The Jurassic Park franchise has always hinged on man’s inherent stupidity, so it’s fitting that its reboot series—beginning with 2015’s Jurassic World—has leaned heavily into abject inanity, culminating with just about every other plot point in 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a film of such lamebrained illogicality that it almost feels like a prank. That particular brand of head-smacking absurdity is also omnipresent in the second trilogy’s wrap-up, Jurassic World Dominion (June 10), whose sole novelty is marrying old and new stars in formulaic legacy-sequel fashion. It’s screeching, roaring, rollercoaster-ride nonsense devoid of the awe and suspense that marked Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original, which in comparison to this modern monstrosity feels like a precious relic of an earlier blockbuster age.
Directed with the grace of a rampaging T-Rex by Colin Trevorrow, who previously helmed the first Jurassic World, Dominion picks up four years after its predecessor, with dinosaurs now co-existing with humanity, and raptor whisperer Owen Grant (Chris Pratt) and reformed theme park exec-turned-dino activist Claire Daring (Bryce Dallas Howard) residing off the grid in the Sierra Nevada mountains with Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a clone of deceased Jurassic Park scientist Charlotte (Elva Trill). Much to Maisie’s chagrin, Owen and Claire demand that she stay hidden from the world, and their warnings prove valid when a poacher locates and kidnaps her along with Beta, the baby of Owen’s beloved raptor Blue, who’s living in an abandoned school bus in the nearby woods because, well, of course she is. This instigates a rescue mission by surrogate parents Owen and Claire, who through their CIA contacts—namely, returning supporting characters Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and Barry Sembène (Omar Sy)—discover that both Maisie and Beta are being trafficked in Malta.
While catching up with its contemporary protagonists, Jurassic World Dominion simultaneously reconnects with its classic characters, who’ve been recruited for dino-battling duty in order to nostalgically court older viewers back to theaters. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is studying a swarm of giant locusts that are devouring crops across the U.S., and her concerns compel her to visit Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who’s toiling away as an archaeologist. Since this locust horde threatens to destroy the Earth’s ecosystem in no time flat, and given that Grant still has not-so-hidden feelings for ex-girlfriend Sattler, they agree to partner. Moreover, they promptly seek the counsel of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who’s working in some vague philosophy-lecturer position at Biosyn Genetics, a cutting-edge firm that’s established a dinosaur sanctuary in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, where it’s conducting research that weirdo CEO Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) claims will one day cure a host of deadly diseases.
All roads must eventually converge at Biosyn’s ultra-secret facility, where—in a development about as shocking as the sun coming up tomorrow—it turns out that Dodgson, per his name, is up to nefariously dodgy behavior. Before that faux-revelation can materialize, Jurassic World Dominion stages a revved-up and piercingly strident chase through Malta’s streets in which Owen and Claire, the latter driven in a truck by former Air Force pilot and current mercenary-with-a-heart-of-gold Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), are pursued by angry laser-guided raptors. It’s at this early point that the film tips over into typical preposterousness, with Claire outrunning a fleet dinosaur through the magic of disingenuous editing, and Owen repeatedly skidding out of harm’s way on his motorcycle with superhuman skill. Even for a dinosaur series as ludicrous as this, such basic disregard for the laws of physics turns everything daffy and inconsequential.
Despite featuring a collection of familiar faces, Jurassic World Dominion boasts no actual characters; rather, it assembles well-known actors to embody, respectively, Action Man (Pratt), Harried Heroine (Howard), Plucky Girl (Sermon), and Old-Time Photocopies (Neill, Dern, Goldblum). BD Wong similarly reprises his role as Dr. Wu, the geneticist who despite repeatedly bringing about calamity via his cloned dinosaurs, can’t stop himself from opening Pandora’s Box in the lab. This time around, Wu believes that science is the answer to his own gene-splicing mistake. What Wong really needs, however, is a better stylist, considering that his defining characteristic is a floppy head of hair whose goofiness is matched by the rest of the pandemonium, much of which takes place in a generic building that’s as dull as the look perpetually affixed to Pratt’s face.
“Jurassic World—not a fan,” deadpans Malcolm at one point, yet there’s no genuine self-reflection to be found in these proceedings; Goldblum’s wisecracking know-it-all continues to be merely the jokey mouthpiece for the film’s incredulous audience. Trevorrow makes sure to periodically gape at titanic Brontosauruses roaming the land, as well as stage the occasional set piece in which Claire is stalked by a scary-looking prehistoric creature. Alas, the sense of wonder and terror that Spielberg brought to Jurassic Park is MIA, replaced by a deafening cacophony of shrieks and squeals, as well as prolonged CG-heavy sequences that stampede about in search of an authentically tense moment. At least everyone isn’t skulking around a haunted mansion à la Fallen Kingdom, although one especially silly instance does recall The Bourne Ultimatum, and not in an intentionally amusing way.
What Wong really needs, however, is a better stylist, considering that his defining characteristic is a floppy head of hair whose goofiness is matched by the rest of the pandemonium, much of which takes place in a generic building that’s as dull as the look perpetually affixed to Pratt’s face.
The fact that Jurassic World Dominion is marked by dim-witted decision-making, uneven special effects, and a jagged narrative full of half-hearted ideas and convenient contrivances is par for the course. As with its two immediate ancestors, this beast of a film crashes and smashes with reckless abandon, assuming that its sound and fury is what people paid to see and, therefore, will ably overshadow its Swiss-cheese plotting. As a multiplex event, Trevorrow’s latest has the size and scope to overpower one’s eyes and ears, but not one’s mental faculties, and as a result his mayhem is of a largely empty variety, as noisy as it is unsatisfying.
More than Neill and Dern, Goldblum at least gets a few choice quips in, including one directed at the perpetually laughable “mutual respect” that Owen shares with his raptor buddy Blue. Yet his charisma isn’t enough to compensate for a saga that’s evolved into a blander and less awesome enterprise with each passing installment. Billion-dollar global grosses and ancillary revenues notwithstanding, Jurassic World Dominion reconfirms the same thing its story suggests: some classic goliaths are better left in the past.
Donors pledge $160 million, Palestinian refugees need more
UNITED NATIONS — Donors pledged about $160 million for the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees, but it still needs over $100 million to support education for more than half a million children and provide primary health care for close to 2 million people and emergency cash assistance to the poorest refugees, the agency’s chief said Friday.
Briefing reporters on the outcome of Thursday’s donor conference, Philippe Lazzarini said the pledges when turned into cash will enable the U.N. Relief and Works Agency known as UNRWA to run its operations through September. But “I do not know if we will get the necessary cash to allow us to pay the salaries after the month of September,” he said.
“We are in an early warning mode,” Lazzarini said. “Right now, I’m drawing the attention that we are in a danger zone and we have to avoid a situation where UNRWA is pushed to cross the tipping point, because if we cross the tipping point that means 28,000 teachers, health workers, nurses, doctors, engineers, cannot be paid.”
UNRWA was established to provide education, health care, food and other services to the 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.
There are now 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, including their children and grandchildren, who mostly live in camps that have been transformed into built-up but often impoverished residential areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But UNRWA only helps the more than 500,000 in school and close to 2 million who have health benefits.
Lazzarini said the more than $100 million shortfall in funding for 2022 is about the same as the shortfall that UNRWA has faced every year for almost a decade, but while income has stagnated costs have increased.
In past years, UNRWA has been able to absorb the shortfall through austerity and cost control measures, he said, but today it’s not possible because there is very little left to cut without cutting services.
“Today, we have some classrooms with up to 50 kids,” the UNRWA commissioner-general said. “We have a double shift in our schools. We have doctors who cannot spend more than three minutes in medical consultation. So if we go beyond that, it will force the agency to cut services.”
Lazzarini said UNRWA’s problem is that “we are expected to provide government-like services to one of the most destitute communities in the region, but we are funded like an NGO because we depend completely on voluntary contributions.”
Funding the agency’s services has been put at risk today because of the “de-prioritization, or maybe increased indifference, or because of domestic politics,” he said.
Lazzarini said the solution to UNRWA’s chronic financial problem requires “political will” to match the support for the agency’s work on behalf of Palestinian refugees.
He said UNRWA has a very strong donor base in Europe and last year the Biden administration resumed funding which was cut by the Trump administration, but he said the overall contribution from the Arab world has dropped to less than 3% of the agency’s income.
Donors have also faced financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, and now there’s a major effort to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, he said.
“We will know better at the end of the year how much it will impact the agency,” Lazzarini said.
Some donors have already warned UNRWA “that we might not have the traditional top-up at the end of the year, which would be dramatic” for the agency, he said.
Ahead of Thursday’s donors conference, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Erdan Calls on countries to freeze contributions until all UNRWA teachers that it claims support terrorism and murdering Jews are fired.
Lazzarini said UNRWA received a letter from Israel’s U.N. Mission Friday which he hadn’t read, but he said all allegations will be investigated and if there is a breach of U.N. values and misconduct “we will take measures in line with U.N. policies.”
Mexico climber dies scaling active, off-limits volcano
MEXICO CITY — A woman mountain climber in Mexico died and a climbing companion was injured when they scaled the highly active, off-limits peak of the Popocatepetl volcano.
Mexico’s volunteer Mountain Rescue and Assistance Brigade confirmed Friday that the climbers fell into a gully about 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the volcano’s crater, suggesting they had reached the crater or near it.
The crater of the 17,797-foot (5,426-meter) tall volcano has been belching toxic fumes, ash, and lumps of incandescent rock persistently for almost 30 years.
Civil defense authorities have strictly prohibited climbers from going within 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) of the peak since it began erupting again in 1994.
Valentín Martínez Castillo, the mayor of the nearby town of Ozumba, identified the dead woman as a 22-year-old resident of the town.
Martínez Castillo wrote in his social media accounts that the climbers fell about 150 feet (50 meters) down a gully, and that the woman’s body and the surviving climbers had been successfully removed from the peak.
The Mountain Rescue and Assistance Brigade posted a notice on their social media Friday reading: “She shouldn’t have died. Don’t put your life or those of others at risk. The Popocatepetl volcano is closed.”
The country’s National Disaster Prevention Center said it “calls on people not to go near the volcano, especially the crater, due to the risk of falling ballistic fragments.”
Popocatepetl is located 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City, and occasionally showers ash on surrounding towns and some parts of the capital.
Bill Clinton: Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision has ‘put our democracy at risk’
Former President Clinton is slamming the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, saying it contributes to putting “democracy at risk” and calling the high court “radical” and “activist.”
“This decision puts partisanship ahead of precedent, ideology ahead of evidence, and the power of a small minority ahead of the clear will of the people,” Clinton said in a statement on Friday.
“This jarring removal of rights that had long been guaranteed, along with decisions gutting the Voting Rights Act and abolishing any judicial remedy for admittedly unconstitutional gerrymandering by state legislatures and abuses of power by federal authorities, has put our democracy at risk in the hands of a radical, activist Court,” he added.
He said said voters should be electing people “who will defend, not deny, our cherished rights and liberties” in addition to confirming judges who put the importance of the Constitution over partisanship.
His wife, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, called the decision “a step backward for women’s rights and human rights.”
The development comes as the high court ruled on Friday to eliminate federal-level abortion protections, which many anticipated after a leaked draft ruling last month.
Several states, including Missouri, South Dakota, Louisiana and Kentucky, have now effectively banned abortion. More are expected to follow.
Roe v. Wade
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