Two women peer out of an upturned vehicle into the mouth of a giant hybrid dinosaur
Laura Dern returns to the series alongside DeWanda Wise and a giganotosaurus

If you wanted to satirise the survival tactics of big-screen cinema, you could hardly do it better than having them rely on dinosaurs. Still, the release of Jurassic World Dominion finds the movies in bullish mood after the vast success of Top Gun: Maverick. Another return to revived prehistory may prove a tougher sell. Roll up then for the third entry in the sub-franchise spun off from the original Jurassic Park, and the sixth overall since the fateful 1993 genetic fusion of Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton. As in so much sci-fi, hindsight invites us to look back and ask: “Oh God, what did they do?

The movie knows it as well. Amid the faux-news bulletins which open the film, we find the half-smirking acknowledgment that no, three decades on, mankind still hasn’t got to grips with the reanimated relics in our midsts. “You never get used to it,” Laura Dern smiles while petting a friendly critter, one of several points at which the script seems to be issuing a coded appeal for help. As with the zombies of George A Romero’s “Dead” movies, the dinosaurs are now established among us, and the more of them there are, the more we ask who the real monster is. Often still the dinosaurs, it turns out. Oh, also: giant locusts are now decimating US wheat crops. Amid the hubbub, it is easy to miss.

The mass of old storylines means that much of the movie is spent with characters reminding each other who they are and why they’re here, like awkward guests at a wedding. Daily life has turned baroque. Bryce Dallas Howard raids illegal breeding facilities. “It’s medieval,” she winces at the sight of dinosaurs in cages, a statement historians may struggle with. Chris Pratt spends his time on horseback, herding semi-feral Jar Jar Binkses. The pair are also surrogate parents to a 14-year-old human clone, whose abduction sets the film in motion.

A man rides on horseback alongside two charging dinosaurs against a snowy backdrop
Chris Pratt turns dinosaur wrangler in the sixth film in the series

Six episodes in, exhausted dramatic possibilities give way to a dull hodgepodge of generic action mayhem. There are life-or-death sprints across cracking ice, mid-air ejections from planes, Bond-ish chase scenes in Malta where dinos vault rooftops. Put like that, it sounds fun, I know. Don’t get your hopes up. Even the film’s most ludicrous moments have an essential joylessness.

Relief comes with the olds. Legacy cast members Dern and Sam Neill return alongside Jeff Goldblum’s rock’n’roll chaos theorist. The screwy emphases of his line deliveries remain a blast. Together, the three veterans have a lightness of touch that almost saves their side of the plot as they are lured into the promethean grip of corporate chief Campbell Scott. For his part, Scott looks like a man in fancy dress as Apple CEO Tim Cook. The likeness is hard to miss, an intriguing move in a film that, like all studio juggernauts, picks its bad guys carefully. Riyadh gets a mention too. And obviously no one roots for a locust.

But their presence speaks to a seeming boredom, deep in the fabric of the film, with the actual dinosaurs. It must be said the beasts have looked better. The movie’s production was disrupted by Covid, perhaps a factor in the creak of the animatronics and CGI. The luckless bunch are still needed for a long last act devoted to what Goldblum wryly called the “running and screaming” in the first Jurassic sequel, The Lost World, 25 years ago.

Franchise creator Universal has promised this will be the final instalment. Somewhere in the gleaming robot eyes of the giganotosaurus, you see a desperate hope the humans mean it.

★★☆☆☆

In cinemas from June 10

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