Dinosaur movies, like superhero movies, are, for better or worse, a thing and have been since 1993, when Steven Spielberg let loose his “Jurassic Park” to jaw-dropping effect.
I’ll never forget the conversation that Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcom, had with his fellow survivors on that cursed island. They were trying to make sense of a theme park where re-generated dinosaurs had suddenly run amok. He drolly suggested, with no small sense of alarm, that this was like nothing in the Disney playbook: “If Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
But as we all know, that’s now part of the dino movies’ DNA and what puts butts in seats. Bon appetit, T-Rex’s and Gigantosauruses.
But where Jurassic World: Dominion improves on its predecessors is in replacing the tropical jungles of the past with urban ones.
The movie at the start states matter-of-factly in a mock documentary that dinosaurs, both aerial and terrestrial, now inhabit much of the planet and humankind has had to adapt to an uneasy and fragile coexistence, much like Floridians have learned to accept alligators in their swimming pools and roaming their golf courses.
There are villains aplenty in this latest Jurassic outing. Some are mere traffickers in exotic dinosaur species, paying little heed that they aren’t baby-sitting run-of-the-mill pythons and vipers in those cages, but deadlier reptiles with teeth the size of a VW.
At least one other villain, a corporate evildoer looking remarkably like Apple’s Tim Cook, is trying to engineer a new species of locust. Campbell Scott plays the dastardly CEO of Biosyn, a scientific research firm with nobility as a PR pretense, but with plans that Vladimir Putin might applaud--a takeover of the world’s food supply.
Returning to the franchise are Jurassic World stalwarts Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, but the real surprise is the addition of original Jurassic Park stars Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern and Sam Neill. Expanding the cast in this way might seem like some kind of stunt, but the trio aren’t on board for mere cameos. They bring the gee-whiz factor missing from the last outing.
Director Colin Trevorrow, who also helped with the script, shepherds the rather large cast through one scrape after another, from the Sierras to Malta to Italy, with no loss of momentum. And longtime Jurassic fans will spot neatly integrated visual throwbacks to the origins of the series.
Dominion is supposed to be the final Jurassic chapter and I hope that’s the plan. The movie ends as it should. The heroes prevail and the villains meet their untimely ends. If Universal is smart, the studio will wait 36 years, as Paramount did, to make a “Top Gun” sequel. And since Tom Cruise appears ageless, maybe he can be its star.