Franchise Fatigue Hits A Peak In Jurassic World Dominion

The film’s commentary on corporate greed comes across as phoney when you realise it's the studio that's being greedy here

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writers: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Isabella Sermon

Jurassic World Dominion begins on the premise that dinosaurs are living among us. They are no more confined to some island near Costa Rica. Following the events of the last instalment, The Fallen Kingdom (2018), the creatures have been ‘saved’ from a volcanic eruption, leading to complete chaos. They are even being sold in the black market, like exotic pets smuggled inside small cages to rich Sheikhs in the Middle East. We see them roosting on top of a skyscraper in New York. There are attacks in drive-in cinemas and beaches, while they are also shown as something people have become used to.

There is nothing sadder than dinosaurs becoming commonplace. The setup is ripe for an enquiry of a philosophical nature: is there nothing left to amaze us anymore? And if a situation like that was real, what is the ecological impact of such an invasion? I know I know. That would be the dinosaur movie Christopher Nolan never made, not a franchise that has felt increasingly prehistoric. The point I’m trying to make here is that this is a premise with potential. There’s already a lot going on. But instead of giving this ‘what-if’ setup a real shot, here’s what the film does – it introduces a new problem. There’s a swarm of locusts attack agricultural land in rural America, threatening to plunge the world into a food crisis. We see it through the eyes of young boy and his sister as they lock themselves up in a barn.

Like most franchise blockbusters these days, Dominion overcrowds by putting too much on the screen

Ellie Sattler, the Laura Dern character, brought back from Jurassic Park, is called to look into the situation. Turns out that these locusts have been attacking no crop grown by Biosyn, the corporation behind all this. Ellie cracks it in a minute, and it’s less a testament to the stupidity of big corps than the kind of conveniences that the film allows itself.

Like most franchise blockbusters these days, Dominion overcrowds by putting too much on the screen and overstuffing the plot. I have to be honest that the locust attacks look thrilling. You can see why the makers thought of it, and therein lies the problem. Even they know it – there is nothing else left to be shown of the dinosaurs.

In 1993, when Steven Spielberg unveiled an imaginary game park in an imaginary island, it felt like the greatest show on earth. But it wasn’t just the shock of the new, it was also the direction, the storytelling. Spielberg gave us one unforgettable moment after another. It’s hard to forget the visual of the ripple in a glass of water to signal the approaching footsteps of a T Rex.

The rest of the movies from the series have always felt unnecessary; with Dominion the fatigue hits a peak. The serialised franchise storytelling is an ailment of cinema today, and Dominion, following the trend, expects you to keep a track of what happened in the earlier two instalments. Therefore it doesn’t completely work on its own. Its reliance on fan loyalty is not as smug and annoying as the MCU movies, but it certainly doesn’t help a film that’s riddled with blockbuster cliches.

The film sets up two strands. The leads of the Jurassic World series, Owen and Claire – played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard respectively – are on a personal mission to save their daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who’s been abducted by the tech billionaire villain Louis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) of Biosyn.

The other one creates a Jurassic Park reunion: Dern, along with Sam Neill’s palaeontologist and Jeff Goldblum’s chaos theoretician, on their mission to stop the impending man-made famine. By teaming up the two Dominion wants to target both the children who’ve seen the Jurassic World films, and adults who as children saw Jurassic Park. The film’s commentary on corporate greed comes across as phoney when you realise it’s the studio that’s being greedy here.

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"Sankhayan Ghosh: Sankhayan was working for newspapers like The Indian Express, The Hindu, and Mint Lounge before he joined Film Companion. He likes movies and hates writing bios.."
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