By Josh Reilly B. and George Bate
Jurassic World: Dominion marks the astonishing sixth time audiences have had the opportunity to see humans frantically avoid and try to survive an onslaught of dinosaurs. After Steven Spielberg’s classic 1993 film, the Jurassic Park (and now World) franchise has been a mixed bag, ranging from suspenseful and entertaining to repetitive and hollow. The conclusion to the Jurassic World trilogy, unfortunately, aligns closer to the latter description. Colin Trevorrow’s latest effort bolsters impressive spectacles and suspenseful, intelligently crafted action sequences, but, ultimately, is bogged down by uninspired and, at times, absurd plotting.
Jurassic World: Dominion takes place four years after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the destruction of Isla Nublar. Now, the dinosaurs roam the Earth and are the subject of much attention in the black market. Amidst this changing global landscape are Chris Pratt’s Owen and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire, who are tasked with protecting a young clone who holds the key to saving the world from an apocalyptic food shortage.
For all the criticism launched at Fallen Kingdom, the film can be commended for setting the stage for a conclusion to the trilogy that finally lives up to the ‘Jurassic World’ title. In many ways, both Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom feel like reluctant precursors to get to this stage where audiences can marvel at dinosaurs free-roaming and co-existing with humans. All of this makes for an interesting set up to a finale, which makes the ultimate result all the more surprising and underwhelming. Jurassic World: Dominion strangely negates this premise in favor of two, essentially unrelated plot threads that culminate in a disappointing conclusion to the six-film saga.
After an extremely choppy first 20 minutes or so, with audiences frantically thrown from location to location and character to character in jarring fashion, Dominion settles down into two central plots. On the one hand, there are Pratt and Howard’s characters, who are hiding from the government in order to protect young Maisie Lockwood, the controversial clone character introduced in Fallen Kingdom. After Maisie is kidnapped and sent on her way to the evil Biosyn organization, Pratt’s Owen and Howard’s Claire journey to rescue her. Meanwhile, in a completely separate and unrelated plot that only tangentially comes together with the Maisie thread, the original Jurassic Park trio play a role. Sam Neill’s Alan Grant is recruited by Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler to investigate a locust plague with possible links to the corporation Biosyn, which loops in Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm. If these two plots sound somewhat discrepant and unrelated, that’s because they are. The plots do not cross over until the film’s final battle, making the bulk of the film a disjointed switch-off between two middling storylines. And, to make matters worse, neither storyline is the Jurassic ‘World’ ending that Fallen Kingdom set up.
It may seem ludicrous to use words like “overindulgent” and “absurd” to describe a movie about dinosaurs and humans fighting, but Dominion indeed overindulges and has an abundance of absurdity. Perhaps the best way to describe this is referring readers to Judd Apatow’s The Bubble (bear with us here). For those who haven’t seen it, The Bubble is a comedy about the making of the sixth installment in the wildly popular Cliff Beasts franchise: Cliff Beasts 6: Battle for Everest: Memories of a Requiem. The movie parodies loud, big-budget blockbusters and, worryingly so, feels like a damning (and probably unintentional) critique of Jurassic World: Dominion. The acting, dialogue, character decisions, and plot points of Jurassic World: Dominion harken back to the acting, dialogue, character decisions, and plot points of Cliff Beasts 6. The problem, however, is that Dominion is made in total seriousness, while Cliff Beasts 6 (as part of Apatow’s The Bubble) is designed to poke fun at such films. There are times in Dominion where the stars deliver painful dialogue that proves unintentionally funny. Some characters feel more like caricatures (i.e. she is the brave, bold pilot; he is the smart, witty scientist). This also doesn’t get into the countless instances in which Chris Pratt holds his hand out toward the audience as he tries to calm a dinosaur down. Once or twice is alright, but it gets excessive and tiresome. Perhaps most frustrating (and funny) are the seemingly endless series of inane character decisions in this movie, most of which pertain to the corporation Biosyn’s CEO (and the film’s main villain) Dr. Lewis Dodgson, played by Campbell Scott.
To top it all off, Dominion overstays its welcome. With a dense 146 minute runtime, the film flows from action sequence to action sequence with little attention to character arcs or intelligent plotting. That being said, director Trevorrow crafts some excellent, suspenseful action scenes. A motorcycle chase involving velociraptors in Malta is intense and fast-paced, while giving audiences a look at what it would feel like for vicious dinosaurs to roam city streets. The aftermath of a plane crash in which a character’s parachute journey to the ground is tracked with a continuous shot proves to be quite the spectacle. Trevorrow and cinematographer John Schwarzman pack the film with a number of memorable visuals involving the dinosaurs, many of which warrant pausing and admiring when Dominion eventually comes to Blu-Ray.
Speaking of the dinosaurs, the main attraction to revisit Jurassic World ends up fulfilling expectations (for the most part). While some of the dinosaurs are brought to life with CGI, others are animatronics. The fusion of these two generations of visual effects makes for some really interesting and genuine-looking dinosaurs that surpass anything seen in the previous two Jurassic World movies. Unfortunately, despite the strength of the dinosaur designs and Trevorrow’s keen eye for action, the scale just isn’t quite there for Dominion‘s dino threats. By virtue of the way many of the scenes are shot, the dinosaurs appear surprisingly small in scale. This makes certain shots and scenes particularly standout, but definitely takes the wind out of other moments of the film.
Beyond the dinosaurs, Dominion welcomes back the original trio from Jurassic Park. Poor dialogue aside, it’s simply great to see Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum play these characters again. Goldblum plays an unusually small role relative to his co-stars, however, but makes up for it with some great one-liners in the film’s final act.
Jurassic World: Dominion proves to be an underwhelming finale to the saga. Despite bolstering a series of suspenseful and well crafted action sequences, the film struggles with a flat and bewildering plot, an issue worsened by the unusual decision for the film to feature two (almost) entirely separate storylines. Dialogue, character decisions, and some acting would not feel misplaced in a parody of big-budget blockbuster films like this, which is a shame given the potential of an exciting premise to close out the franchise. Nonetheless, Dominion‘s dinosaur action and the return of the original cast, arguably the film’s two biggest selling points, deliver and, ultimately, save a flawed film from true disaster.