I went to ridiculously elaborate lengths to get disappointed by Jurassic World Dominion (currently at 30% on Rotten Tomatoes), so I feel like it owes me a ridiculously elaborate bad review, among other things. This one contains spoilers; you have been forewarned.
I saw it in Hollywood, at the theater formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater – the classic building, not the new multiplex upstairs. I’d never touristed my way inside before, but I saw it in Blazing Saddles (a far better movie than Jurassic World Dominion). I wandered around outside first, checking out the cement autographs of people like Mel Brooks (with his silly sixth finger prosthesis) and Marilyn Monroe (who had tiny little feet).
Yes, that's an ankle support, I sprained it last month, and was limping around Hollywood with a cane. Hollywood is a perfect blend of cheap sordid sin and lofty ambitions. I stayed at the four-star Roosevelt, something I’d always wanted to do. It’s on the same block with a grungy liquor store that made me think of the seedier blocks of the Tenderloin. At one point I smoked a doobie in a nearby doorway alcove next to Engelbert Humperdinck’s star with a couple of street urchins (we each had our own doobie, nobody wants covid), watching each others’ backs for the po po. Although I doubt if LAPD would care. They have their own star on the walk of fame, down by the Beatles.
Oops, did I mention weed consumption? I was on a bit of a bender due to some disappointments that I’ll list later, although not a single drop of alcohol touched my lips. I’m what they call “California sober” – the only mind-altering substance I consume is weed, so I consumed a lot of it in various forms during this vacation. I like weed. Unlike alcohol, sugar, garlic, and other substances that make me feel just terrible, weed blends well with my personal chemistry. I don’t like to talk about it a lot because I’m not one of those stoners who feels the urge to wear pot t-shirts and pot hats and pot socks while blasting Bob Marley and talking about pot. I’m a very lawful and low-key pothead, and smoking weed at the Roosevelt is verboten, although they let you vape by the pool. So I did most of my consumption while walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard, having my memory constantly prodded by the names of mostly-forgotten stars. And during the approximately 100-foot walk from my hotel to the theater I consumed an entire preroll of 34% indica (a nice loud strain).
Mind you, I am only mentioning the fact I was marinated in THC to point out that this godawful train wreck of a movie couldn’t even pass muster with an autistic dinosaur enthusiast who is stoned out of her gourd, sitting in the most iconic movie theater in the world, after being reminded of at least a hundred of her favorite movies while walking to the theater. While on vacation. In a fancy shmancy hotel. During some perfect weather. After a lunch of Sicilian pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, which is among my very favorite pizzas. Still in the throes of K-Pop afterglow. Other than having Taemin give me a shoulder massage while viewing, I can’t think of any possible way my viewing experience could have been any more optimized.
And this movie STILL disappointed me.
I’ve been largely out of touch with movies during the 2000s. In the 1900s I was what they call a film nerd, and was always watching weird indie art movies and obscure classics and foreign cinema.
My absolute all time favorite? The choreography of Busby Berkeley. Gee, no wonder I like K-Pop. If you’re unfamiliar try the Lullaby of Broadway sequence from Gold Diggers of 1935, or the entirety of Dames. Then Mel Brooks, who also loves Busby Berkeley. I’m also quite fond of Tarantino, Kubrick, Hitchcock, John Waters, and (fight me) Paul Verhoeven. There are wide gaps, I don’t like things that are too normal or popular, and there are entire genres (e.g. romcoms, westerns) that I’m more or less in denial about. These days I only keep up with Disneypixarmarvel. I really don’t like watching video anymore. Usually I’d rather just read a summary as I shuffle from one browser tab to the next.
What turned me from film nerd to video avoidant? This century’s aesthetics, of which this movie is a prime offender. JWDom thinks we would rather see reunions between 80 year old actors than dinosaurs. So we have Ellie Sattler, Dr. Grant, and Ian Malcolm from the first installment, and various characters from the Chrisp Ratt portion of the franchise all getting introduced as though they had vaguely heard of each other, even though one would think persons connected with Jurassic Park would know each other. It’s a small club.
But hey, that’s the target audience for this movie: people who would rather hear Jeff Goldblum snark than look at dinosaurs.
Marvel fans too. The original movie might have been a slow paced ramble past magnificent brachiosaurs as actors make the Spielberg-face and react to whatever CGI will be added in later. This one is your standard White Guys Gotta Save The World Again.
From Dodgson, the guy who bought Nedry’s shaving cream in the first movie – who is coded quite distinctly as autistic in this episode, with halting speech and angry meltdown. I can’t remember if he was like that before, or if they turned it way up. He’s the villain of this film too, as the characters scramble to prevent a worldwide famine brought about by Dodgson’s giant bioengineered grasshoppers so he can control the world with his evil bioengineered crops. Muahaha.
There are lots of white guys in this movie, although Barry from the other Jurassic Worlds shows up, and there’s a new Black helicopter pilot character, Kayla, who also might be a lesbian (she mentions liking redheads just like Chrisp Ratt). The brown people are mostly in the Tattooine-like dino black market in Malta, where you can bet on raptor fights and score yourself an illegally bred psittacosaurus. Henry Wu has morphed from a villain into a positive Asian character. So this movie is not entirely white, just mostly, especially the putative world-savers. Because the guys who produce movies like this thinks that’s what audiences really crave seeing, I guess. The prime demographic sure can be solipsistic.
Thanks to Marvel, all action movies now have to be about saving the world. Because the heroes are saving the world, they have license to do antisocial things like violate traffic laws, destroy property, and bark orders at women. It’s like how in medieval festivals the fool wasn’t held culpable for any of his rulebreaking. He’s a man on a mission.
The first Jurassic movie had plenty of time to stroll through lovely meadows full of dinosaurs, but in JWDom, matters are urgent and the world must be saved.
From giant grasshoppers.
These hideous football-sized grasshoppers get more screen time than the dinosaurs, as we move to a parallel plot about how Dodgson bioengineered them to eat everyone’s crops but his own, and now they’re going caaa-razzzzzzy!! Fortunately he bioengineered them to automatically burst into spontaneous combustion whenever he gives the signal, because that’s exactly how bioengineering works.
And here’s the part where I move off into a parallel rant. About … I guess I could try coining a word for it, like “SciFiTarianism” or “ScienceFictionTology” but the essence of what I’m complaining about is the way cheesy SF has morphed into a stupid folk religion for ignorant people who don’t know jack about actual science, promulgated by old men still selling last century’s snake oil. In the Sfvangelical subculture, people are always getting cloned. Dinosaurs too. Psychic powers work, and other beings can control your mind, and you can use your brain waves to chuck stuff across the room. People can be programmed to be gay, straight, commie, or capitalist. Time travel is real and routine, and elaborate protocols have been established to prevent paradoxes. Big Science only wants to dominate people and use them like livestock, and scientists are depraved sociopaths. Aliens cruise around in UFOs kidnapping folks and sticking probes up their butts. Organic is always best. Ignorance is blessed.
The kind of stuff that Qanon believers embrace. Every culture has its folklore, and in harsh times (e.g. plagues) people cling to that stuff, whether it concerns pixies, chupacabras, or JFK clones.
I was sad on the day I was watching Dominion, because my collaborator and her husband are having long covid issues and she was unable to attend this fabulous Hollywood vacation, complete with a concert by her favorite band. Sometimes I wish my culture had had better stories to rely on so people wouldn’t have cobbled together a bunch of stupid theories taken straight from Sfvangelicism. Full of clones, and evil scientists, and saving the world. Then maybe they would have gotten their shots, worn their masks, stayed home.
But noooooooo, vaccines are made by evil autistic dudes who try to destroy the world with giant grasshoppers, I saw it in a mooooovie once.
So. Back to this dismal movie.
The Jurassic series started out with Michael Crichton’s “what if” and has morphed into something nearly as convoluted as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The dinosaurs have morphed too, taking over most of the planet and integrating themselves seamlessly into the ecosystem. Pterosaurs nest on skyscrapers and soar with seagulls. Parasaurolophus and mustang herds stampede through Wyoming. Adorable miniraptors play in the parks. Occasionally a rex gets loose and eats a bunch of people.
The movie claims that thanks to modern technology, they can now make even more accurate dinos, so we get the first feathered dinos in the Jurassic franchise, because it’s too late to keep the planet from being covered with dinos so we might as well just make more. We also get a gigantic feathery therizinosaurus, a relatively obscure creature with Wolverine-like claws.
We don’t get nearly enough of the dinos, and for those who crave more dino action, I recommend the excellent Prehistoric Planet. JWDom is about grasshopper action, mostly. There are a few dino scenes that seem to be mostly interested in recreating prior cinematic moments, like when rexes point their noses skyward and do the mighty roar.
We get a whole lot of the actors. Nothing like watching a pack of octogenarians evade t-rexes, in between sanctimonious lectures about how we should all save the planet they’ve been busy polluting with their jet set lifestyle for the last several decades. I would’ve preferred to see how all the Jurassic Park kids turned out, but I guess they’re all still too busy getting therapy. Eventually someone will do an 8-minute version of this film that edits all the humans (and grasshoppers) out, That will be the version to see.
None of these actors have learned anything from the prior movies, because they all manage to get themselves chased by big mean theropods, plus there’s the always-amusing “let’s make the female characters deal with large bugs!” theme that Spielberg has been exploring since the Indiana Jones movies.
One character has experienced some personal growth during this time: Blue the raptor. She’s a little bigger and has given birth (parthenogenetically) to a daughter-clone, whose function in this movie is to get kidnapped by idiots, raising the audience’s anxiety level. Chrisp, who is now very hesitant to approach Blue, promises to rescue the baby – named Beta by Chrisp’s own clone-daughter.
This is Maisie from the last installment, who is a clone of one of the original JP characters – who died of a genetic disease but not before curing it in Maisie with the kind of simplified Sftarian magicscience that antivaxxers rely on to explain how vaccines turn your DNA satanic. I did grudgingly like Maisie (we have similar taste in fashion), who is always turning her back and stomping off whenever Chrisp acts like a douchebag – I kinda wanted to do that myself but I was in a comfortable seat.
Both daughter-clones, in fact, are kidnapped by the same idiots and taken to the black market dino dealership in Malta, and it’s up to Chrisp to rescue them, by recreating his motorcycle-with-raptors moment on antique steps. I just read about a couple of drunk American tourists who got in trouble for doing that in Italy, causing extensive damage, but hey, it’s a small price to pay when you’re primarily concerned about stroking the egos of world-saving white guys and their fanboys. Jim Dandy to the rescue.
While he’s doing that, the original Jurassic Scooby gang reuintes. Ellie Sattler is now a climate change warrior, Dr. Grant is still digging up dinos, and Ian Malcolm is lecturing and signing books. According to the interweb meme factory, we’re all supposed to find Jeff Goldblum incredibly sexy, but the main thing I feel when looking at Jeff Goldblum is strong confirmation of my asexuality. Snarkiness is a major component of my dislike for current movie aesthetics, and it’s a great way to get me to click out of a movie and go do something else. If the characters can’t even suspend their disbelief long enough to put up with this trash, I don’t see why I should be obliged, unless there are going to be CGI dinosaurs or something to hold my interest. Ian Malcolm has turned into a doomer who makes dad jokes, and I find him exponentially more nonsexy in this version.
After Malcolm and Sattler do some pontificating about doom and the need to save the planet, the whole cast heads to Dodgson’s Evil Sekret Lab (BioSyn -- it's sinful, get it? against life itself!) conveniently located in a dinosaur preserve, because I guess he couldn’t afford regular security guards – or maybe he’s self-aware enough to realize he’s in a Marvel rip-off universe and human security is completely expendable as well as a potential source of expensive wrongful death litigation.
And then we’re basically doing the whole Dr. Sleep/ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child style greatest-hits/montage, where we are treated to a variety of recreations of camera angles from the original intellectual property. Dinos do battle. Humans sweat and contort their faces between scurrying to new hiding places. The daughter-clones are reunited with their parental-surrogates and niceness is restored to a land which looks tantalizingly chaotic and full of urban dinos (I would totally be in favor of mini raptors and pterosaurs doing pigeon and rodent control in my urban block) and a million stories more interesting than this one.
Maybe someday people will resume making movies that make me want to be a film nerd, as opposed to movies like this.
In fact, I'm kind of sad it's failing so hard at the box office, because they're using the same laser pointer + raptors gimmick that Sally and I used at one point in our story, and that might have been worth a few plagiarism points had this movie been successful.
In the meantime, if you want to see far better CGI dinosaurs, check out Prehistoric Planet. I was blown away.
Or … I was going to do a GoFundMe for Sally, who is facing hospital bills in addition to everything else, although at least she was mercifully spared a majorly disappointing cinematic experience. But I thought I’d try to boost sales of Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler instead.
If you buy our book, Sally gets (at least) half the royalties, which will help with her bills, plus the more sales Amazon registers, the more it boosts visibility going forward and makes it likely she'll get a trickle of ongoing financial help. It’s not a very expensive book, and you might enjoy it – you don’t have to rate, review, like, or even read it, although those things would be appreciated because they also help our numbers.
So if you like stories about dinosaurs but wish there was a brave girl sort of like that helicopter pilot pulling peoples’ bacon out of the fire rather than that Starlord guy (or if you’ve ever wanted to be alone in a tropical forest with your bias), this might be right up your alley.
And you might want to wait until JWDom is available on video, which probably won't take long at all.