Jurassic World: Dominion
Nearly thirty years ago, the first Jurassic Park was released into theaters. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it was an exciting Hollywood blockbuster and massive commercial success whose popularity persists to this day. Part of its appeal is its charming sense of wonder. Sure, the characters are constantly in danger of being eaten by dinosaurs, but the creatures are incredible! Even when they may be about to die, they can’t stop themselves from expressing awe at the impossibility of what stands before them. Unsurprisingly, it spawned a large franchise that is now up to its sixth entry, Jurassic World: Dominion. Less surprising is that, by now, the wonder has almost completely disappeared.
There is still the occasional cool visual (longshots of these animals are pretty amazing). However, at this point, they have basically just become monsters that exist to chase the humans in dull action scenes. Seemingly no thought was given to doing anything interesting with them, the characters or the story. It is merely a bunch of hollow spectacle that is a far cry from the series’ entertaining beginnings.
At the end of the last go-round, 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the dinosaurs had been set free to wreak havoc on the world. Now, the protagonists from the first three movies (Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm) are trying to prevent the usual rich scientist from doing the usual evil stuff and the protagonists from the last two (Claire Dearing and Owen Grady) are trying to protect a teenage girl from the same scientist. Their paths meet and absolutely nothing interesting happens.
There is literally nothing of note to say in regards to the plot, which is as by-the-numbers as possible without the numbers themselves being visible on the screen. As far as the characters go, the screenwriters seem to have felt it was enough to simply bring everyone back. There is no sense of any of them being specifically necessary to tell what little story there is. Then there are the dinosaurs. With the wonder absent, they’re empty special effects. Impressive, yes, yet after three decades (and tons of other movies with spectacular special effects), that no longer means much.
That leaves the action. It mostly consists of the stars (Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum) running, screaming or hiding as dinosaurs sprint, leap or fly after them. As is often the case in big action movies, these scenes aren’t really important to the plot. Generally, the characters need to get from point A to point B and a dinosaur is in their way. The stakes are low, but that has been true for every Jurassic. The difference is some of them have been made by directors capable of generating suspense, even if we can be fairly certain the heroes aren’t going to die.
The first two were made by Spielberg, who tends to be able to make action scenes that are more about the people than they are about the spectacle. The first Jurassic World was helmed by Colin Trevorrow, who did a decent Spielberg impression. After sitting out Fallen Kingdom, Trevorrow returns for Dominion. Maybe it is due to the scope (sometimes it feels more like a globe-trotting spy thriller) or the ridiculous length (at 136 minutes, not including the end credits, it is approximately twenty minutes longer than the previous longest in the franchise), but he loses any control of pacing.
As the characters wander around spouting expository dialogue and fleeing from genetically engineered animals, it all begins to feel the same. There are so many possibilities involving the dinosaurs roaming the countryside or menacing populated cities. Instead, it is the familiar “people try to escape from dinosaurs in an enclosed area” stuff that we have already seen five times. Trevorrow and his cowriter, Emily Carmichael, couldn’t think of anything new to do with the material, so they just do the same thing, over and over again, to very diminished results.
Jurassic World: Dominion is being promoted as the conclusion of this story, though it seems inevitable that the studio will attempt to milk this franchise for as long as possible. Hopefully, whoever is put in charge of the next chapter will have better luck channeling what has made the original so beloved.
1½ out of 5
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Laura Dern as Ellie Sattler
Sam Neill as Alan Grant
Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood
Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm
DeWanda Wise as Kayla Watts
Mamoudou Athie as Ramsay Cole
BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Campbell Scott as Lewis Dodgson
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay by Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow