The Jurassic World trilogy – that began with 2015’s Jurassic World, continued with Fallen Kingdom (2018) and now concludes with Dominion – is both a wildly uneven reboot series and a telling cultural artefact. Much like that other ill-fated sequel trilogy (the one set in a galaxy far, far away…), Jurassic World never quite knew whether it wanted to tell a new story, coast on brand-recognition or go full undies-on-the-head berko and have dinosaurs take over the earth.
Due to this lack of cohesive vision, the series has languished in a sort of creative limbo, delivering sporadic thrills and multiple baffling plot lines. The best thing that can be said about Jurassic World: Dominion is that, while it’s not particularly good, it manages to be pretty entertaining for the most part.
And if you think that sounds like faint praise? You’d be right.
Jurassic World: Dominion takes place four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom, with the destruction of Isla Nublar having major global consequences. Basically, dinosaurs are bloody everywhere. Roaming the forests, disrupting traffic on the highways and scaring the pants off tourists – not to mention making social media much more entertaining.
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are acting as covert foster parents to stroppy adolescent and human clone Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). However, she’s a prize too valuable to keep secret for long and when she’s kidnapped, the power couple are called back into action once more.
Elsewhere, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) are prompted to investigate the corporate shenanigans of the CEO of Biosyn Genetics, Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). There’s also a looming world food shortage due to a growing swarm of prehistoric locusts, an underground dino black market and the welcome (if not terribly logical) return of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).
Jurassic Park: Dominion is a lot. The film has barely started before it starts ejaculating various plot strands all over the audience, with little to no time to let any specific moment land, and the early going can be a little disorienting. When it eventually settles down a bit, the result is fitfully entertaining with a couple of stand-out moments.
It’s nice to see Ellie and Alan together again, and Laura Dern and Sam Neill are as charming as always. Jeff Goldblum continues to do a very convincing Jeff Goldblum impersonation and Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard continue to have all the chemistry of two malfunctioning roombas.
The big draw here, however, are the dinosaurs. And while the script is a cobbled-together mess of cliches and ideas cribbed from better films, the dino action is pretty sharp, with plenty of new toothy monsters – some with feathers and fur this time – managing to impress.
Jurassic World: Dominion is the fifth sequel that manages to be nowhere near as good as the 1993 original. It’s not the worst of the lot, and it certainly has a few high points, but you can practically smell the fatigue emanating from the screen.
If you’re expecting a worthy follow-up to the original, or a justification for the Jurassic World trilogy, you’re likely to be disappointed. However, if you lower your expectations to “I wanna see some pretty people pissfart about with scary dinosaurs” you’ll likely have an agreeable, albeit forgettable, time.
Everyday insurance salesman Michael McCauley (Liam Neeson) commutes to his New York job via train. When we meet him, however, his life has spilled out of its comfortable rut: he’s been made redundant just before retirement, which makes paying for his son’s college tuition an impossible burden. That makes him easy pickings for a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga), who singles him out on his return trip with an offer: someone onboard is not one of the regular passengers, but a murder witness going to meet with the FBI. Figuring out who should be an easy task for an ex-cop (of course he’s an ex-cop) who takes the same train every day. If he pulls it off, there’s money. If he fails, or tries to warn the target, his wife and son will be killed. And so the clock is ticking.
The Commuter is Neeson’s fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Sera, following on from Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. Their partnership is somewhat reminiscent of that between Denzel Washington and the late Tony Scott, producing solid, enjoyable thrillers that, while never in danger of troubling the academy, are generally a cut above the usual genre fare.
Visually and tonally, however, Collet-Sera’s principal debt is to Alfred Hitchcock. While he may lack the Master of Suspense’s psychological insight and command of thematic unity, he’s more than familiar with all the stylistic tools in Hitch’s box, deploying them to enjoyable, pulpy effect. With its locomotive setting and inevitably deadly devil’s bargain, The Commuter‘s obvious antecedent is Strangers on a Train, but Neeson’s everyman-in-a-bind predicament is a mirror for any number of times poor Jimmy Stewart was caught up in one of Hitchcock’s enjoyably nightmarish webs of intrigue.
Neeson give a typically commendable performance – is there anyone else who can so effortlessly synthesise being both a salt-of-the-earth regular guy and completely capable of kicking any ass that presents itself at the same time? – and he’s supported by an ensemble of excellent character actors, including Jonathan Banks, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, and Elizabeth McGovern. The film’s high concept is, of course, ridiculous on close examination, and the reach and ruthlessness of the conspiracy involved beggars belief, but it all works in the moment – Collet-Sera never gives us time to get bored, and Neeson is such an arresting screen presence that questions of plausibility only come after the fact.
Taut, inventive, and never in danger of overplaying its hand, The Commuter is a robust and rather old-fashioned thriller that forgoes trying to reinvent the wheel in favour of delivering 100 minutes and change of rising tension, well-executed suspense and the odd burst of visceral action – who can say no to that?