We can’t travel back in time to experience the awe and wonder of seeing Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) again for the first time, but that hasn’t stopped Universal Pictures from trying. To paraphrase a well-known scientist, they were so preoccupied with whether they could recapture the magic, that they never stopped to think if they should. Spielberg himself tried with 1997’s The Lost World, and Joe Johnston took a stab with 2001’s Jurassic Park III, and they’re perfectly okay adventures. The franchise was brought back to life again with 2015’s monster-hit Jurassic World and its 2018 sequel Fallen Kingdom, and now the trilogy is set to end with the release of Jurassic World Dominion. That sound you hear is a giganotosaurus yawning.
It’s been four years since the volcanic destruction of Isla Nublar, and dinosaurs are now among us. A news report shows how various species have taken hold throughout the world causing havoc, raising families, nesting atop One World Trade Center (nice nod to Larry Cohen’s B-movie blast from 1992, Q the Winged Serpent), and munching down on the occasional unlucky human. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t a cool slice of adventure/horror pitting people against dinosaurs on a global scale. This is a rehash of everything we’ve seen before.
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living off the grid and raising a teenaged clone named Maisie (Isabella Sermon), but when she’s abducted by poachers the pair hit the road intent on her rescue. Elsewhere, Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) has grown concerned about a plague of genetically modified locusts ravaging America’s crops, so she and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) hit the road intent on the world’s rescue. That shared road leads to an elaborate research facility/nature preserve run by an eccentric billionaire named Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) who totally has humankind’s best interests at heart. Soon faces new and old collide with the fate of the world’s bread supply hanging in the balance.
Jurassic World Dominion might not be what audiences are expecting after the end of the previous film, but it’s probably what we deserve. Despite the opening tease of that news report — easily the film’s highlight which sadly precedes the remaining 140 minutes — this is not a movie about dinosaurs roaming and ravaging the world. It is instead, wait for it, yet another movie about the dangers of unchecked greed and ambition. This time, with chihuahua-sized locusts which, for unclear reasons, get even more screen time than some of the dinosaurs and legacy cast members. (Sorry Jeff Goldblum.)
To be clear, director Colin Trevorrow ensures that the dinosaur action we do get in Jurassic World Dominion still “entertains” well enough. They run, fly, engage in Mission: Impossible/The Bourne Ultimatum inspired chases, and bite down on the occasional extra — very, very occasional as there aren’t nearly enough scenes of people being eaten by the creatures here — and an appearance by the dilophosaurus will always delight, but there’s no sense of awe, terror, or thrills to be found. Each set-piece feels directly reminiscent of one that came before, and literally none of the protagonists ever feel as if they’re in danger. Gone are the days when a nice guy or gal would still meet a toothy demise, and now it’s only villains and randos being served up for dinner.
That lack of mortal suspense carries throughout the film, and Trevorrow is either incapable or uninterested in crafting tension with his set-pieces. His script, co-written with Emily Carmichael, devotes arguably too much time to its human characters (something Carmichael helped avoid with 2018’s underappreciated Pacific Rim: Uprising), from their motivations and histories to their feelings about each other, and it’s a mistake similar to the one made by the Monsterverse films (2021’s Godzilla vs Kong, innocent). We’re here for the dinosaurs, dummies! Jurassic World Dominion steers its characters into familiar situations, they yammer on, shots are repeated from earlier films, and our heroes “barely” escape. It quickly becomes repetitive in its generically dull nature, and dull is a word that should never apply to a movie about freaking dinosaurs.
If, by chance, you are actually interested in the human characters, well then you’re in luck. Pratt proves once again that he has the acting chops to stand still with his palm in the air, Howard convinces as a woman concerned that her teenage daughter might not love her, and the three legacy leads get paid. The only human characters/performers of interest turn out to be three of the newcomers. Scott’s villain might not break new ground — billionaire bad guys are all the rage now, both on screen and off — but he’s having a blast as the baddie. The always reliable Mamoudou Athie shines as his right-hand man managing more sincerity in a single look than most can muster in two hours of screen time. And last but most definitely not least, DeWanda Wise does great work showing why she could easily handle her own action/adventure franchise with charisma and gusto.
Ultimately, Jurassic World Dominion is something of a marginal step down from the already mediocre highs of the previous two films. All three entries in this second trilogy deliver shiny new CG effects and varying degrees of nostalgia, but again and again they forget the number one rule of movies about dinosaurs — the dinosaurs are the only thing we give a damn about, and everything else is filler. Trevorrow and friends ignore that simple rule and swap the equation by giving more time and effort to things that aren’t dinosaurs. Their actions will undoubtedly result in boffo box-office, but years from now it will still be Spielberg’s original film that people are talking about and not the cash-grabs that followed.
Related Topics: Jurassic World: Dominion