Remember that horrific world the franchise keeps promising where dinosaurs rampage everywhere and human civilization is on the brink of extinction? This still isn’t that.
Set four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it seems that genetically resurrected dinosaurs are still a black market resource and not an obvious threat for world dominance. Owen (Chris Pratt) stills wrangles dinos to move them to wildlife preserves while Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) knocks over illegal breeding farms, but they work together to keep Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) out of the hands of cloning scientists. At the same time, a plague of giant locusts and their unique feeding habits gains the attention of Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), enlisting former colleague Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) at the invitation of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). BioSyn Valley’s park-like Shangri-La preserve is the headquarters of its founder Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), but that doesn’t really matter since these two plots will conveniently merge there just in time for dinosaurs to start eating everyone and destroying everything like they have five times before.
Jurassic World rebooted the old Jurassic Park franchise in an interesting way using new film technology to show things audiences hadn’t seen before, but the Fallen Kingdom sequel pulled the rug out by reducing dinosaurs to essentially zombie hordes on “The Walking Dead,” conveniently kept around for the moment characters drop their guard so the chomping can start again (read: it’s not about the dinosaurs anymore). The Maisie Lockwood reveal of Fallen Kingdom using dinosaur DNA cloning research as a sneaky way to ethically develop human cloning has its story merits, but splitting the concept in the same film didn’t serve either well, especially since fans showed up to see stupid humans getting eaten by gigantic predators. Reportedly the last film of the franchise (for now), the old JP crew has gotten pulled back in for one final dino throw-down, but can filmmakers teach an old dinosaur franchise new tricks?
Dominion is a retread of all that has gone before, choosing the path of least resistance every single time. While the effects are still the best money can buy — spared no expense — the finished cut offers nothing new, and it feels quite deliberate (read: safe). Fortunately, the combined casting and huge ensemble distract from the lackluster storytelling, shipping characters where it can and offering fan service in place of originality; Malcom, Grant, and Sattler all effortlessly doing their Jurassic thing again feels like no time has passed. This camaraderie bleeds over into giving Isabella Sermon’s Maisie some actual personality as well as integrating DeWanda Wise’s pilot Kayla into the group as instantly likeable, but both obscure the fact the central plot remains status quo. BioSyn’s research compound and surrounding preserve is just the latest Jurassic Park, working in all the oldies but goldies until the anointed survivors escape, forsaking every opportunity to go full-on world-ending carnage or daring to venture into James Gurney’s Dinotopia.
On a side note, did someone in the production have it out for Apple? Evil CEO Lewis Dodgson looks like a Tim Cook clone (down to the mannerisms and vocal tics) while the BioSyn Valley’s main facility look eerily like the new Apple Park campus; even Don’t Look Up avoided presenting Mark Rylance’s Peter Isherwell as a dead ringer, but Rylance was also more fun and far more frightening than the easily frustrated Dodgson (See? Nobody cares). There’s a hinted subtext in this villain with regards to neurodiversity — autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder — as if such individuals can more easily set aside things like morality when unleashing special projects. While other films abuse neurodivergent characters as some new form of magic or evolution — here’s looking at you, The Predator — you can almost hear the rabble about Dodgson from Young Frankenstein: “All those scientists; they’re all alike! They say they’re working for us, but what they really want is to rule the world!” Speaking of which, B.D. Wong’s recurring Dr. Henry Wu gets a bit of a redemption arc, but “Mr. Robot” fans know one should always question the motives of Whiterose.
Dominion isn’t Top Gun: Maverick — this summer blockbuster season’s current benchmark — nor is it a proper legacy sequel like Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It’s one last hurrah and another dip into the same box office trying to lure older moviegoers to join the younger ones to pad the bottom line, so it can be enjoyed for exactly what it is. Maybe in another decade or so, someone can combine a few properties to make Jurassic Westworld: Redhead Redemption; it certainly hasn’t been tried.
Jurassic World Dominion is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, some violence, language, and two buttons on Ian Malcolm’s shirt.
Three skull recommendation out of four