Michael Crichton was both wildly brilliant and pretty lousy, and never more so than in his 1990 novel Jurassic Park. As a novelist, screenwriter, and director, he was lame, plodding, and formulaic—ever notice that most if not all his novels have exactly the same structure, in that they take place over a single week? But Crichton, who died in 2008, had a remarkable talent for popularizing new ideas in science and technology while making them seem absolutely terrifying.
It’s rare for a person as scientifically literate as Crichton to embrace his Luddite side, but he really did fear these new frontiers—and fearing them helped make him a brand name in a way matched only by Stephen King in our time. He wrote with stunning clarity about genetic engineering, robotics and sentience, human behavioral control, cloning, chaos theory, nanotechnology, the Internet, and lifeforms made into intellectual property, among other topics, years if not decades before they became controversial.
So his craft was pedestrian but his ideas were stunning. Reverse that and you get the 1993 film version of Jurassic Park, which was for a time the most successful movie ever made. Steven Spielberg and his team showed an unparalleled level of craftsmanship in their depiction of the interaction between humans and dinosaurs, such that you never for a moment thought you weren’t seeing actual extinct creatures sharing the frame with actors chosen for their talent at appearing to be utterly freaked out.
But everything else about Jurassic Park the movie was and is remarkably pedestrian. Even the way it tries to evoke Crichton’s cautionary themes is mishandled. For one thing, they take the book’s cold-as-ice villain and turn him into a cuddly grandfather type—so that what actually happens at Jurassic Park only seems like a terrible mistake on his part rather than an act of soulless Promethean evil.
But let me tell you, the original Jurassic Park was like Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason compared with Jurassic World: Dominion, the fifth sequel to the original. This movie, which scored at the box office last weekend, redefines the word "dumb." I don’t remember the plotlines of the two Jurassic World movies that preceded it, even though I saw them, but apparently they involved the cloning of a child and concluded with neo-dinosaurs slipping through the barriers holding them back and going everywhere on earth. So this is where we are when Dominion begins. Man and dinosaur are kind of coexisting, and there’s this clone kid being protected from bad guys by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Now, we know what the world would be like if this actually happened. Either humankind would kill all the dinosaurs with every weapon at our disposal or we would all be eaten and that would be the end of humankind. But the real danger here, according to cowriter/director and dithering moron Colin Trevorrow, is dinosaur traffickers! They’re stealing and breeding dinos and selling them on the black market and that shouldn’t be done—not because there shouldn’t be any more dinosaurs than there are already but because… it’s mean to dinosaurs.
Oh, and dinosaurs aren’t even the scariest creatures in this movie. No, the movie’s animal villains are genetically engineered giant locusts who are destroying the world’s crops—or most of them. Because, you see, the locusts have been taught not to eat crops made by Biosyn, the company that secretly engineered them so it could corner the world food market. This plot is so insanely stupid that it makes sense its instigator, a Steve Jobs type played by Campbell Scott, makes it incredibly easy for a ragtag crew led by Pratt to sneak into his underground lair, kill the locusts, and save the world.
The most amazing thing about Jurassic World: Dominion is just how incompetent its craft is. Spielberg made you believe the dinosaurs were real. Colin Trevorrow can’t even make you believe the snow on which the dinosaurs are running throughout this movie is real, let alone the dinosaurs themselves. Or the locusts—when you see them in close-up, they look like my late Uncle Sol. Listen, Sol was no prize, but he wasn’t a locust!
Published under: Movie Reviews