There are seemingly two certainties when it comes to cinema: nostalgia and dinosaurs sell. Jurassic World: Dominion, the third film in the sequel trilogy, understands this on paper by marketing the film as a world where humans and dinos co-exist while also bringing back the cast of the original film. It has all the ingredients to have a solid conclusion to the trilogy that should have pleased fans, which is why it ended up on the most anticipated of the year. And yet, the film is largely a big misfire with a shocking lack of dinosaurs and nostalgia, while also delivering a surprisingly bland and uninspired conclusion to this trilogy.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard return in Jurassic World: Dominion as Owen and Claire respectively, who are living on the down-low in the Sierras. They’ve adopted the clone child Maisie (Isabella Sermon) as their own daughter, but considering she’s a medical and scientific miracle, she’s also highly coveted by some nefarious groups, who naturally do end up kidnapping her and the raptor Beta, Blue’s baby. Owen and Clare undertake a mission to rescue both of them that sees them traversing the dinosaur black market in an attempt to get them both back. Helping them, eventually, is DeWanda Wise as Kayla Watts, a pilot working for a fee for the same group of poachers that lifted Beta and Maisie. Owen’s gotten to the point where he’s so confident in his dino whispering abilities that every conflict he has now starts with him raising his palms towards the dinosaurs.
Meanwhile, massive locusts are wiping out crops around the United States and Ellie Sattler recruits Alan Grant to infiltrate Biosyn to prove the corporation is behind the engineered food shortage, engineered to boost Biosyn’s own crop value, as the locusts are not eating Biosyn seeds. This information was given to Ellie by none other than Ian Malcolm, who’s been working at Biosyn and operating as a sort of mole within the organization, which is spearheaded by Dodgson-yes that Dodgson, and played incredibly awkwardly by Campell Scott, who is a greedy CEO type who is perfectly okay with causing a global food shortage if it means Biosyn is the only alternative left standing, thus boosting profitability. Helping the original cast is head of communications Ramsay (Mamoudou Athie), who despite being in very dangerous situations as the movie goes on, acts almost bored and carefree for his screentime.
Gone is the wonder in this franchise. As I mentioned in the intro, this film is NOT about dinosaurs living among us, which is what the marketing and the finale of Fallen Kingdom promised us. Jurassic World: Dominion largely feels like a $185 million Syfy special, with an incredibly B-movie plot that makes little to no sense. The biggest issue with this movie is the script, which is co-written by director Colin Trevorrow and Pacific Rim: Uprising scribe Emily Carmichael. Never mind that the plot is full of instances that defy logic or make no sense, but everything feels so mechanical and diluted this time around. Action scenes feel like they’re there to keep the audience awake, as opposed to being meaningful or engaging. The story also hinges on us caring for Maisie, the child who unleashed the dinosaurs into the world and is directly responsible for all the collateral damage from that point on. The problems of the previous two films just seem exacerbated here and one has to wonder how these issues continue to get approved after critical and fan outcry over the franchise. But dinosaurs also print money, so the Jurassic World films have been relegated to pandering to the lowest common denominator while failing to offer a story with things like character growth for its lead (Owen), a riveting plot and satisfying intrigue.
I think one of the main issues with the story is that there are actually two plots happening in this movie, which really messes with the pacing of this two-and-a-half-hour movie. As opposed to having the Jurassic World and Jurassic Park cast team up, they’re left to their own devices for most of the movie, thus creating two movies happening at the same time, one being a search and rescue, one being an investigation into the nefarious plans of Biosyn. Biosyn is of course the bridge that links the two stories together, but the characters are unaware of the other narrative happening throughout the movie, which makes them feel disconnected. Not only that but each comes with its own baggage. While Grant and Sattler are far more interesting and likable characters, their story about mutant locusts just misses the mark completely when looking at the film through the lens of a dinosaur adventure film. There’s also a criminal lack of Ian Malcolm, who is the best part of this movie, but absent for a good chunk of that part of the narrative. He’s largely there to act as the reactionary character, pointing out the many flaws, often in tandem with what the audience is thinking, and Jeff Goldbloom definitely sells those lines. But drawing attention to the movie’s flaws doesn’t give them a pass. Likewise, Owen and Claire are simply far less interesting characters and their storyline feels like it should be part of a different franchise altogether. And as a quick aside, Michael Giacchino continues his routine in going from an exceptional film composer (The Batman) to a surprisingly unremarkable one. The music was kind of just…there, and didn’t resonate emotionally with me.
The third act of the movie is definitely the best part of the film and I couldn’t help but wonder if the film should have been a team-up rescue mission set almost entirely within the forest preserve where Biosyn kept their dinosaurs. Having the old team and new team traverses this untamed but heavily monitored habitat to infiltrate the lab and rescue Maisie and Beta while also exposing Biosyn as crooks could have worked better, especially if the film was to lean into the horror vibe that was on display in Battle at Big Rock, which was a far better experience than this movie. That being said, the third act’s thrills felt cheap and unearned, more there to be there, rather than actually having organic tension. The film should’ve just leaned into the whole “dinosaurs living among us” angle we were promised, showcasing how normal folk and corporations are dealing with the everchanging landscape, which would have been a great event to bring the two casts together and have them team up in the wild as they research and analyze. Instead, more corporate labs and bad guys and generic action.
Jurassic World Dominion also has a criminal lack of dinosaurs and most notably, almost no antagonistic dinosaur. Sure, they introduce the Giganotosaurus in the final act, but the world’s largest apex ground predator has no impact on the plot and isn’t used at all in any interesting manner. Instead of being a roaming threat to the team, it shows up, slowly tries to eat the cast one time and then gets into a brawl with T-rex and a Therizinosaurus. The battle feels like a studio-mandated dino brawl for the sake of having one, but since Giganotosaurus never felt like a threat we were supposed to fear, the fight feels so incredibly shoehorned into the plot. With Jurassic World, we understood that the Indominus had to be taken out, as it was a menace that terrorized the park and the other dinosaurs. This dinosaur fights the Rex earlier on in the movie for food and then slowly shambles around the cast trying to eat them. On the motivations for the Giganotosaurus, Trevarrow stated that [he] “wanted something that felt like the Joker. It just wants to watch the world burn”. That may have been true for Indominus, but that statement falls flat for Giganotosaurus. Also, just an observation, but where did this Giganotosaurus come from? If it’s from the park, why wasn’t it the star attraction at Jurassic World, which in turn could have fought the Indominus? Everything that was released was taken from the island after all, so this just further illustrates some laziness on the part of the writers.
In the end, Jurassic World: Dominion is an example of a film that feels like it was made to appease the studio’s shareholders, rather than audiences. It’s lazy, uninspired and banks heavily on nostalgia without paying off on it. As Ian Malcolm once said, everyone was so preoccupied with whether or not they could, no one stopped to ask if they should. For what it’s worth, you should just go and see Top Gun: Maverick again. I did, and I was not disappointed with that decision. Now there’s a film that understands legacy sequels. And that there is a tease for an upcoming article.
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