The original Jurassic Park had fewer than 100 visual effects shots. That they still look good decades later is a testament to that film’s talented production team, which included Stan Winston, whose life-sized animatronics gave Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) animators plenty of on set reference material for how the creatures were supposed to look in the context of the scene (not to mention something tangible for actors to interact with) and stop motion master Phil Tippett, whose canny eye for how animals move helped bring the digital performances to life.
Winston passed away in 2008 (his studio held a lovely “dinosaur crew” reunion two years ago), and Tippett’s expertise has largely fallen out of favor in an industry bent on expediency (his creativity cannot be stopped, however: let this be a friendly reminder that Tippett’s feature length nightmare, Mad God, reviewed for OnlySky by J. Burrello, will be available on Shudder June 16th).
I’m less familiar with the current generation of effects wizards (special and visual), but they’re given precious little to work with in Jurassic World: Dominion (hereafter Jurassic Park 6), a globe-trotting spy thriller/adventure serial that occasionally features dinosaurs. The premise posits genetically engineered theme park attractions set loose on the public, though aside from the advertising-friendly expository bookends, the film on the whole isn’t terribly interested in what everyday life looks like with dinosaurs running amok.
What the film is interested in are locusts. Abnormally large, Resident Evil-sized locusts, genetically engineered by Biosyn Genetics, a Monsanto-esque evil tech company presided over by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott, providing the film’s lone worthwhile performance). Dodgson has designed these big locusts to attack the world’s non-Biosyn seeded crops, thereby ensuring a global agricultural monopoly and/or environmental catastrophe. I didn’t catch how expensive dinosaur clones factor into this plan and now refuse to look it up, but Dodgson also has a menagerie of dinosaurs he’s poached/cloned from the “wild” dinosaurs from the now defunct Jurassic Park. It doesn’t matter.
Jurassic Park 6 was directed by Colin Trevorrow, who also helmed 2015’s Jurassic World and, more importantly, the singularly awful The Book of Henry. What Jurassic Park 6 shares with Henry is an incoherent plot that doesn’t develop through any sort of narrative trajectory so much as bricolages disparate concepts and stock characters until it congeals into something resembling a movie. Enter Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a professional velociraptor trainer (?) who lives in a log cabin with Bryce Dallas Howard and precocious youth Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the latter being the cloned offspring of a mad scientist who the movie deems noble because Jurassic Park 6 is geeky enough to crib from Neon Genesis Evangelion but doesn’t seem to realize that was a horror show.
None of that matters, either. Maisie gets nabbed by dinosaur poachers and ends up in Malta so that Trevorrow can recreate the cantina scene from Star Wars, but, you know, dinosaurs. It’s here that Jurassic Park 6 comes closest to functioning as pulp trash, with dinosaurs as playthings for the rich and an underutilized Dichen Lachman as a femme fatale armed with a laser pointer, but because it’s all in the service of selling toys (and production more than likely hampered by COVID), it quickly implodes into an extended, toothless Indiana Jones callback, complete with Sam Neill waving a torch around in a dark cave. Jurassic Park 6 is a disaster, but the real bummer is that it isn’t even an interesting one.
Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)
Runtime: 146 minutes
MPA Rating: PG-13
Streaming: Currently in theaters