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When dinosaurs ruled the screens

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 12, 2022 5:00 am

If there’s a single image that captures how the Jurassic Park world presents itself to viewers, all these years since Steven Spielberg first sprang his DNA dinos onto the world, it’s that perpetual face-to-face close-up with the oversize jaws of a prehistoric beast.

That shot shows up again and again in Jurassic World: Dominion, the sixth and final chapter in a franchise that was rebooted with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in 2015 (Jurassic World), based on the original 1990 Spielberg movie.

Huge jaws in your face: that’s how Spielberg envisioned his audience, set up in an amusement park ride full of terrors based around the model of his previous Great White Shark.

Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern join Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Isabella Sermon and DeWanda Wise in the final Jurassic chapter, Jurassic World: Dominion.

Of course, there are also “awww...” moments in this Jurassic sequel: scenes of majestic Brontosaurs padding by onscreen while our nature-loving heroes look on, gobsmacked.

There are other familiar tropes as well — cars turned turtle, spun around by raging dinosaurs; jump scares of Velociraptors in closets, their webby faces fanning out as they prepare for a kill. But what’s most familiar is the reintroduction of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) into the story.

In a post-Jurassic World Theme Park environment in which dinosaurs have been let loose to either flourish or perish, depending on human poaching and proximity, the three good doctors discover that a certain nasty genetics company called Biosyn run by Campbell Scott and B.D. Wong is using dinosaur DNA to turbocharge locusts — and programming them to target their competitors’ seed supplies and wheat production. The altered locusts are huge, of course, and quite scary in a swarm, tending to eat everything in their path.

The jaws of life: A recurring face-to-face trope in all Jurassic entries. 

Meanwhile, Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Howard) are trying to co-exist with free-range dinosaurs while raising Maisie Lockwood, the cloned offspring of Dr. John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough) from the original film. Owen has honed his peculiar dino-whispering skills on local Raptors, including a baby named Blue by Maisie, while Claire is doing her version of PETA rescue, saving endangered dinosaurs from the black market racketeers.

Jurassic World: Dominion premieres in this region before the rest of the world, and a lot is expected of Colin Trevorrow’s finale, after the last couple films earned over $1.5 billion at the box office. Heading out to view it in SM North Edsa’s IMAX, anticipation was already mounting, with a plethora of mall displays and elaborate selfie setups on display.

Come fly with me: A Quetzalcoatlus strikes mid-air.

And it delivers — definitely worth a return to wearing 3D glasses (even with the fogging potential from donning face masks). The action scenes are driven up to Mission: Impossible levels, such as a chase through crowded Malta streets with Pratt (on motorcycle) being tailed by a voracious Raptor; there are breathtaking moments designed with a theme park ride in mind, such as Claire plummeting to earth in a parachute while fending off Pterodactyls; and there are exquisite images, including one amazing sideways 3D shot of a Dimetrodon’s neck craning over a scummy pond surface, hunting for a submerged Claire. You can see its hot breath disturbing the surface tension of the pond, building up our tension — then suddenly blowing out enough dino breath to illuminate her petrified face underwater, holding her breath. It’s the kind of shot 3D is made for.

Velociraptors - Beta and Blue

This being a Universal Pictures release, much is made of the new monsters introduced onscreen. In all, 27 new CGI dinosaurs make an appearance, most of them roaming loose in the Biosyn Valley, eating whatever the bloody hell they like. There are many upright walkers with long necks and dangling claws (or “Alexis hands,” familiar to those who watch Schitt’s Creek).

The “apex predator” this time around, we are told repeatedly, is the Giganotosaurus, the “largest carnivore ever to walk the earth” at 43 feet in length, though he has some competition from a theropod herbivore named Therizinosaurus, who may eschew freshly killed meat, but has some nasty fork-like claws, each the size of baseball bats, the better to toss salads and shred opponents, we presume.

Dreadnoughtus in Jurassic World Dominion

The dinosaurs are what bring young viewers, the older actors are what will lure “legacy” viewers, but all in all, this is a family-fun serving of thrills, jump scares, and a timely message that nature is out to destroy us if we can’t all just get along.

It’s hard not to notice the underlying theme that earth is not pleased with our meddling and/or negligence, and is prepared to annihilate us — but behind it all, we are the architects of our own doom.

Ppair of Parasaurolophus & Chris Pratt

Seeing the black markets where dinosaur meat is peddled like isaw and DNA-cloned dinos are pitted against each another like a sabong is a Spielbergian spin on the precise dangers that someone like Jane Goodall has long warned about: human encroachment on natural habitats leading to potential pandemics and even extinction.

There’s an interesting side plot about a Biosyn operator dressed in lethal white named Soyona Santos (a drop-dead Dichen Lachman) who has a particularly nasty laser pointer at the ready; unfortunately her story is dropped somewhere in the 2:27 running length of the movie.

And there’s an easy charm and camaraderie between the principal actors here that goes a long way. Familiar wisecracks (Goldblum is always a hoot) keep the buzz going, long enough for you to feel as though you’ve immersed yourself in the Lost World for a sufficient duration. Though there’s always the next reboot…