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'Jurassic World: Dominion'

Latest edition of 'Jurassic Park' franchise is ‘pure dinosaur droppings’

'Jurassic World: Dominion' tries to be an action, romance and espionage film. It fails. Photo credit: Universal Pictures

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Certain scenes in Jurassic World: Dominion are reminiscent of 1980s romantic adventure films such as Romancing the Stone, in which circumstances place two people in a precarious situation as love begins to bubble up between them. 

At other times, it feels like a Godzilla movie, as giant, roaring, teeth-baring CGI apex predators square off. 

Once in a while, we're dropped into a tale of international espionage a la a Bond or Bourne movie, complete with exotic locations and colorful locals and danger lurking around every corner, and now it's time for a chase involving a motorcycle and an airplane! 

On still other occasions, we get a cautionary tale about a mighty conglomerate that is creating environmental havoc and will stop at nothing, all in the pursuit of global domination and obscene wealth. 

Jurassic World: Dominion contains elements of all those types of movies and more - and it's astonishingly inept in every category, as it frantically careens from location to location and genre to genre, and we bear witness to the slow and painful death of a once proud and wonderfully crowd-pleasing franchise. This is two hours and 27 minutes of pure dinosaur droppings, and the viewer is as helpless as a boat passing under a bridge on the Chicago River as the Dave Matthews Band unloads a torrent of foul waste from above. 

Our story picks up in the aftermath of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), with the world in a state of semi-chaos now that dinosaurs are roaming freely about the planet, munching on deer and the occasional human and becoming the targets of poachers who catch 'em and sell 'em for big profits. The ethologist and velociraptor handler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Jurassic World's former operations manager Claire Dealing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living off the grid and in the woods with the now 14-year-old Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), who, as you might recall, is the cloned granddaughter of the late Sir Benjamin Lockwood and is facing an identity crisis even greater than those faced by most teenagers, what with her being a clone and all. 

The lone surviving velociraptor, known as Blue (I don't have an actor's name to put in parentheses here because Blue is, you know, a CGI dino), is living nearby and has managed to give birth to a baby raptor - how cute is that! It also provides an excuse for Chris Pratt to do that irritating "talk to the hand" Dinosaur Whisperer move for the first of many, many times in the story. 

Meanwhile, huge swarms of genetically engineered locusts the size of feral cats have been destroying crops "from Texas to Iowa" - but they never touch the farmland that uses a certain kind of a seed from Biosyn, a giant bioengineering company. This is the impetus for the reintroduction of the OG Trio from the Jurassic Park franchise: Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), the renowned paleobotanist who now has two grown children and is recently divorced; Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), the famed paleontologist who works alone and still has a thing for Ellie; and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the chaos theory expert who has become something of a rock star, with a best-selling book and a decidedly Jeff Goldblum look, complete with trendy glasses, neatly trimmed almost-beard and black leather jacket. 

The three are reunited when Ellie and Alan are invited guests at the Biosyn facility in the Dolomites mountain range in Northeast Italy, which serves as both a sanctuary for dinosaurs and a research facility. (Beware that "Biosyn" name; it's almost as if this company engages in BIOLOGICAL SINNING.) Malcolm has recently been hired as a consultant to Biosyn's mercurial CEO, Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), and we know Dodgson is a genius because he's socially awkward and has a few tics, and he dresses like he's been shopping at the Steve Jobs Outlet Store. 

When B-movie poachers and thugs kidnap Maisie and the baby raptor, Owen and Claire spring into action-hero mode - and their quest eventually brings them to ... Biosyn! Dodgson has masterminded the capture of Maisie and the raptor because they hold the key to unlocking all the mysteries of science, and that could lead to cures for cancer and Alzheimer's and blah blah blah, but we know Dodgson really just wants to control the crops and play God, like every other Evil Corporate CEO in movie history. In an inexplicably wrong-headed decision, Dominion keeps Ellie/Alan/Malcolm separate from Claire/Owen for much of the film, in a classic study in missed opportunities. 

We grind through scene after scene after scene after SCENE of the various characters screaming and running and narrowly avoiding getting swallowed alive by all manner of howling and screeching CGI dino-creatures, with the occasional pause so someone can do a little quipping or give us some exposition, and then it's back to the running and the screaming and the poorly framed and edited action sequences. 

Every once in a while, there's a spark of humor, as when Owen says he made a pledge to Blue and Ian says, "You made a promise to a dinosaur?" and our reaction is: Thank you for saying that, Jeff Goldblum! We were thinking the exact same thing! We also get a handful of callbacks to the original Jurassic Park, but it always feels forced - and just when things couldn't possibly get more ridiculous, we get an epilogue that aims to be profound and majestic but comes across as absolutely ludicrous. 

Steven Spielberg's original Jurassic Park from 1993 was a spectacularly entertaining summer thrill ride with breathtaking computer-generated imagery, terrific performances and a clever sci-fi story, and it has a generational appeal. 

Jurassic World: Dominion will be an afterthought by August.

Jurassic World: Dominion

One and a half stars

STARS: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Laura Dern

DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow

RATED: PG-13 for intense sequences of action, some violence and language

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