Jurassic World: Dominion (2022) June 12th, 2022
Jurassic Park brought colorful dinosaurs to life on screen and used them to camouflage a poignant science fiction morality tale. 30 years later Jurassic World: Dominion is a Jurassic Park branded thrill ride exploring the shallowest of the human experiences differing only cosmetically from the other vapid summer franchise cash grabs. Worst of all, the dinosaurs are incidental.
My wife and I recently revisited archival WWE shows on a lark, specifically episodes of RAW from late 1996. Stay with me. This is a fascinating period of time for the WWE, it’s just before the revolutionary Attitude Era where vulgarity and Jerry Springer-esque storylines evolve from the primordial soap opera shouting matches dominating the wrestling melodrama from the 1980’s. Stay. With. Me. The show hasn’t fully evolved into the outrageous billion dollar industry it is today. The storylines are flimsy, most matches are boring, and commercial breaks regularly interrupt active wrestling… but pavlovian dopamine release triggers are observably effective.
I’m describing the entrance music phenomena. I’m no wrestling scholar so I don’t know if there’s a preexisting term for this phenomena, but the longer you watch the show the more familiar you become with individual performer’s entrance music. When you hear glass break over the stadium PA system, you expect to see Stone Cold Steve Austin stoping down the ramp, middle fingers blazing. When you hear bells ring, that means the Undertaker’s about to reveal himself and the crowd explodes in jubilation. The writers expect this crowd reaction when writing out the storylines for each episode and sometimes the entrance music is used to punctuate a moment, or to announce a plot twist, or to induce a sense of dread. Either way, the measured use of a well placed entrance music sting is a remarkably reliable way to make the audience go apeshit.
Wrestling also has the signature move and the finisher. A hold or a strike belonging to a specific character that excites the audience because they believe it, above all other moves this performer executes, is the most exciting and powerful. When the Rock throws his elbowed into the crowd, when Mankind puts on Mr. Socko, when Shawn Michaels stomps his foot in the corner the audience erupts with excited energy. These are gimmicks we expect to see when we buy the ticket and if the product strays too far from what we expect it ruins the show. Wrestling is pageantry, its predictable, its manipulation, fan service, and cheap entertainment… so too is Jurassic World: Dominion.
My ticket said “Dinosaur franchise film reunites many fan-favorite characters.” and that’s what I got, but I wanted more. I expected more. Any story elements concerning dinosaurs and the further ramifications of reintroducing them to a world that selected them for extinction are used as set dressing and background noise we should ignore in service of a hackneyed story about genetically engineered crops and human cloning. At least treating dinosaurs like passé relics of bygone entertainment is in keeping with Jurassic World lore, that reality is the crux of the plot of the first Jurassic World film and works as a thinly veiled metaphor for the challenge facing the film’s producers when tasked with making a new dinosaur picture. Distancing the Jurassic Park franchise from dinosaurs seems antithetical but nevertheless the dinosaurs have devolved from essential elements of wonder to nostalgic memberberry dopamine stings. Just like glass breaking at a wrestling show.
Remember Dennis Nedry from Jurassic Park? He’s the guy with the shaving cream can, yeah you ‘member. Well the guy who gave him that can, his name’s Lewis Dodgson, we haven’t seen him since that first movie because the original actor sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl but don’t worry we recast him and he’s our new bad guy! And guess what else, we work the narrative to make it seem like he’s somehow responsible for Nedry’s death and even have a great scene where Dodgson gets eaten by like 5 dilophosaurus (yeah, that’s 5x the dilophosaurus that ate Nedry, isn’t that 5x cooler?) while the Barbasol can imbued with Nedry’s essence watches. You remember all these things right? So that makes it good right? We included references to all these references our market research said you would respond positively to, that means we made a good movie right? No? Too bad. Stuff your stupid face with bread while this digital circus shoots lights into your brain and overstimulates your ears with walrus roars and explosions. Be distracted, be pacified, consume. Glass breaking at a wrestling show.
Jurassic World: Dominion is a two and a half hour nostalgia parade. Blink and you just might think Ian Malcolm, Alan Grant, and Ellie Sadler have justifiable in-world reasons to be involved in this film. Blink again and you might believe you give a shit about Owen and Claire’s relationship with their foster clone daughter, or even Owen and Claire (be honest, did you remember their names?). Could the producers be creatively bankrupt enough to make the T-Rex pause while walking through a big circular fountain just long enough to recreate the iconic Jurassic Park logo? Glass breaking at a wrestling show.
I’m vitriolic and resentful. I understand that’s off-putting but so is paying $30 for the film equivalent of a Jurassic World branded edible toilet paper. The circus betrayed me. There’s opportunity in brands like Marvel, Star Wars, and Jurassic World to build upon the preceding work instead of cannibalizing it. Repeated franchise disappointments have conditioned me to understand these movies aren’t worth paying for. These aren’t movies, they’re commercials we pay for the privilege of consuming. They’re no more complex or creative than a toy commercial masquerading as a cartoon show. These summer blockbusters are worse than wrestling. I’m tired of Hollywood failing to outperform the circus, and I’m tired of paying to be a sad clown. Glass breaking at a wrestling show, just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
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