By John H. Foote
(**) In theatres
Remember the awe and majesty we felt seeing that massive dinosaur in the very first Jurassic Park film nearly 30 years ago? Taken to the park on a chopper, the good doctor and his assistant land not knowing what to expect. A short time later, riding in a jeep, they spot that massive brachiosaur lumber into view and stand up on its hind legs to reach leaves on a tree. At that moment the art of perfection within visual effects had been realized and all other effects methods were rendered extinct. 99% of visual effects since have been created in a computer. No more stop motion creatures that always seemed a little jerky, or men in suits, a new art form had been born. Goosebumps decorated my arms, and I felt my breath slip out of me in awe, I was stunned. We were all stunned.
It must have been what the birth of sound was like!!
For me the most extraordinary moment in Jurassic Park came with the appearance of the ferocious T Rex and the first attack. That was visceral, raw and the terror portrayed by the kids and adults in the sequence was very, very real. The film was a massive worldwide hit and became the top grossing film of all time for a few years, until Titanic (1997) sailed into cinemas and overtook the film.
Jurassic Park had a profound impact on a generation of movie goers, they remember the scenes, the lines, the narrative, and the moment they first saw the dinosaurs.
It would go on to win three Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Sound effects Editing, giving Steven Spielberg films 10 Oscars for the night because his Schindler’s List (1993) was racking up seven.
Two sequels followed, taking us into 2001 and then nothing for 14 years when Universal rebooted the series with a new group of characters, some new dinosaurs and new greedy maniacs who decided to use the creatures to get rich. In the second film, the creatures are set free on an unsuspecting world to go their own way and try and live in harmony with mankind.
How do you think that has gone since?
Dinosaurs and mankind were not meant to live together on earth, it could never work. At some point mankind would be made extinct by the dinosaurs who would crush, kill or eat them into fast extinction. So when Maisie set free the dinosaurs, HUGE questions formed about just how smart a move that was. Well in the time since that happened, by accounts in the film, not too bad. However, a couple of narrative issues crop up right away. The dinosaurs have reproduced, and there are a great many more of them now. They are showing up now in cities, and the obvious inherent dangers are now very real.
Jurassic Park – Dominion is a fun ride, provided you take your brain out and put in the fridge until you come home. Any thinking during this mess of a film will ruin the experience for you. It will do very well at the box office, but art it is not. I daresay it is not even nearly as good as Top Gun – Maverick, a knockout blockbuster that shows everybody how it is done when done right.
More than any of the previous two reboots from the Jurassic Park series, this one is the most potentially interesting because the original characters from the first film are back. Dr. Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie (Laura Dern), and Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) make return appearances as well as Dodgson (Campbell Scott), the film’s villain. You might remember Dodgson for his brief appearance in the first film “Dodgson! Dodgson! Dodgson’s here! See? Nobody cares”) in which he buys dinosaur DNA from the doomed Nedry (Wayne Knight), soon to be feasted upon by a dinosaur. Trying to do some good with his hundreds of millions of dollars, got by ill gain, Dodgson is trying to find cures for diseases, but goes about it all wrong. He kidnaps Maisie, and a baby raptor from Blue, the vicious raptor Owen (Chris Pratt) attempted to train and at the very least bonded with.
I felt like the film should have title cards saying “Meanwhile” because we seem to be flitting all over the globe with various characters. Frankly I became annoyed with it.
There are a couple of terrific scenes and some truly frightening moments, but overall I was underwhelmed by the movie. It was fun seeing the trio of original characters again, especially Goldblum, whose cynical negativity is entertaining. I could have watched the three of them all night, but the film moves back and forth between them and Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as they search for Maisie and Blue’s baby.
There was nothing fluid about the narrative, it felt choppy and stitched together. God help the film editor, who must have lost their mind trying to piece together the film from the footage they were working from.
The performances … wait a second. The performances? John, get a grip, the performances simply do not matter. The actors acquit themselves as best they can, they do their jobs but no one is being nominated for awards here. The stars of the film are the dinosaurs and by now we are so used to being awed with wonder, it does not happen anymore. This is what happens with overkill, to many movies, too many trips to Jurassic Park.
CGI has come a long way in nearly 30 years and transformed the industry, altering the way movies are made, there is no question about that. Early CGI effects experimented with in The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2 – Judgment Day (1991) felt perfected by the time we saw the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but since then they have been made greater. The visual effects are the stars of this film … period. In fact I think there is a large part of the population (me) who would watch an entire film with just the dinosaurs loving their lives in a modern world. You can almost hear a T Rex snarl “Characters? We don’t need no stinkin’ characters.”
This is the last of the reboots according to Universal, A good thing.
Best to let this franchise become, well, extinct.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.