Here is the kind of sequelised franchise-clone movie to make you feel as if you’re lining up at the cinema like one of Nurse Ratched’s patients, while a dead-eyed attendant pops IP-content capsules out of an enormous blister pack. Genre and formula films can be great, but this flavourless slice of digitainment – the third in the Jurassic World series and the sixth in the Jurassic franchise overall – is overwhelmingly mediocre and pointless, contrived and lifelessly convoluted to the point of gibberish.
The first in the World series, back in 2015, admittedly put a little zap back in, but now this exercise in dead-dino flogging is dire. And the very worst thing of all is Chris Pratt. It’s painful to remember how funny he used to be in TV’s Parks and Recreation, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. Now he’s the boring action lead, forever doing smoulderingly hunky looks directed past the camera. You’ve heard of Blue Steel. This is Brown Steel. Or Beige Steel.
The previous film, Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, left us with the idea that humans will just have to coexist with dinosaurs out there in the wild, dangerous but manageable, like bears or spiders. This new movie begins a few years after the destruction of the “Isla Nublar” compound for dinosaurs. Nowadays, beefy velociraptor handler Owen (Pratt) lives a remote, almost hermit existence as a kind of dino-cowboy, with his wife, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), and their adopted daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the cloned child of Sir Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter. Sir Benjamin, played by James Cromwell, is the supposed former business partner of Jurassic Park OG John Hammond, once played by Richard Attenborough. Maisie has still got her posh English accent.
So much for the Jurassic World lineup. Meanwhile, “legacy characters” from the Park series (1993-2001) have to be crowbarred into the action, too. Dr Alan Grant, genially played by Sam Neill, is to cross paths once again with Dr Ellie Sattler, played by Laura Dern. All these people are to be drawn into the orbit of a new, arbitrarily created corporate baddie, a firm called BioSyn, which is covertly developing dino-clone tech to create dinosaurs as weapons and a new super-locust which will destroy crops planted by independent farmers who refuse to buy BioSyn seed. It is run in a massive Bond-villain city-state retreat in the Italian Dolomites by creepy plutocrat Lewis Dodgson, played by Campbell Scott. He whimsically employs Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) as a kind of contrarian in-house lecturer/motivator for his staff and also the clone genius Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong). But Malcolm and Wu are no sellouts, and will themselves finally join the righteous resistance to all this.
There are some flickers of fun, largely from the geezer generation: Dern and Neill have a nice chemistry and Goldblum is dependably droll. But Pratt and Howard look as if they have just been introduced at some LA party and have nothing in common. Their closeups, while they do their unconvincing acting expressions at each other, seem to create a green-screen aura of phoniness all around their heads. There are some action set-pieces, created for their own sake and with no convincing relationship with the supposed non-plot; these include a chase between a car and a dinosaur, which reminded me of Charlie Kaufman’s car-versus-horse idea from Adaptation.
This could have been fun, but there is something so arbitrary and CGI-bound and jeopardy-free about it, as the film joylessly chops in bits of Alien, The Swarm, Bourne and 007. And the essential thrill of the first Jurassic Park movie, from Michael Crichton’s novel, is completely gone: that vital sense of something hubristic and transgressive and wrong in reviving dinosaurs in the first place. It’s time for everyone involved to do some original thinking.
• This article was amended on 13 June 2022 to give the character of Dr Ellie Sattler her honorific as a doctor of palaeobotany.
• Jurassic World Dominion is released on 9 June in Australia, and 10 June in the US and UK.