Jurassic World: Dominion
The sixth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise brings together all the stars from the almost 30-year-old series and asks the question of what would the world look like with dinosaurs and humans living side by side—and then swiftly ignores that premise in favor of a story about preventing some big bugs eating crops. Following events from 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom where dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes are set free from the captivity of a collection of shadowy elites by Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and a little British girl clone (Isabella Sermon), allowing the prehistoric animals to roam loose throughout the world, Dominion picks up a few years in to this new food chain. We see some of the fall out of dinosaurs integrating into modern world with pterodactyls making nests on top of Manhattan skyscrapers, an apatosaurus wandering through a lumber yard and a group of cattlemen led by Pratt herding a pack of parasaurolophuses. These early moments in the film tease an interesting new direction for the franchise to go in, as the previous entries mostly feature the characters stuck in one location (usually a tropical island) and spend the majority of the runtime trying to survive amongst a host of deadly dinosaurs. However, once the plot kicks in, the film quickly reverts to the tried-and-true formula of our heroes being chased by dinosaurs through a forest with diminishing results.
The Jurassic World trilogy, helmed by Colin Trevorrow, has strived to make some kind of commentary about corporate greed and the impact these major international conglomerates have on the world, but there never seems to be much of a point behind these real-world allusions beyond corporate greed is bad. And a multi-billion-dollar blockbuster film franchise that never came close to matching the original hardly feels like the right type of vessel for such a message. The film suffers from a major lack of focus, brought on by an abundance of uninspired subplots and too many characters. Dominion brings the long-awaited return of the three leads of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic—Sam Neil, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum all reviving their famous characters— alongside the Pratt-led cast of the new trilogy; as well as introducing a selection of new characters who are somehow not there just to be eaten. While it is nice to see a reunion of the characters from Jurassic Park and to see where life has taken them, unfortunately, it is in service of an underdeveloped plot, and they have very little to do that is of any necessity or consequence.
While Jurassic World: Dominion has some well rendered action sequences, the main characters rarely feel as though they are in any danger, a there is always a convenient escape or some other lifesaving intervention coming in to save the day. But when the dinosaurs aren’t on screen, the film stops in its tracks, becoming plodding, nonsensical and grasping for some kind of direction. A dull slog of a movie that fails to live up to any of the cinematic magic from the original and is perhaps the weakest entry yet.
The latest release from Pixar sees a reimagining of one of their most iconic characters. Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) leads this spacebound adventure, but this isn’t the toy we all know. As the opening title card tells the audience, in 1995 a boy named Andy got an action figure from his favorite film, and this is that film, dispelling any concerns for why his voice doesn’t sound the same. As such, we are introduced to the human named Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger for the interplanetary space force Star Command. Following a mishap during a mission, Buzz and his crew are marooned on an alien planet and must discover a new light-speed fuel source in order to escape. After a series of test runs of their newly manufactured fuel, Buzz travels decades into the future through an Interstellar-like time anomaly and returns to the alien planet to find his crew has aged and have left behind a large colony. Unfortunately, the leaders of the colony no longer wish to figure out a way to get off the planet and have come under attack by some mysterious robots led by the evil Zurg (voiced by James Brolin). With the help of a crew of underachieving space cadets (voiced by Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules) Buzz must figure out how to defeat Zurg and save the colony.
While Lightyear delivers some phenomenal visuals that push forward the limits of digital animation developing new levels of detail that can be executed in the art form, the plot of the film is lacking some kind of ingenuity, particularly in comparison to the timeless Toy Story films that gave us Buzz Lightyear in the first place. It is hard to imagine that Andy, or any kid who wasn’t already aware of Buzz Lightyear, would be particularly taken away by this film which is more melancholic than adventurous, as we see all of Buzz’s friends and colleagues age and live full lives while he repeatedly embarks on a seemingly futile mission.
But the film isn’t without its merits. The character’s voices are well cast, with Evans giving a more grounded interpretation of the character than we heard in Tim Allen’s comedic approach for the toy. It is likely that people who grew up with the Toy Story characters will get more out of this than children will, given some of the more mature themes at play, but the action sequences are inventive and well made. Lightyear does also make some important strides in representation in a major animated film. While much fuss has been made about a kiss between two women, it barely registered to me when it happened as it is so brief, and more time is given to showing the couple raise a loving family; an image that if objected to would require some serious soul searching. Overall, the film is fairly middling, failing to reach the lofty heights of other Pixar productions, particularly in comparison with the other Toy Story entries.