REVIEW: Jurassic World Dominion [2022]

Rating: 5 out of 10.
  • Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 147 minutes
    Release Date: June 10th, 2022 (USA)
    Studio: Universal Pictures
    Director(s): Colin Trevorrow
    Writer(s): Emily Carmichael & Colin Trevorrow / Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow (story) / Michael Crichton (characters Jurassic Park)

This isn’t about us.

Why create something new when you can ride the nostalgia train to the bank? That’s ultimately what the Jurassic World trilogy does. Did it correct some things as far as pushing the potential of Michael Crichton‘s original novel? Yes. With Fallen Kingdom, Steven Spielberg‘s heir apparent Colin Trevorrow finally brought the dinosaurs to shore and acknowledged the next step in the evolution of the genetic technology at the back of everything this franchise delivered since Jurassic Park. Fast-forward to Jurassic World Dominion, however, and you couldn’t be faulted for believing he and co-writer Emily Carmichael decided story was secondary to meme culture. Because rather than focus solely on dealing with the ramifications of Maisie Lockwood’s (Isabella Sermon) identity, they twist themselves into pretzels to revive the OG gang.

That foolhardy (albeit lucrative) move demands that something get shoved aside. And if you think that “something” couldn’t be the dinosaurs, you haven’t been paying attention. In some respect I can see now why Spielberg and company kept everything island-bound—the smaller the environment, the easier it is to try and replicate the sense of fear and excitement of the original Oscar-winning classic. Allowing these un-extinct creatures to cohabitate with humanity officially means the novelty is gone. And that genie cannot be put back into the bottle. No matter how hard Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) want us to care about the wellbeing of these behemoths, the plot has no choice but to make them the enemy. That augmented monstrousness ruins the magic.

As such, the dinosaurs are nothing more than a MacGuffin both in terms of Dominion and the series at-large (once we discover, by way of a newly remorseful BD Wong as Dr. Wu, it’s always been about curing disease). While Owen promises to retrieve Blue the Raptor’s baby Beta after she’s kidnapped, his Cretaceous friend’s plight is nothing more than a parallel subplot that barely keeps the thread of dinosaurs being compassionate pets alive. The real narrative thrust concerns the other child that was kidnapped instead. Owen and Claire always knew Maisie’s existence (she’s a clone of her grandfather’s late daughter) put her at risk of being poked and prodded, so it’s not a surprise when she finally gets poached. Time to enter Hell and get her back.

It’s more than enough to build a film around and yet the allure of call backs, gimmicks (the T-Rex walks behind a cut-out circle sculpture to reenact the franchise logo during the climax), and stunt casting was too great. So, on top of letting Act Two’s main characters try to save Maisie, Trevorrow and Carmichael have woven in yet another parallel thread that reunites the previous act’s main trio in Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). They’re on a separate mission to procure a DNA sample of giant locusts bred inside scientific genius Lewis Dodgson’s (Campbell Scott) Biosyn complex (a lab/dino sanctuary hybrid that recalls the previous two theme parks) to prove he’s responsible for what’s looking like widespread global famine.

How does it all connect? Maisie. As the culmination of her grandfather’s and John Hammond’s dream, she’s a genetic Rosetta stone capable of making all this suffering caused by mankind’s hubris worth it. So, of course, the eccentric Dodgson (Scott delivers a performance as over-the-top as Mark Rylance in Don’t Look Up despite this film not being a comedy) would be the one who took her in the first place. Whether they know it or not, everyone is therefore being drawn to Biosyn for a last stand of epic proportions to play out in the background as the humans run for their lives. Because that’s all you’re going to get here. Convoluted script gymnastics to make circling back to the beginning plausible while dinosaurs ferally dinosaur around them.

It’s a shame Cameron Thor no longer acts because bringing his bit player back only to recast does cheapen the exercise since Dodgson didn’t have to be Dodgson. But Dominion is all about the winks with Barbasol cans; Omar Sy, Justice Smith, and Daniella Pineda each getting a day’s work on-set; and as many references to Jurassic Park as possible, complete with orchestral punctuation. While cute in a completely superficial way, it does little but pad the runtime of maybe ninety-minutes of substance into a one-hundred-and-fifty-minute marathon. All that time and both Mamoudou Athie and DeWanda Wise are still underused despite being the most intriguing characters of the bunch. That’s what happens when you come in at the eleventh hour to be each trilogy cast’s deus ex machina.

I guess the action is okay—although it being the one thing able to maintain my interest beyond playing “spot the Easter egg” might be causing me to overvalue it. You can only have Pratt hold his hand out so many times (and Trevorrow surely flies past the boundary line), so letting the dinosaurs wreak havoc from start to finish is a welcome development. They’re all back too from Nedry’s Procompsognathus to Owen’s Blue to Grant and Sattler’s T-Rex and more with a Giganotosaurus and Therizinosaurus causing fireworks. We get the laser-pointer killing machines, flying giants ripping apart planes, and tiny Compsognathus chasing screaming children on an idyllic park stroll. It’s anti-climactic considering our human counterparts are too beloved to die, but that’s Jurassic World in a nutshell.

Don’t forget that Crichton partook in some of his own gymnastics to bring Ian Malcolm back from the dead when he wrote The Lost World. So, it’s always been about catering to audience appeal—I just wish Spielberg, Trevorrow, and everyone else who touched these films understood what that appeal was. As I said above, the magic disappears the moment the dinosaurs stop making us look upon them with mouths agape. And since that stopped happening after the initial film, it’s absolutely wild that I’m talking about a sixth entry almost thirty years later. If ever there was a franchise that proved box office glory wasn’t enough to greenlight sequels, this is it. One masterpiece and a handful of middling to bad facsimiles. At least it’s over. (Please!)

[1] (from left) Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow. Copyright © 2022 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Byline: John Wilson/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.
[2] (from left) Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow. Copyright © 2022 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Byline: John Wilson/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.
[3] A T.rex in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow. Copyright © 2022 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Byline: Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.

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