sattler is on to me. I have to burn the evidence." That doesn't mean wiping the servers, or killing all the scientists involved in this whole fiasco. No, instead, he literally sets all the bugs on fire. He does this before, like a Bond villain, walking away, trusting they'll all just die. They don't, and instead escape, causing a massive ecological disaster in and around the Biosyn grounds, and it's all caught on camera as giant locusts fly around on fire. Like... bruh. Bruh! what the hell?! Biggest, dumbest, stupidest moment in the plot in a whole film absolutely pants-shittingly filled with them.

Make no mistake, from the story, to the characters, to every scene that happens within the film, Jurassic World: Dominion finds a way to ruin it all. This isn't just a dumb movie, or a tedious one (although, wow, does it take forever to get all the pieces in place so something interesting can happen). It's a bad film. It's got to be one of the worst big-budget films I've seen in a very long time. This film manages to take all the stupidity and all the badness from all the previous films and compounds it all. If we never have to suffer through another one of these films it will be none too soon.

Oh, what's that? The film made over a $1 Bil at the Box Office? The producers are already plotting a seventh film? It'll feature a couple of the minor characters here that no one cared about because all the main cast are retiring? We should expect it in the next couple of years? Damn it.