2022 | PG-13 | starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Laura Dern, Sam Neil, Jeff Goldblum, Isabella Sermon, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott, B. D. Wong | directed by Colin Trevorrow | 2 hrs 26 mins |
Michael Crichton’s blockbuster novel about man playing God with dinosaur DNA and their island paradise being destroyed was a fully enclosed story that doesn’t easily sequalize – much less 5 times. Colin Trevorrow’s rebooted series with Jurassic World in 2015 offered as fresh a way to continue the story as I could have imagined and a strong throughline for a trilogy: first the working theme park collapses, then the dinosaurs make their way to the mainland in 2018’s looney Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, all culminating in a grand finale that reinvents the world as we know it where dinosaurs and humans exist side by side, Jurassic World: Dominion. For what it’s worth, Dominion does the thing we all wanted to see, and were baffled we couldn’t, since The Lost World – reuniting all of the original cast for one last adventure.
4 years after a volcano blew apart Isla Nublar and Ben Lockwood’s dino-auction released onto the world a race of dinosaurs. Now trapped in the modern world dinosaurs and humans try to find a way to co-exist meanwhile the world is hunting Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), Ben Lockwood’s human clone and “the most valuable asset in the world”, hidden away by surrogate parents, Jurassic World operator Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt). Meanwhile, a plague of prehistoric locusts begin sweeping across the continent, wiping out the human food supply. Discovered by Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) looping in archeologist Alan Grant (Sam Neil) the two race to the Biosyn dinosaur preserve to stop the locusts from destroying the food supply and starving the world.
As much as I quibbled with Fallen Kingdom (it might be the Alien 3 and Last Jedi of this franchise) it teed up one heck of a promise for the final film in co-writer/director Colin Trevorrow’s World trilogy. Dinosaurs on the mainland. The creative possibilities of this are folded into a newsreel video at the front of the film where we see the Mosasaurus attacking arctic fisherman, raptors running in traffic and a paradactyl nest on top of the One World Trade tower. Own lassos dinosaurs and Claire breaks in and rescues triceratops from illegal breeders. There is a Dino Black Market but the military weapons Ingen kept trying to realize doesn’t come to pass. All of this is quickly wrapped up and punted out of the movie for the new Locust threat, what is in large sections a spy film and the introduction of the Biosyn habitat to serve as a new Park, a high tech dino facility to go down and create parallels and references with Jurassic Park. As much as I quibbled with Fallen Kingdom, that movie shook up the formula and did something nutty and different. This movie falls back into formula and nostalgia bait. Given that this arc was planned for the better part of a decade now it is truly shocking and baffling how lazy and rushed Dominion feels. This movie feels like a quickie sequel cash grab, not the final part of a 3 film arc.
If you’ve been tracking Jurassic World the obvious character arc here belongs to Claire, who goes from amusement park corporate shill to activist seeking redemption. That also gets lost in all the clutter, sound and CGI swivel of Dominion, which has no time to track satisfying character arcs because it is so busy doing plotline gymnastics to contort it’s massive cast together. Dominion tracks in legacy favorite characters, Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, Ian Malcolm, Dr. Wu and Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), mixes them with the World series characters and adds new characters on top of all that just for this movie, pilot dressed like a WW2 bomber Kayla (DeWanda Wise) and Biosyn employee Ramsay (Mamoudou Athie, straight from Archive 81). This movie is crammed with characters, all of which are given their own plot points, all of which bloats out the film’s running time to about 30 minutes longer than it needs to be. Although, none of it is particularly meaningful, everyone doubles up on tasks, and nobody actually gets anything significant to do. It gets borderline comical watching 7 people sneak around a car trying to avoid a dinosaur. In a monster movie, normally the only reason you would have a cast this big for a franchise finale is to start killing off major characters, but this franchise doesn’t do that. It kills people less than it kills the dinosaurs trying to eat them and the Jurassic series has notoriously treated it’s monsters as sacred endangered species even while chomping up innocent people in the streets.
The other issue with this movie is how badly it looks. The movie doesn’t looks cinematic. Trevorrow uses a lot of close-ups and medium shots like a TV series. Suspense has never been a goal of the World series, with Trevorrow unable to conjure up Speilburg’s sense of tension and instead throwing raptor motorcycle chases at us, but the action in this movie is particularly frenzied and unfocused. The shots are so close up or darkened that it’s hard to even get a sense of the space – how close a dinosaur is to someone – sometimes. Also, and this won’t be a minor point to several people who hold John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme in high regard, but if you do have the Jurassic Park them – use it. Significantly in the story and not just for nostalgia bait every time Sattler, Grant or Malcolm interact.
Apparently, locusts aren’t on the Sacred Dinosaur species list because they are the villains of Dominion and back to the lack of suspense, this movie sets up a conflict for the end of the world, but never puts a ticking clock on it. Owen and Claire race to get their daughter and Ellie and Grant to expose Biosyn, but it would have been one corker of a finale for the Jurassic series to end with a race against dinosaurs to stop the extinction of mankind. Even in it’s final moments when human and dinosaur learn to co-exist it would have been an easy lay-up for Ian Malcolm to drop in on a voice over and close out the entire series with “In the end, life found a way”. Easy lay-up.
So, yes, a profound disappointment from someone who once seemed to really care about this franchise. Dominion is a light and sound show that replaces suspense for blurry action and a compelling sci-fi story with plug-and-play nostalgia references. It has no grasp on the sense of wonder that made Jurassic Park so special for so many in the first place. No talk of life finding a way or Chaos Theory. It’s just brainless eye-candy that sours in my head the more I think about it. Jurassic World: Dominion sends the entire Jurassic series out, not with a roar but with a whimper.