People sure do like dinosaurs. The first five movies in the “Jurassic” franchise have made $5 billion. On the merits, the sixth and latest, “Jurassic World Dominion,” won’t be turning that 5 into a 6. The movie has its moments, and the CGI really is fabulous, but this go-round feels fairly tired. It’s also too long, and much of it is paced in a somewhat . . . leisurely? . . . fashion. Still, when have the merits had much to do with blockbusters busting blocks?
“JWD” does have a gimmick going for it, and it’s a good one. The franchise comes full circle, thanks to the presence of Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and, blessedly, Jeff Goldblum. Each of them was in two films from the first “Jurassic” cycle — “Jurassic Park” (1993), “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997), and “Jurassic Park III” (2001). They now join Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, who starred in the last two, “Jurassic World” (2015) and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018).
Goldblum, as the unflappably arch “chaotician” Dr. Ian Malcolm, showed up in “Fallen Kingdom,” but that was just a dry run for having him, Dern, and Neill together. Seeing them reunited almost 30 years after their last joint appearance is a moviegoing treat.
It takes a while for them to be sharing a screen with Pratt’s Owen Grady and Howard’s Claire Dearing. Owen and Claire are up in the Sierra Nevada, living with their stepdaughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who was introduced in “Fallen Kingdom.” Dern’s Ellie Sattler is trying to deal with a plague of locusts — sure, why not, a plague of locusts — Neill’s Alan Grant is digging for fossils in Utah (where else would he be?) — and Goldblum’s Malcolm is living large as intellectual in residence at the Biosyn Genetics Sanctuary, in the Italian Dolomites.
What brings them all together is, in no particular order, a kidnapping, a dino-napping, the discovery that those locusts have some mighty peculiar DNA, a very real threat of global famine, the CIA’s Dangerous Species Division (no, the species in question isn’t homo sapiens — that’s the concern of the rest of the agency), an indoor dinosaur black market that’s like a cross between a carnival midway and the cantina in the first “Star Wars” movie, a motorcycle chase on Malta involving Owen and some raptors (he’s on a bike, they’re not), a hardboiled female pilot (DeWanda Wise) whose beat-up C-119 may be the single coolest piece of technology in a very techno movie, the inadvisability of opening a parachute in the vicinity of a pterosaur, and, you know, stuff like that.
Colin Trevorrow, who revived the franchise with “Jurassic World” but skipped “Fallen Kingdom,” is back to direct “JWD.” He keeps things moving smoothly, though maybe too much so. There’s a lot of action, but it’s rarely engaging. An extremely cute baby triceratops here, a Goldblum arched eyebrow there: The moments that feel anything much more than just mechanical are few and far between. The “Jurassic” pictures spring from a truly inspired concept, Michael Crichton’s imagining that science might bring dinosaurs back to life. But inspired moments are hard to come by here. A new “Jurassic” cycle hasn’t been ruled out, but “JWD” puts an end to this one. That’s perhaps just as well.
In welcoming back the three old characters, it’s important not to overlook two new ones: a Biosyn operative named Ramsay Cole, and Biosyn’s owner, Lewis Dodgson. (If you want to spell the company name “Bio-sin” the filmmakers probably wouldn’t object.) As Cole, Mamoudou Athie has a voice that’s even cooler than Goldblum’s general affect, which is really saying something. The franchise has always exhibited a perplexing tension between revering science and reviling it, with revulsion winning out. Dodgson is that revulsion incarnate. Thanks to the slyness of Campbell Scott’s performance, it’s not quite that simple. His Dodgson looks like a cross between David Letterman and Apple’s Tim Cook. It costs a lot to have a haircut that unflattering, and it takes a selfless actor to be willing to sport it. Dodgson’s the tech-nerd as Bond villain. He should be the guy who’s threatening to buy Twitter. Not every apex predator has scales and claws and teeth the size of Elon Musk’s ego.
JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION
Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Written by Trevorrow, Emily Carmichael, Derek Connolly. Based on characters created by Michael Crichton. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Campbell Scott. At Boston theaters, Kendall Square, suburbs. 147 minutes. PG-13 (intense sequences of action, some violence and language — it sure does flirt with R, though, thanks to certain dinosaur dental activities).
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.