Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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Jurassic World Dominion Review: A Generic Clone Of All That Has Gone Before



A still from Jurassic World Dominion. (courtesy: YouTube)

Cast: Chris Pratt, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neil, Mamoudou Athie, DeWanda Wise, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Daniella Pineda and Scott Haze

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Rating: Two stars (out of 5)

With not a shred of originality finding its way in – to be honest, one did not expect any better from an iteration of an idea that Steven Spielberg brought to the big screen nearly 30 years ago and left a deep, lasting imprint on popular culture – Jurassic World Dominion trips on an overflowing basket of tired tics.

A generic clone of all that has gone before, in the franchise and elsewhere, it seeks to ride on nostalgia to make a box office killing. The latter might come to pass because the world has no dearth of Jurassic fans, but the movie’s over-dependence on earlier entries in the franchise and other sci-fi action-adventure movies about fearsome on-the-loose weighs it down.

Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern and Sam Neill on the screen together for the first time since 1993’s Jurassic Park) do cast an instant spell. It wears off quickly. The stars of the first two Jurassic World films, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are back to take the franchise to its conclusion but are saddled with far more than they can handle.

The screenplay by director Colin Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael (from a story that Trevorrow developed with Derek Connolly) translates into nearly two hours and a half of by-the-numbers action, barring a set piece – Chris Pratt’s character on a motorcycle is chased by two dinosaurs through the streets of Valletta, Malta – that raises the bar momentarily.

Steven Spielberg, one of the executive producers, casts his impossible-to -erase shadow on Jurassic World Dominion. It abounds in doffs of the hat to the franchise’s past as Trevorrow returns to the director’s seat and throws all that he can cull into the cauldron.

Parts of the movie have enough zest to pass muster, but taken as a whole Jurassic World Dominion in unable to create a world of its own and, therefore, does little justice to the legacy it is meant to bid goodbye to.

The trouble with being stuck in the past is that neither the present nor the future are allowed a decent chance to make their presence felt. With a consistently cliched story, Jurassic World Dominion generates no tension even when the raptors close in on their human quarries. Every pursuit ends with the reptiles finishing second best.

The frequent man-animal clashes are staged in diverse settings – on the streets of Malta, in dense jungles and inside a genetic research company’s headquarters in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. None of the technical wizardry at the director’s disposal can help paper over the lack of substance in the plot.

The story is set four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – following the destruction of Isla Nublar, the surviving dinosaurs have infiltrated human habitats. Co-existence is the ideal – the movie tries very hard to drive that message home – but the raptors have run wild and the world is in grave danger.

The dinosaurs aren’t, however, the only ones that are a threat.

As the dinosaurs loom large, the human characters – the middle-aged ones from the Jurassic Park trilogy and the younger ones from the first two instalments of the Jurassic World triptych – do not develop into tangible, relatable people.

Maisie Lockwood (Isabelle Sermon), a human clone of a brilliant geneticist, is kidnapped by Biosyn, a corporate outfit that wants to control and manipulate the food chain. She held in the company’s dinosaur sanctuary for her valuable disease-resistant DNA.

The girl’s adoptive parents, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) go looking for her. Drawn into the rescue attempt is a mysterious pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), one of the few characters in the film who come anywhere near rising above the limitations of the script.

The Jurassic Park duo of Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) have already headed out to the Biosyn facility to meet their old ally Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and investigate the cause of a plague of destructive mutant locusts.

This part of the story incorporates a heavy-handed climate change message and points the audience towards the dangers inherent in leaving the levers of genetic engineering in the hands of profit-seeking corporations and power-crazed scientists like Biosyn CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott).

Dr Dodgson has no conscience, but his villainy falls between two stools. While the self-serving tech czar is supposed to exude an air of menace, all he manages to be is a laughably inept ‘mad’ scientist. The fault lies as much with the writing as with the way Scott plays the character.

Once the two parallel plotlines kick off, it becomes dispiritingly apparent that Jurassic World Dominion is going to be a film editor’s nightmare. The film jumps back and forth between the adventures of the fan favourites (Dern, Neill and Goldblum) and the ‘Jurassic World’ stars (Pratt and Howard).

They two sets of characters find various reasons and ways to get in the path of Biosyn’s evil plans as well as ruffle the raptors. But rarely do they impart any real sense of energy and danger to the encounters they wade into.

And, of course, there are the dinosaurs hogging large parts of the story and the screen. The “apex predators” Giganototaurus, the largest carnivores ever to walk the earth, grab a fair deal of the limelight. What goes completely missing here is the prospect of a befitting parting shot for fans of the franchise.

Jurassic World Dominion marks a disappointingly tepid end to a series of films that definitely deserved better. None of the sequels ever replicated the cinematic wonder that was Jurassic Park. The law of diminishing returns had kicked in way before Jurassic World Dominion was conceived. This film does nothing to arrest, let alone reverse, the slide.

On the acting front, the entry scenes of Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum do get us all excited. But that is where it all ends. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are hindered by a screenplay that is about as exciting as the former, a dinosaur trainer, waving a Velociraptor into submission. The act, like much else in the movie, sounds infinitely better as a concept than as a spectacle. It yields nothing new.

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