Another Take: Jurassic World: Dominion
The Jurassic World trilogy has come to a close with another underwhelming installment.
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When there’s a summer season full of superheroes, fantastic naval pilots, and little yellow minions to get people to the movies, you can’t go wrong with dinosaurs for two hours. “Jurassic World: Dominion” is the sixth installment in the long-running “Jurassic Park” franchise and the conclusion to this new trilogy that sees everyone going back into this world for one reason only, for better or better worse: Dinosaurs.
Four years after the volcanic eruption of Isla Nublar and freeing the caged dinosaurs into the world, humans and dinosaurs are now coexisting across the globe. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living seclusively in the woods of Sierra Nevada, raising young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) as their surrogate daughter and protecting her from being seen. Unfortunately, poachers have kidnapped Blu’s child Beta and Maisie, who’s working for the shady Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), the billionaire CEO of BioSyn.
All the while, paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) is investigating why giant genetically modified swarms of locusts are destroying crops everywhere, which has something to do with the company BioSyn. So she recruits her old friend paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to investigate the secrets behind BioSyn’s research facility, where Dr. Ian Malcolm happens to work for.
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment always cash in on a franchise that usually sees its highs and lows in the latter years. But was I excited about “Jurassic World: Dominion?” That’s a complicated question.
1993’s “Jurassic Park” is one of my favorite films of all time. Everything about Steven Spielberg’s beloved adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel is cinematically glorious for a perfect ’90s blockbuster. Even so, it was hard not knowing why any of the sequels never surpassed it. “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic Park III” were definitely inferior. “Jurassic World” seems like the one installment everybody loves to hate on unnecessarily and ruin the fun for everyone, but though it wasn’t perfect, it’s still a fun recharge for the series (It’s enjoyable, sue me).
But when “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” came out four years ago, it turned out to be a huge disappointment, having me worried this series had run out of fresh ideas. While it became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, the 2018 sequel directed by J.A. Bayona wasn’t well-received by fans or critics, and it’s one I’ll never have the urge to re-watch again.
Seeing the return of Colin Trevorrow, director of “Jurassic World” and the continued short “Battle at Big Rock,” was a good enough chance to think we could have a thrilling installment in our hands. But, unfortunately, as soon as the screening was over, I left the theater frustrated, feeling that this wasn’t the epic conclusion I wanted it to be.
There was so much promise with the installment just over a year ago. If you saw “F9” in IMAX or caught it online months later, we were treated with a stunning prologue to show dinosaurs in the prehistoric age that leads us to the present. The idea was enough to get me invested since I would’ve loved to see a movie where it’s finally giving us a “Jurassic Park” movie in the style of “Planet of the Apes” with the prehistoric creatures worldwide. Not only that but bringing both worlds of old and new together.
That interesting premise could’ve made this work in all spades. Instead, it was forgotten after the introductory monologue.
And turned into a predictable and generic sci-fi that lost its heart along the way. The story from Trevorrow and co-writer Emily Carmichael gets very consulted and has no sense of logic to get behind. Some thought it moved too fast initially, while I thought it started off badly. It shows the pacing won’t be good throughout, explaining why this never moved for me, and the dialogue wasn’t what I expected, especially the failed attempts at humor. Maybe it’s almost like they made a movie to make a movie, similar to the last one.
From a narrative standpoint, not only does it not try to hold any surprises over your head, it does not know what it wants to be, besides being the traditional dinosaur flick. Trevorrow’s involvement leans this more into the fun blockbuster style of filmmaking. But there wasn’t a particular moment that hooked me to keep my eyes forward when it’s just moving parts to make up a story and put $165 million behind it. The excitement level wasn’t even positive from my perspective. It was almost like having two different movies rolled into one.
Unfortunately, the Owen/ Blu relationship is gone after it becomes a rescue mission, as Owen promised to get her child back. Just think of every scene put together in the last five movies and make it a globe-trotting adventure that goes to Jason Bourne suddenly. For that reason, it doesn’t allow you to feel any sort of connection with the characters. You understand why Spielberg has always been the one director with an eye for exploring awe-inspiring realism (minus his follow-up). The significant aspect of why the first film is still regarded as a classic is that it combines a sense of wonder and thrills. Everything afterward always tried to capture the same feeling, yet this and “Fallen Kingdom” push the franchise into a fatigue-like state to Trevorrow’s more ambitious approach.
I think this is the most dinosaur action we’ve gotten in the franchise out of all the installments. Just when it gets dull, it kicks up the adrenaline with thrilling moments from different species they haven’t explored yet. Not that they made me tense sitting in the theater, but I must give it credit for letting everything breathe to provide us with some excitement. Anybody who loves their dinosaurs will have a blast watching this.
The best set-piece involved Owen speeding through the streets of Malta on a motorcycle and being chased by thoroughbred atrociraptors. The third act does bring the entertainment value despite not feeling a lot of stakes. And what’s very noticeable here than in the previous two movies is this goes in with using more practical effects just like how they did in the original trilogy, along with using CGI work from Industrial Light & Magic. We must have the T-Rex. But we also the Therizinosaurus and a welcoming return of the vicious dilophosaurus to fear again. The main baddie in this movie goes to the Giganotosaurus—a terrifying creature definitely, yet I still believe the Indominus Rex reigns supreme as the craziest dinosaur villain.
We get the return with the original cast together since 1993, which was a must-definite highlight before this started filming. This is the first time seeing Neill and Dern since the third movie, and we needed to see more Goldblum since he was basically a glorified cameo in “Fallen Kingdom.” Because we've grown up with the OG trio and never thought to see them in the same movie again, you can't help but have a grin on your face once they appear.
The best thing about bringing them back is that it didn't shove them into the story without reason, but they have a real purpose for being there despite expecting more from them. There's more screen time between Neill and Dern where it's like they haven't forgotten where they left off, as their chemistry still flies. I might come for the dinosaurs, but I've also come for Dern because who didn't have a crush on her in the original?
And you will not hear me complain about Goldblum because he always oozes cool in every scene he's on-screen and always delivers his signature sense of humor.
As for the returning “Jurassic World” cast, they were pretty forgettable to be attached to, to be honest. Chris Pratt probably gives the weakest performance as Owen Grady yet. And this coming from someone who doesn’t hate him like the rest of the Internet, but he was so fantastic and charming prior, where he’s more the bland badass action lead here. Plus, the bond between him and Blu has always been a heartwarming aspect previously and you don’t get that here. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire gets more to do but is still a character they don’t know how to use rightfully. There’s some development with Isabella Sermon’s Maisie to get. I didn’t love her storyline previously, but we learn more about who she is outside of being a clone. The relationship between all of them felt underdeveloped.
But out of the new supporting characters, I really enjoyed DeWanda Wise as Kayla Watts, an ex-Air Force pilot who helps Owen and Claire on their mission. That sentiment can’t be said about Campbell Scott’s Lewis Dodgson (“Dodgson, we’ve got a Dodgson here! See? Nobody cares. Nice hat.”), who’s this Tim Cook-type villain proving the human baddies are always dull to get behind every time, especially being over-the-top randomly.
It doesn’t seem likely this will come close to being one of the best sequels 2022 offers. Though did I enjoy “Dominion” better than the last one? I supposed, but ever so slightly. And it’s a bummer. Clocking in at 146 minutes, there’s no reason to see this be the longest runtime in the series when you feel the length an hour in and it could’ve trimmed about 20 minutes. But just like its previous predecessors, there will undoubtedly be those who will call this their favorite of the most recent entries or the worst.
I’d put this in between with “Jurassic World” still holding the spot as the second-best in the entire franchise (I don’t care). So, when there’s only one decent movie out of your entire trilogy, I’m in no rush to see a return to the franchise. Despite the projected divisive reactions it’ll receive, it will be a huge box office success and might even make over a billion dollars worldwide. Best movie of the summer? Not by a longshot. No need to worry, “Top Gun: Maverick.”
“Jurassic World: Dominion” concludes the saga with another disappointing sequel. While it delivers on some exciting dinosaur action, excellently uses practical and CGI effects, and spotlights the legacy characters well enough, it doesn’t hold the original’s magic as the story isn’t self-contained and, frankly, uninteresting. In the end, the nostalgia nods and an exciting cast will certainly be crowd-pleasing entertainment. For me, wasn’t enough to keep me invested.