‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ Review: The Good Stuff in This Series Has Gone Extinct
The last Jurassic World ended with a bold twist: It made the movie’s title literal. Jurassic Park’s surviving dinosaurs got released into the wild and promptly knocked mankind off the top of the food chain. It was a surprising cliffhanger and, if nothing else, guaranteed that the next Jurassic World wouldn’t be another tired story about a couple of brave survivors trying to escape a secluded nature preserve full of dinosaurs.
Or maybe not. The strangest part of Jurassic World: Dominion is that it not only doesn’t answer its predecessor’s central question — How would humanity co-exist with dinosaurs? — it doesn’t even try. Instead, it quickly devolves into yet another tale of brave heroes running from scary dinos in a remote location. Its only novel element: Bringing together the current Jurassic cast, primarily Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, and the alumni from the very first Jurassic Park: Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum.
One would assume, given their respective backgrounds, that dinosaurs would be the thing to unite all these people. One would be wrong. Sure, there are a bunch of raptors and a T. rex or two on hand to occasionally chase (but never catch) the heroes. But that’s all dinosaurs are in Jurassic World Dominion. They’re plot devices; puppets the screenwriters manipulate in order to provoke action scenes and jump scares. The wonder, the majesty, the intellectual curiosity, and the satire from Michael Crichton’s original premise and Steven Spielberg’s first film have long since gone extinct in this series.
In their place, we get a bunch of pointless action sequences and a lot of hopscotching around the world while various villains continue the Jurassic World franchise’s unblemished record of antagonists who make the dumbest possible decisions at every single moment. When a tech company named BioSyn gets their hands on Jurassic Park’s technology, what they choose to do with it threatens to wipe out all life on Earth. Purely by chance, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Dern) is the first person to catch wind of what BioSyn’s doing, and she recruits her old flame, paleontologist Alan Grant (Neill), to help her expose the conspiracy. Later, they get an additional assist from chaotician and fellow Jurassic Park survivor Ian Malcolm (Goldblum), who’s been working at BioSyn for six weeks and already has access to all of the company’s most top secret and incriminating laboratories.
Satler, Grant, and Malcolm work very hard to uncover the truth, but it feels like a task beneath the intelligence of these great scientific minds. The bad guys murder and kidnap people at will and leave obvious clues to their nefarious schemes all over the planet; Inspector Gadget could have solved this mystery. Also, their name is BioSyn! I guess calling them MegaEvilCorp would have been too on the nose.
Chris Pratt’s former raptor trainer turned dino herder Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s former Jurassic World manager turned dino rights activist Claire Dearing get mixed up in the older characters’ quest after the same evil tech company nabs their teenage daughter (Isabella Sermon), the world’s first cloned human that you totally forgot was introduced in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. (Or at least I did.) The guy behind all these evil schemes is Lewis Dodgson, a bit player from the first Jurassic Park — he was the man who paid Wayne Knight to smuggle dino embryos off the island in a Barbasol can — now played by a very overqualified Campbell Scott.
But then everyone is overqualified in this movie. These are all gifted, charismatic performers. The old Jurassic Park gang have aged impossibly well and it’s fun to see them back together, if only to debate whether Neill, Goldblum, or Dern have the best hair. (My vote: Goldblum — but it’s close.) Their innate likability does not change the fact that there isn’t a single valid reason for any of them to play a significant role in this story. Why are a paleobotanist, a paleontologist, and a math theorist skulking around a tech company campus looking for data?
Imagine a Ghostbusters sequel where the Ghostbusters became corporate whistleblowers instead of catching ghosts and you start to get the idea (or lack of one) here.The only reason these actors are in Jurassic World: Dominion is because legacyquels are big business in Hollywood these days, and after two so-so Jurassic World movies, director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow needed something to make this one look a bit different and special.
Alas, Dominion is just more of the same. More banal platitudes about the dangers of science run amok. More breathless chases involving dinosaurs who can keep pace with a jeep and yet never manage to catch the humans when they’re running on foot. More scenes where an idyllic and flawless dino sanctuary completely collapses in a matter of minutes. More scenes where Chris Pratt’s unflappable and impervious action dude gets a dinosaur to stop attacking him simply by sticking his hand in front of its face. (Later, he teaches the other characters this trick and then they’re all controlling raptors by shoving their hands in their faces.)
Jurassic World: Dominion’s marketing materials bill the film as “The Epic Conclusion of the Jurassic Era.” For all of our sakes, I hope they’re right. The efforts of a very fine cast do little to mitigate the feeling that this franchise has completely run out of steam. Trevorrow and his team have steadfastly refused to learn their own film’s message: You should never bring a dead thing back to life, no matter how beautiful or unique it was.
-Before you tweet or email me: Yes, I know the BioSyn name comes from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novels. It’s still a silly name for a tech company that wants to con people into think it’s not pure evil.
-This movie has to set a record for the most tasers in a Hollywood production. There’s a taser in every scene! If you want a very effective Jurassic World: Dominion drinking game — and this movie is bad enough that you might need one to get through it — take a shot anytime a character zaps someone or something with a taser.
-Or here’s another drinking game idea: Take a shot any time a Jurassic Park character meets a Jurassic World character (or vice versa) and somehow knows exactly who they are. “Hey, you’re Owen Grady! I know you! You trained raptors!” “You’re Dr. Sattler! You were at Jurassic Park!” “Wait, aren’t you Ian Malcolm?” Everyone in this film not only knows everyone else, they’ve apparently read their resumes.
-I still cannot believe they ended Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom by unleashing dinosaurs on the entire world, and then made a sequel that did absolutely nothing with that concept. Apparently the answer to the question “How would life be different if dinosaurs lived among us?” is “Not very different.”