An extinction-level turkey, this stinker of a dino disaster movie plays like a Jurassic Park tribute band: you vaguely recognise the tunes, but it leaves you pining extremely hard for the original. It is to the 1993 original what The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was to Raiders of the Lost Ark, a so-called ‘legacy sequel’ that collapses under the weight of its own leaden callbacks, fan-friendly casting, ropey CGI and dodgy plotting.
One thing it’s not short on is dinosaurs: they’re everywhere. After the events of the enjoyably hammy but forgettable Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, dinos now roam the earth and swim in the seas, sinking fishing trawlers and plucking wedding doves from the sky. That darkly funny moment in an otherwise ponderous opening montage raises hope of further sly wit that the remaining two-and-a-half hours steadfastly dashes.
But just when it seems about to tussle with what a world of dino-human interaction would actually look like – forget snakes on a plane, what about T-Rexes in Tesco? – Dominion narrows its horizons, zeroing in on Chris Pratt’s personality-free dino trainer, Owen Grady, Bryce Dallas Howard’s dinosaur activist Claire and their cloned surrogate daughter, Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), as they try to maintain a frazzled domestic equilibrium in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada as poachers hired by evil GM corporation BioSyn circle.
The sinister hand of BioSyn CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) is behind all this, along with a scheme to use giant GM locusts to fuel sales in something or other that never really goes anywhere. Cue a race to Malta to rescue Maisie.
It’s to the 1993 original what The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was to Raiders
The first half of Dominion plays like an inept and messy James Bond movie, with a Mediterranean dinosaur-smuggling ring, snipers, bike chases and people jumping off roofs. Eventually, this No Time to Dino gives way to something more recognisably Jurassic – albeit another enclosed park full of dinosaurs run by an unscrupulous corporation. (It’s a major tell of a franchise that’s supposedly been winding up to unleash its dinosaurs, that it keeps needing to find ways to enclose them again.)
Nothing here works. Not the plotting, which is driven by drab characters with the thinnest motivations, nor the action, which is rendered in muddy VFX. Not even the reunion of Jurassic OGs Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, who only serve as a creaky reminder of how much better their last team-up was.
The brilliantly off-kilter Goldblum does make his lines sing as chaotician Ian Malcolm, here employed amusingly as BioSyn’s in-house philosopher. He draws some much-needed comic juice from a nocturnal final act that exchanges logic for murky dino battles.
It’s a franchise that has been inadvertently acknowledging the waning thrill of watching giant CG prehistoric beasties smashing each other by constantly providing bigger, meaner, more genetically modified dinos to savour – much in the manner of, well, its own villains – when plot, characterisation and tension are what we have been really missing. Either way, it’s definitely time to let the dinosaurs enjoy a well-earned extinction.
In cinemas worldwide Jun 10.