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Dino Docs: Jurassic World Dominion

A review of the franchise’s latest installment had to happen at some point, right?

I’ll be honest: I tried to avoid this movie for as long as possible.

It’s not that I didn’t have any optimism about this movie. To be fair, tentative optimism best describes my emotions, but that’s still positive! Nonetheless, after the last installment in the franchise – a movie I can neither tell you the name of (Fallen Kingdom, I want to say?) nor any plot details (beyond clone-raptor and clone-girl) – I was afraid of what I might have to endure this time around.

What surprised me was that I kind of enjoyed it.

This might be a tad misguided. I feel like my enjoyment resulted from my expectations being so low that any production quality made it a better experience. Yet this movie, despite its fair share of flaws (which I’ll get into soon), was an enjoyable experience – so long as you don’t think too hard about it and enter with few expectations.

It goes without saying, spoilers will be present. Below will be a short description of the film’s synopsis without giving too much away, but after that it’s free game.

What’s it About?

This time around, the dinosaurs are out of the park and in our built, human dominated world. Instead of focusing on that (for some reason), we follow two storylines centered around A) an evil corporation abducting a clone and her asexually produced raptor baby and B) an evil corporation creating dinosaur-locusts to wipe out the world’s crops.

Same corporation, by the way.

The first storyline focuses on Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s forced attempt at a nuclear family. The second follows the original JP crew – Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum – as they put the pieces of a world domination plot together. As you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned any dinosaurs. Unfortunately, it reflects their place in this movie – background characters that occasionally chase a hero or eat a random extra. It’s not that there’s a shortage of dinosaurs, rather that the film focuses on less interesting people. It’s a shame, really.

Film Positives:

Tyrannosaurus, the franchise ex-machina:

Some things are certain in life. Death. Taxes. Mike Breen saying “BANG!!” after a Steph Curry three. Tyrannosaurus rex saves the protagonists of a Jurassic World film.

According to Wikipedia, the phrase Deus ex machina is “a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly and abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.”

Tyrannosaurus rex in Jurassic World: Dominion

In this film, Giganotosaurus is distracted by a Tyrannosaurus, thereby allowing the protagonists escape. In Jurassic World, Indominus rex is distracted by a Tyrannosaurus, thereby allowing the protagonists to escape. Tyrannosaurus eats the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park, thereby allowing the protagonists to escape. I could keep going, but you get the idea.

So much for the blood-thirsty Tyrannosaurus. If you really look at the evidence, Tyrannosaurus saves the protagonists in 4/6 films in this franchise (maybe more; a rewatch of Lost World may be in order). Well, except for that one lawyer

Letting Therizinosaurus eat plants!

This really shouldn’t be something I took pleasure in, but hey, low expectations. The films best addition is Therizinosaurus, the feathered, pot-bellied, long-necked dinosaur with two meter long claws. Who also ate plants! Which it does in this movie! Sure, it kills a deer for no apparent reason, but hey it ate some berries!

Therizinosaurus

Having said that, the potbelly is disappointingly absent. Shrink wrapping – the practise of making dinosaurs as skinny as possible – is common in the Jurassic franchise, which could have made a fat dinosaur seem out of place. But wouldn’t that make it more interesting?

Lewis Dodgson, aka the “L-Taker”

I went to see this movie with one of my best friends, and about halfway through the film, we realised the incredible comedic value of the film’s antagonist. Lewis Dodgson, the head of the evil corporation Biosyn, is a complete moron. Normally, this would be annoying, but the combination of his bad decisions, bad writing, and a script taking him too seriously was too much for my friend and me. After a little while, my friend called him the “L-taker,” and boy he lives up to it.

(I felt a little bad for the people behind us.)

Lewis Dodgson (right), the best part of this movie.

His motivations make no sense. He preaches about control only for the three highest ranking staff in his company to work against him. He gets double crossed and his response is “I wouldn’t have done that to you”. He burns killer locusts in a glass room and lets out their burning bodies all over the dinosaur habitat. His response is a few terribly acted no’s and punching a chair. He runs away and goes “oh no no no!” when the power to his escape route cuts out. This man was comedic gold.

We agreed this movie was somewhere in the 6-7/10 range, but the L taker brought it up by 1-1.5 stars.

Feathers!!

It finally happened! After almost thirty years and six films, feathered dinosaurs have made their way to the Jurassic World franchise! In total, three species – Therizinosaurus, the tyrannosaurid Moros, and the raptor Pyroraptor ­– all sport a coat of feathers in the film. What I loved was how all their feathers had textures and designs, which reflects how dinosaurs had different feather types depending on species and family. While it took awhile for feathers to arrive, their appearance did not disappoint.

Pyroraptor, one of three feathered dinosaur species to appear

The first Tyrannosaurus-Giganotosaurus clash:

Most people probably enjoyed the Tyrannosaurus-Giganotosaurus-Therizinosaurus duel, but I loved the first interaction between the first two species. Brief and with no harm to either species committed, it may seem underwhelming, but it felt real. Big carnivores in the present avoid confrontations when they can to prevent injury, so to see the two scoff at each other and move on was a nice touch to an otherwise bloody film.

Film Negatives:

Giganotosaurus, the dinosaur whose name is said by every character:

If I had a dollar for every time a character dramatically said Giganotosaurus as it appeared, I’d have five dollars. But why wouldn’t I just have one dollar! I get they’re doing the “carnivore bigger and more fearsome than Tyrannosaurus” thing they did with the Indominus rex, but it got really annoying by the fourth dramatic rendition of Giganotosaurus. At least they said it close to right (gig-ah-note-o-sore-us) instead of giganto-sore-us.

Giganotosaurus in Jurassic World (left) vs reality (right)

The other issue is that it doesn’t look that good. Giganotosaurus didn’t have spines on its back, nor did it have an armoured tail. The head doesn’t look quite right either; it seems too long and has an overly enlarged crest. It’s teeth are too conical and its bite force is greatly exaggerated, though I suppose it had to live up to the joker moniker somehow.

Focusing on recaptured dinosaurs:

The plot should’ve been simple. Dinosaurs are loose. How does the world adapt? How do people adapt? Instead of focusing on this, it is only briefly mentioned at the start and end of the movie. Fine scenes, no doubt, but why couldn’t it have been the focus? Probably because it would’ve been harder to come up with how to address it. Recapturing them all and focusing on that makes it easier, instead of addressing how humanities attempts to play God can come back to bite us.

Half the plot:

God, after three movies, why is this Owen-Claire thing still a thing? Pratt and Howard have no chemistry. Divorced people can confirm that having a kid to help the relationship doesn’t help fix what isn’t there to begin with, much less abducting said child. Pratt is stiff in his role, which I don’t understand. He’s great in Parks and Rec. Guardians of the Galaxy is a top 5 marvel film largely because of Pratt. Does charisma and comedic talent disappear the more popular you get, or is it a result of poor directions?

Jurassic World Dominion’s baby raptor

We get why their child is on Biosyn’s radar: she’s a clone, so there’s probably some profit related to genetics. But it’s never fully fleshed out and isn’t that interesting to follow. I must ask: what does this have to do with dinosaurs? I get she was cloned like they were, and her little raptor companion is asexually produced, but the fact the raptor has less than five minutes of screen time feels like a let-down.

I guess the other half of the plot, too:

At least the other storyline featured great acting. Dern, Neill, and Goldblum all are awesome in their respective roles, bringing relief to the film’s central storylines. Call-backs to the original films, while sometimes not subtle, are done well:

Having said that, their plot line is lacking as well. Killer locusts with “Cretaceous DNA” wreaking havoc on American crops? Ridiculous. The fact that these massive creepy crawlies take a more central role than most of the dinosaurs in this film should have been a red flag.

What does Cretaceous DNA even mean? Paleontologists have yet to find any massive insects from when the dinosaurs were around. If the film was trying to depict extinct giant insects, they used DNA from a time about 150 million years too late. Is it dinosaur DNA? If it is, then it doesn’t make it any more interesting. Either way, the Cretaceous DNA locusts aren’t that interesting, but at least their better than the first plotline.

Random scientific issues: 

Pyroraptor
  • Therizinosaurus and Pyroraptor’s heads are too box-like
  • Once again, the Mosasaur is too large and dwarfs a few Humpback whales it encounters at the end of the film; the biggest mosasaurs were about the same size
  • Atrociraptor is too large and missing feathers, but at this point that’s to be expected
  • Stegosaurus’ body posture is too curved, though continuity from earlier films means it’s too late to change it
  • Quetzalcoatlus, the giant pterosaur who attacks a plane, is far too large and wouldn’t have been able to inflict that much damage
  • The frills of baby horned dinosaurs didn’t curve forwards like their parents, but rather backwards, as demonstrated by numerous fossils of species like Triceratops and Chasmosaurus
Dilophosaurus
  • Dilophosaurus – the venom-spitting dinosaurs that appear at the end of the movie – were bigger than shown, and lacked the neck frill and ability to spit venom. It feels funny saying that a dinosaur was smaller than reality in regards to this franchise.
  • As always, the dinosaur wrists are wrong. Instead of facing forwards, dinosaur wrists were held sideways

Is this the end, my only friend, the end?

It’s safe to say that film reviews for this film were not positive. When it first came out, I read a few, and the consensus was that the franchise needed to end. After some consideration, I’m on the fence. I believe that the format these movies currently exist in – massive scales with global domination plots, dinosaur rampages, and poor writing – need to go. They haven’t been appealing to me for a while, so switching it up would be beneficial.

I think that changing the style of these movies could be positive. Set the plot in a rural town instead of some island controlled by a billion-dollar corporation. Have one or two dinosaur species instead of dozens so they don’t blend together. Make it a contained horror story, or a detective story, just make it something different. I’ve seen dinosaurs break out of a park and attack people six times now; try something new!

Plus, Jurassic World: Dominion has made over 900 million US dollars at the box office. Since when has Hollywood ever killed a cash cow?

I do not take credit for any images found in this article. All images from Jurassic World: Dominion courtesy of Universal Pictures.  

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