Jurassic World: Dominion (United States, 2022)June 09, 2022
There’s irony at work here. Back when it this long-running franchise began in 1993 with Jurassic Park, it was all about the dinosaurs. The first movie to go all-in using CGI technology, the Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster caused everyone to “ooh” and “ahh.” Fast-forward 29 years. The sixth (and possibly final) film in the Jurassic Park/World cycle has better CGI than any of its predecessors, yet the biggest drawing card isn’t a T-Rex, a diplodocus, or a velociraptor. It’s the original trio of human adventurers: Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm. With Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum reprising their roles, that’s where the energy for Jurassic World: Dominion has emerged. Once again, a major motion picture has exploited the undeniable power of nostalgia. And it’s a good thing the movie has that going for it, because there’s precious little else to get excited about.
One obvious problem with Jurassic Park: Dominion is that director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow doesn’t trust his premise. Either as an allegory or a straightforward narrative conceit, the concept of humans sharing the planet with dinosaurs (much as they share it with other apex predators like bears, lions, tigers, sharks, etc.) could make for a fascinating story on its own. It doesn’t need to be tarted up with mustache-twirling human villains and inane subplots involving cloning and a plague of giant locusts. All of this clutter results in a scattershot storyline that fails more often than it works with the former typically happening only because of expert special effects or chemistry among the Jurassic Park trio. With its bloated nearly-2.5 hour running time, Jurassic World: Dominion needs a lot more than that to keep it from wearing out its welcome around the halfway point.
Dominion starts a few years after the conclusion of Fallen Kingdom. By now, dinosaurs have expanded to cover all the continents (except Antarctica) but their overall impact on the worldwide ecosystem and food chain are still being studied. The main characters from the previous two Jurassic World movies, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), are cohabitating in a secluded, off-the grid cabin where they are protecting 14-year old Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a clone whose DNA is in demand. Like most 14-year olds, Maisie sees her confinement as more of a punishment than a means of enhancing her security. Blue, Owen’s velociraptor buddy, is hanging out in the nearby woods. In a bold statement for dino-feminism, Blue has had a baby all on her own. When poachers capture both Maisie and Blue Jr. (given the cute nickname of “Beta”), Owen and Claire jump into action, resulting in (among other things) a motorcycle chase through the streets of Malta with Owen being pursued by several pissed-off raptors.
Meanwhile, we are re-introduced to Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) after a two-plus decade absence, when she is called upon to investigate an agricultural disaster caused by an infestation of cat-sized locusts. Wanting support, Ellie calls pays a visit to her old friend, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill). Her proposal – that they go undercover to root out the cause of the genetic mutation – is sufficiently compelling that he leaves his dig to accompany her like a lovesick puppy. Their investigation takes them to BioSyn, the once-rival to InGen, and they receive an invitation to visit the super-secret facility courtesy of BioSyn’s star employee, Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Upon arrival, they are fawned over by BioSyn’s CEO, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott, who, with the advance of age, is beginning to resemble his father, George C.) – the man whose actions set into motion the disaster at the original Jurassic Park (in 1993, he was played by a different actor).
It goes without saying that these two branches of the story eventually intersect, although it takes an inordinate amount of time for that to happen. The movie is more than half over by the time Owen and Claire share the screen with Ellie, Alan, and Ian. The dinosaurs are kept mostly in the background during the film’s first half as Emily Carmichael & Colin Trevorrow’s screenplay does the heavy lifting of putting the nonsensical pieces into place. The second half feels largely like a retread of Jurassic Park but things that were exciting the first few times aren’t nearly as thrilling on the sixth go-around. There are instances when, sadly and shockingly, the word “boring” applies.
It's unfortunate that the filmmakers didn’t uncover a story worthy of the technical aspects because the dinosaurs look better in Jurassic World: Dominion than they have ever previously looked, and that’s saying something. This is top-flight CGI and there’s never a hint that the resurrected creatures are sharing the screen with human beings. There are some wonderful throw-away shots, like one with a group of triceratops migrating alongside a herd of elephants, that hint at what this movie could have been if financial pressures hadn’t forced Trevorrow to include too many silly action sequences (like the aforementioned Malta chase) and a dumber-than-dumb plot involving genetically engineering insects.
If one was to remove the Jurassic Park/World brand and change the character names, this would have been a glossy B-grade monster movie whose potential for cheap thrills is undermined by its interminable length. The first half in no way resembles a Jurassic Park installment in either tone or approach and the second half is a watered-down “greatest hits” offering. Moments of suspense or tension, which suffused both the inaugural film and its Trevorrow-helmed re-start, are few and far between. Even the big climactic showdown feels small and inconsequential despite featuring “the biggest carnivore the world has ever seen.”
Jurassic World, released in 2015, represented the right way to revisit a series that had grown stale after only three episodes. The sequel, Fallen Kingdom, made a compelling case that its predecessor should have been a one-and-done affair. Dominion argues that not even the return of three beloved characters can rescue a franchise that has fallen and can’t get up.
Jurassic World: Dominion (United States, 2022)
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, Omar Sy
Home Release Date: 2022-08-16
Screenplay: Emily Carmichael & Colin Trevorrow, based on characters created by Michael Crichton
Cinematography: John Schwartzman
Music: Michael Giacchino
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
U.S. Home Release Date: 2022-08-16
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Dino Violence, Intense Action, Profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1