ST. LOUIS — Things that were once exciting and fresh become tiresome when they are suddenly too familiar, have little to say and wear you out more than cheer you up. Say hello to the sixth entry in Hollywood's favorite dinosaur dynasty, "Jurassic World Dominion."
The movies should be fun, even when they are dour and depressing in their artistic transmission. But what was once fun and invigorating – few can forget the mighty T-Rex's first appearance all the way back in 1993 – is now stuck in retread mode. Do we have to go over the plot? At this point, it's becoming "Star Wars"-like in its duplicity – and that's not a compliment. Humans tried to cage Earth's mightiest creatures, and it all went bad. In Colin Trevorrow's (showing zero artist imprint here) "Dominion," Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Darling (Bryce Dallas Howard) are dealing with the fallout of 2018's "Fallen Kingdom," which saw the dinosaurs reach human's civilization.
In a nutshell, the big ladies and gents broke out and are now hanging around American towns as well as several other countries around the world. As Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm explains in a lecture hall early on in the very overlong "Dominion," it's our species that is no longer the dominant one on its own turf. Then again, it wasn't really our turf to begin with. But that's another movie altogether, one that Trevorrow's film never cares about entering. It's not up for big questions or philosophical metaphors; just a Michael Bay Red Bull sprint through the jungle with the super fast velociraptors or the new hybrid Rex beast they made themselves in the lab: all being threatening but possibly not carrying the murderous of instincts.
The long wailing cry of the brachiosaurus has always been my bittersweet dino of the clan, but it was my wail that could be quietly heard inside the theater as the movie reached its 2 hour, 26 minute end. Yes, franchise vets Sam Neill and Laura Dern return to the action, but Emily Carmichael and Trevorrow's script gives them little to do outside of a forced romantic subplot. Even worse, the script keeps the main five cast members separated for two-thirds of the running time – a very poor mistake of a unique opportunity. If you're going to bring back Neill and Dern, pairing them with Pratt and Howard, along with the irreplaceable Goldblum, a writer or studio must do better than this.
There's lots of fanservice here, with epic yet predictable T-Rex/new T-Rex battles and evil rich guy scenery chewing (thanks for nothing, Campbell Scott). But there's too much fanservice and not enough story service. As in, why are you trying to be the cinematic brother to the "Terminator" franchise? (Even if the James Cameron-led robot thriller produced its best sequel in decades with "Dark Fate.")
Why are these movies sticking around? Simple: Lots of money can be made. Pratt is a bona fide action star, and the world is still fascinated by dinosaurs roaming and ripping around on screen. The last two films made a ton of money, but also scored better with critics. The signs of wear and tear on the franchise in "Dominion" are clear as day. There's little freshness that takes place in this Marvel-length movie. There's also very little humor outside of Goldblum, who seems to be acting in a different, better movie.
Pratt is stuck in concrete stoic mode for the entire movie, refusing to even smile or break out of a grimace. If he's trying to copy his father-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, try again. Howard isn't necessarily bad, but she's also not that good either. She doesn't bring much to the table that we haven't already seen in two movies. DeWanda Wise, BD Wong and Mamoudou Athie do their best in underwritten roles. I wanted more time with their characters and less with the leads. It's that kind of movie. The worst thing is that there aren't many stakes in the lead character's mortality expectancy. As in, you never fear they won't make it out of the story alive. In this underwritten mirage of old highlights, a little of that would have gone a long way. Alas, we're left with freshly filmed reruns of the good stuff from the '90s.
Is "Jurassic World Dominion" unwatchable? Heck no. It has its high-flying moments. The kids and teens will really enjoy it. The adults and parents will need an IPA instead of a lager. There's enough happening for their younger minds to be consumed, taken out of the summer heat and stuffed with sugar and new age wonder.
I just wish it was calibrated a little better for adults. As B.B. King once sang, the thrill has gone (far) away from here.