Dinosaurs live among us! That’s the crux of Jurassic World Dominion, the creatively bankrupt third and final chapter in the Jurassic World trilogy that’s managed to coast off the fumes of Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 classic. Here is a classic case of modern Hollywood cannibalizing the past, regurgitating pre-chewed, half-digested content into the gaping maws of fans wanting more of what they already love, only led by a generation of filmmakers who don’t realize what made the original content so memorable and beloved in the first place.
In a year that brought us the sublime and wildly invigorating Top Gun: Maverick, having to suffer through this is just embarrassing.
Things start off strong, imagining a world where dinosaurs living alongside humans is a reality. We learn that returning heroes Chris Pratt as Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) live in the woods, largely spend their time off the grid, saving dinosaurs from poachers and breeders while protecting young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a clone of the late daughter of Benjamin Lockwood, business partner of John Hammond, from the evil corporation set on finding her.
We also learn that Blue, Owen’s trained Velociraptor, has reproduced asexually, producing an offspring that Maisie names Beta. There’s no time for family fun however, as both are kidnapped and brought to Biosyn Corporation, a genetics firm led by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), an incidental character from the first film, who managed to exploit the original DNA research for diabolical purposes under the guise of altruism.
I love the way Dodgson is presented as a portmanteau of Tim Cook, James Dyson, and Elon Musk, the prototypical autistic businessman / mad scientist hellbent on profits by any means necessary. We don’t get this stereotype nearly enough in movies anymore, except maybe Mark Rylance’s similar turn in Don’t Look Up.
Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) is there because of course he is, thinking the key to mankind’s survival lay within Maisie’s modified DNA. Does this also mean that Maisie, like Blue, could also reproduce asexually? Don’t know, and the movie doesn’t care enough to even ask the question. Every interesting idea that’s presented is just as quickly brushed aside and never reconsidered.
Are the Jurassic World films soft reboots or sequels to the Jurassic Park films? It doesn’t matter anymore as Dominion does what they always do, which is return legacy characters (and actors) to the mix to squeeze any remaining goodwill from audiences. This means you get more of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), teased in the last film but allowed to go fuller Goldblum here, with the most notable returnees being Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). Sadly, both are utterly wasted as their participation here is reduced to little more than Scooby-Doo hijinks.
I’ll admit to a certain thrill seeing the OG Jurassic Park triumvirate together again, but even this feels like a cheap trick and only serves as a reminder to what a wasted opportunity the Jurassic World series has been, especially with its characters.
The lone bright spot in the cast is newcomer Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), a pilot hired to ferry illicit cargo to its destination. She’s great and has fun in the role, but an offhand line about “liking redheads” almost reduces her to a surprise tokenism the character didn’t need. Even in the small moments the movie can’t help derail itself.
Jurassic Park Dominion doesn’t waste much time retconning events from the previous films, going so far as to invent entire entities and villains from a pastiche of minor Jurassic lore and even whole cloth for convenience. Change the name “Jurassic World” to “Resident Evil” and you have essentially the exact same plot as the Paul W. S. Anderson-directed films starring Milla Jovovich. I’m not kidding.
Most egregious is how dinosaurs living alongside humans aren’t considered the biggest (or even a real) threat, but instead swarms of giant locusts destroying the food supply. That’s right, bugs. They seem to be prehistoric in nature (duh!), and all signs point to genetic tampering by Biosyn for nefarious purposes.
But even this existential threat is never taken seriously, instead relegating to a near-conspiracy that has to be investigated by plucky undercover Dr. Ellie Sattler, who recruits Dr. Alan Grant to help steal a bug sample from inside Biosyn to prove the company is behind what’s going on. But even the government appears to shrug off the locusts’ global destruction as an inevitability. Yes, the extinction of mankind through starvation is played for laughs, barely given a mention outside the plot. Goodness, this movie is so callous and stupid it hurts.
Colin Trevorrow returns to co-write (with Emily Carmichael) and direct the final entry to the trilogy he began, though Dominion is less directed than assembled. Scenes with the behemoths have no weight, no grandeur, with quick editing that reduces spectacle to treacle. One scene has Claire outrunning a velociraptor on foot, only to have the same beast suddenly able to keep pace with a motorcycle chase (then a plane!). How can you be excited when you can’t believe what you’re seeing?
Also, it’s hard to believe this franchise went from the awe-inspiring T-Rex to the cartoon fakery of the dinos here. The effects, for the most part, look cheap and unfinished, with flat backdrops that look even worse, making the human characters look like they’re floating over them. Michael Giacchino’s noisy score proves, once again, he’s the poor man’s John Williams replacement.
In many ways this (hopefully) final chapter to the Jurassic Whatever franchise mimics how Disney mishandled the more recent Star Wars films, embarking on a trilogy with no roadmap to how it might end. The appearance of Dr. Lewis Dodgson (a minor character from the original film) alone confirms this, shaving can (and very Nedry-like conclusion) and all, mimicking the baffling decision to include Emperor Palatine (Ian McDiarmid) in The Rise of Skywalker. It doesn’t make sense because they’re making it up as they go along.
When T.S. Eliot wrote of the world ending not with a bang but a whimper, he could have been talking about Jurassic World Dominion, an example of what happens when a blockbuster has outlived its creative possibilities. Easily the worst JP film, the movie is an unsatisfying mess, a litany of wasted ideas and unrealized opportunities. None of the actors here want to be here, the direction inept, the editing nonsensical, the music a cacophony of noise, the effects anything but special, and the dinos themselves take a backseat to bugs. Nobody buying a ticket to a Jurassic Park movie wants to see Jurassic Bugs. This almost feels intentional, like the filmmakers are sabotaging their film. Good work, it’s the only thing they succeeded at doing.