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Dominion dino dud should really be called ‘Jurassic Park: Faster and Furiousaur’

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Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Jurassic World Dominion One star In cinemas; Cert 12A

Stop the lights. What was it Jeff Goldblum’s mathematician character, Ian Malcolm, said to the science lads in the first Jurassic Park? Something about them being all caught up in what they could do, without ever stopping to think of what they should do. Yes, I think I have that right.

But let’s not worry about the specifics, not when Jurassic World Dominion – the sixth and supposedly final entry of a franchise that started all the way back in 1993 under Steven Spielberg – is such an outright abomination.

Let’s instead wonder why current director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow completely ignored Goldblum’s math man. Indeed, Jurassic World Dominion does everything you’d expect it to.

It is, understandably, ginormous. It unites veterans of the game (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, the Goldblum fella) with fresher faced franchisers whose character’s names we’ve already forgotten (they’re played by the always welcome Bryce Dallas Howard and the increasingly unreliable Chris Pratt).

It also connects the dots between sequels in that erratic, forceful way that has begun to tarnish everything you once loved about big-screen storytelling. Hey, kids, remember that can of shaving cream from the first Jurassic Park? Remember the guy who gave it to yer man, Denis? Well, here it is – and here he is! Aren’t movies fun when you remove every ounce of mystery and intrigue? We digress.

There are signs, perhaps, that Trevorrow and his team genuinely believe this is what people want, and maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s our fault. Heck, the biggest film in the world right now is the one where Tom Cruise flies more fighter jets.

But remember this: there is a difference between what Cruise did on Top Gun: Maverick (respectable legacy sequel, meticulously crafted, cared for and smoothed out by a team of experts) and what Trevorrow has done with Jurassic World Dominion (heartless, convoluted, sweet-shop nostalgia, chewed up and spat out with nary a hint of regard for our intelligence).

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There is a plot, I think. We are expected to remember what happened in 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Something about human cloning, a dinosaur auction and – oh, yeah – the sudden reintegration of genetically modified dinosaurs into the wider world.

Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the human clone girl from the last one (keep up) is now living under the parentage of former Jurassic World employees Owen (Pratt, his acting range exhausted after a single stare) and Claire (Dallas Howard, working harder than the film deserves). 

One day, shady gun-wielding types show up to kidnap the girl and her pet velociraptor. Owen, waving around those magic hands of his, promises mammy velociraptor he’ll get them back. Chaos ensues. Obviously, the CIA get involved. Trevorrow’s film then pretends it’s a Jason Bourne entry (there are motorcycle chases in Malta) before toppling over into full-on Bond territory (the billionaire villain lives inside a snowy mountain and controls mutant locusts – no, really).

For reasons that are never fully explained, the original gang – Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler, Neill’s Dr Alan Grant, Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm – are called into action. More mad things happen. 

The strangest thing about this misshapen and staggeringly stupid display is that, despite what the sign above the door says, it often forgets that it’s supposed to be about dinosaurs. The giant lizards feature prominently, but really, they are just CGI supporting players in a film that concerns itself more with excessive world-building and cack-handed, physics-defying set-pieces (think Jurassic Park: Faster and Furiousaur).

It gets worse. Goldblum and the OG crew are required to wear the same outfits – and to repeat the same lines and gestures – from the first joint. They struggle. It is, I’m sorry to say, like watching your favourite band reunite on the world’s biggest stage only to discover that their instruments are out of tune and the roadies have gone home.

Long forgotten are the days when the Spielberg chap worked hard to create a sense of wonder, awe and suspense and to make us believe the impossible. In his place is Trevorrow, a filmmaker who’d have trouble directing his way out of a plastic bag. But hey, this is what people want. The last one crossed the billon-dollar mark, and this one probably will too. Forget the dinosaurs – we deserve to be extinct.

Also on release

Leave No Traces
Four stars
Selected cinemas; Cert 15A

Poland under the Communist regime. In the grip of a military junta, authorities disposed of political enemies at will and used beatings and intimidation to suppress dissent.

This stark and unadorned true-life drama tells of the police killing in 1983 of 18-year-old poet Grzegorz Przemyk, and the much publicised cover-up scandal which followed.

Student pals Jurek (Tomasz Ziętek) and Grzegorz (Mateusz Górski) are scooped up without cause by police, who subject Grzegorz to a fatal beating at the station. United with Grzegorz’s activist mother Barbara (Sandra Korzeniak), Jurek seeks justice for his friend, and the story soon captures local and international media interest.

Officialdom, however, is well aware that Jurek is the only witness, and embarks on a campaign to discredit him and his late friend, and also lean heavily on those in their sphere.

Poland’s entry for the recent Oscars is directed by Jan P Matuszyński with an understandably forensic eye for detail. While excellently acted and deeply unsettling in its depiction of systemic corruption, you wonder might it have landed more firmly with a trim to its exhaustive 180-minute runtime. Hilary White

Swan Song
Four stars
IFI & selected cinemas; Cert 15A
German character actor and screen icon Udo Kier gives a towering performance in this character study that has earned him acclaim in his late 70s.

Kier plays retired hairdresser Pat who we meet living a life of confined tedium in his Ohio nursing home. He’s approached one day by the lawyer of a famous former client to make her corpse look fabulous ahead of the funeral.

Initially reluctant, he takes on the job, springing himself from the home, crossing town on foot and triggering many formative memories. While reflecting on all this, Pat remains determined to help the late star whose life was intertwined with his.

US writer-director Todd Stephens presents an unassumingly potent portrait of an old dog confronting the ghosts of his past.

A simple, at times kitsch, finish to the whole thing belies a tale that effortlessly traverses humour, charm, sadness, and triumph. While it may look like Kier is getting the Hollywood victory-lap treatment (see Robert Redford’s All is Lost, or Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky), his brilliance is to mix the pathos of a fading hero with the sass and swagger of a diehard queen whose spirit won’t be extinguished. Hilary White

Earwig
Three stars
IFI & selected cinemas; no cert
Ten-year-old Mia (Romane Hemelaers) wears dentures made from the ice of her own saliva. Every day, the saliva must be gathered using a bizarre apparatus and refrozen into a fresh set of replacement teeth.

Performing this task and tending to Mia’s general welfare is Albert (Paul Hilton), who dutifully hovers within earshot of the girl’s room until needed.

A voice on the end of the phone one day instructs Albert that he must begin preparing Mia for the world outside the musty, dimly lit home where she lives. This presents a looming paradigm shift for Albert, who is also harbouring a weird preoccupation with a local barmaid (Romola Garai).

Questions pervade in this muted nightmare from French auteur Lucile Hadžihalilović, even after the credits have rolled.

Earwig is set in what appears to be an alternate post-war Europe, but even that might be reading too much into what is ostensibly a mood piece that trades largely off atmosphere, visuals and a pervading sense of dread that occasionally erupts into violence.

A victory for cinematic ambience, then, if not actual storytelling. Hilary White


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