*1/2 out of ****
(for intense sequences of action, some violence and language)
Released: June 10, 2022
Runtime: 144 minutes
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Isabella Sermon, BD Wong, DeWanda Wise, Mamaoudou Athie, Omar Sy, Justice Smith, Campbell Scott
This movie is a hot mess.
Much like the new dinosaurs that have been genetically engineered in various Jurassic sequels, the Jurassic World trilogy started out well enough as fun fan service. But then in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the franchise reboot quickly devolved into something more akin to a deformed monster. Now, with Jurassic World Dominion – the final chapter in the World trilogy – it’s become an all-out abomination.
Its biggest sin against humanity: taking down Jurassic Park’s original cast trio down with it.
For a movie billed as the epic conclusion to the six-movie Jurassic saga, Dominion has little to do with what came before it, let alone tie the franchise all together with some sense of cumulative purpose.
Sure, there are cheap callbacks (look – Dr. Ellie Sattler still cries when seeing a triceratops!) but, both narratively and thematically, Dominion isn’t remotely interested in grappling with the chaotic consequences of what it means to have dinosaurs unleashed upon the earth in the 21st Century.
Dominion is not the mix of moral debate and popcorn thrills that Jurassic Park set as a standard; it’s a desultory amalgamation of dino-chase scenes thoughtlessly piecemealed together. The only ethical quandary inherent to the material is how everyone involved (behind the camera especially) was so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Whatever you’re hoping Jurassic World Dominion will be, or be about, it’s not. To wit: the central (but thin) through-line is the existential identity crisis of a teenage human clone. You know, the girl you instantly forgot about after enduring Fallen Kingdom the one time you saw it. That one.
Somehow, of all the things that returning writer / director Colin Trevorrow (the lead creative behind the first World who skipped the second) thought he could make this final chapter revolve around, he landed on the one returning character that fans care about the least. It’s not that she eats up more screen time than the rest of the ensemble, but she is what constitutes the “heart” of the piece. Plus, her value to the villain triggers much of the inane action set pieces.
Speaking of: yikes, that bad guy. The requisite mad genius of Dominion is a maniacal variation on John Hammond. Played by Campbell Scott (who actually does admirable, earnest work with embarrassing material), his diabolical scheme is to infest the world with gigantic bio-engineered locusts that will devour the world’s food supply…all except for the crops raised on his corporate farms. (How this idea wasn’t laughed out of contention at the mere mention of it is beyond me.)
This is what our heroes must stop from happening. By extension, unfortunately, the fact that dinosaurs are loose around the world becomes an afterthought. If anything, the general attitude seems to simply be, “Welp, I guess we’re all living with dinosaurs now, and that’s…okay.”
Thematically, Dominion appears to be the antithesis of what the whole series has been about. Apparently, Trevorrow must’ve found it too daunting to put the work in so as to keep the theme consistent but within this mammoth (and ambitious) context of dinosaurs run amok around the world.
And so, instead, to Trevorrow has concocted two bland plot lines: save the clone girl from the evil scientists and save the world from the locusts-on-steroids scheme. Working in parallel, these concurrent narratives are essentially two espionage spy-style rescue missions, one for the new leads (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) and one for the old (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum). The new are sent on an excursion to Malta, the old collaborate at the headquarters of Biosyn, the villain’s corporate lab headquarters. (Yes, it’s actually called Biosyn. Get it? Syn = Sin. Cue the eyeroll.)
Add random dinosaur attacks as obstacles and bam, you’ve got a Jurassic movie (apparently).
Everyone eventually ends up together in one final dino-showdown, but it’s all pretty routine and lacks any genuine excitement. That perfunctory mediocrity infects the original Jurassic trio, too, which ends up being Dominion’s (and Trevorrow’s) biggest crime. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler and Ian Malcolm are barely themselves, just generic characters thrown into a plot machine, not intelligent scientists whose past experiences inform new-yet-familiar ones.
But to utilize that trio wisely would’ve taken an entirely different approach than this lazy effort. More specifically, a high stakes finale that expands the setting of both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World – i.e. dinos run amok terrorizing humans within an isolated island park setting – to a worldwide catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. A story that actually has to wrestle with (both practically and ethically) the reality of dinosaurs and humans cohabitating.
If the past movies taught us anything, it was bad enough when human hubris thought it could control prehistoric habitats in a closed environment. How does that then extrapolate on a global scale? What would it take to keep humans safe? Would those extremes (likely military in nature, with extinction being the goal) be morally just? What level of collateral damage (human, environmental, and otherwise) would be acceptable?
Shouldn’t this final Jurassic adventure grapple with those questions? Shouldn’t its drama (and, yes, its popcorn thrills) rise from those challenges? It should, but it doesn’t. This Dominion isn’t even interested in any of that. Hell, it may not have even dawned on Trevorrow to tell that story, obvious though it may be. That kind of story would’ve been a true culmination to the Jurassic saga.
Instead, we’re left with this garbage. It doesn’t even include the best sequences from the movie’s marketing material, namely the 10-minute prehistoric prologue released in the summer of 2021 and the T-Rex attack at a drive-in theater. (seen at the end of that prologue) Both are extinct from the final cut of Dominion, despite both reflecting what this movie actually should’ve been about.
Dominion is so pointless, it’d be better compared to a single episode of some TV spinoff series (think of the numerous CSI and NCIS variations), one in which the cast of the original hit drama shows up as guests on the spinoff simply for a shameless ratings grab and nothing more. That’s Jurassic World Dominion.
Thankfully, despite how stupid this sequel can often be (including an extended swim for Pratt’s Owen in an ice-cold lake that doesn’t result in any hypothermic aftershocks), Dominion isn’t going to ruin anyone’s childhood or somehow tarnish the legacy of the Jurassic series at its best. It’s that forgettable.
Nevertheless, Jurassic World Dominion will go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in Hollywood IP history, and the worst franchise finale we’re ever likely to see.