Somehow, Colin Trevorrow has returned. After recusing himself from directing duties for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Trevorrow is back to finish the job with this sixth instalment of the prehistoric franchise. The original Jurassic Park was replete with quotable lines: “Clever girl”, “Spared no expense” etc. With Dominion, this zinger from The Lost World feels more apt: “Oh, this is gonna be bad”.
After the events of Fallen Kingdom, dinosaurs roam freely across the globe wreaking ecological and humanitarian havoc. Meanwhile, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are raising 14-year-old Maisie (Isabella Sermon) in secret, hiding her away from shady corporation Biosyn who want her for their nefarious genetic research. In addition, legacy characters Alan Grant (Sam Neill) – still digging for bones – Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) – investigating Biosyn’s part in biblical plagues of giant locusts – and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) – mumbling in black – are all shoehorned in to very limited success.
If all this sounds confusing and overcomplicated, that’s only because it is: resembling a bad Resident Evil game more than a Jurassic Park film. The first Jurassic World was the definition of a mixed bag: an interesting initial premise coupled with some well-staged action, marred by one-dimensional characters, flat visuals and questionable misogynistic tropes. For the next film, Fallen Kingdom, they turned down the lights, dialled down the misogyny, but upped the stupidity.
In an almost impressive display of ineptitude, Dominion combines the very worst vices of its predecessors in addition to a few new ones for good measure. As well as non-existent characterisation or thematic coherence, quaint concepts like comprehensible scene geography and narrative tension have all but disappeared. In the third act, for example, chaotic editing makes what should be a tense escape sequence across a rickety platform – pursued by a giant Giganotosaurus – impossible to track who is doing what and where they’re doing it. The whole thing is such a complete mess that it might have been fun if it wasn’t so crushingly boring.
The trouble with nostalgia-based legacy sequels is that if the film itself is no good the nostalgia can only work against it, reminding us of what we’d rather be watching. Remember back to when Spielberg’s two Jurassic films treated the dinosaurs as living, breathing, chaotic animals? When they were revered for their grace and their sublime terror, not as screeching monsters to be superimposed on to dull action sequences?
Remember, too, when characters in blockbusters could be motivated by something recognisably human instead of moustache-twirling evil or scowling macho-heroism? Remember, finally, how even the gnarliest of deaths once inspired an emotional reaction beyond dull callousness? In empathy’s place lie Dominion’s unnamed extras, torn to shreds for some numbed approximation of sadistic pleasure.
Imagine what someone like The Batman helmer Matt Reeves could have done with this material. Imagine what Spielberg must think of the dreck we got instead. It beggars belief, but if any Trevorrow film was in need of J.J. Abrams to take it over, it was this one.