Director: Colin Trevorrow
Notable Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, Omar Sy
One should always carry a suspended sense of disbelief when going into a Jurassic Park film (or in the case of the latest ones, Jurassic World.) Even the original, which remains a bonafide grade-A slab of cinematic brilliance in the realm of blockbusters, requires its audience to not question its many coincidences or shortcuts to set up its premise. Still, the latest entry into the series, the sixth one overall, is a film that requires its audience to fully lose consciousness to even attempt at following along with its bloated story.
Jurassic World Dominion is a spectacle through and through, although certainly not in the way that the ending of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom promised. Crowds are apt to respond to director Colin Trevorrow’s occasional visual wonder, cheap heroic one-liners, and ham-fisted nods to the original run of Jurassic Park movies, but all of those are at the expense of any kind of narrative weight. If anything, Jurassic World Dominion proves to be the most perplexing film of the franchise in how poorly everything is constructed despite the fact that it should have been the easiest film to deliver on all levels.
Granted, the Jurassic Park franchise has always had its ups and downs. Each film varies in its milage for its audience and I tend to vouch for aspects of the series that have regularly inspired vitriol (including the one-two punch of 70s disaster film and 80s gothic horror that comprise the two films smashed together in Fallen Kingdom). With Dominion though, the series hits a spectacular miss.
The premise was established at the end of the last film. Mild spoilers for the next paragraph, so be warned. Dinosaurs now roam the Earth freely and humanity is going to have to figure out how to handle it. With an opening that recaps all of the cool visuals from the trailers as a series of YouTube-style clips (?), the series starts off in an interesting way. The black market for dinosaurs has exploded. It’s up to Owen (Pratt), Claire (Howard), and their new “daughter” Maisie (Sermon) to help out our dinos from poachers, assholes, and illegal breeders. This is a decent way to dig into this new world, even if it seems very apparent that Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard seem pretty uninterested in this series anymore and most fans will have ejected the clone girl plotting from their brains since the last film.
Of course, just as Dominion seems to embrace its identity as it doubles down on animal rights film, it immediately slams on the breaks, twists the steering wheel, and jack-knifes the entire film into its other main plot - where Ellie Sattler (Dern), Alan Grant (Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) are trying to solve a giant locust crisis plaguing the Midwest by investing the Not-Ingen bioengineering company that has created a dinosaur sanctuary in Italy (the country with the obvious climate for dinosaurs in its snowcapped mountains I guess.)
The two plots intertwine based on the big bad company - take a wild guess who that could be! - and by its final acts, the film has abandoned both for getting all of its ensemble into a Jurassic Park-lite area where, you guessed it, our heroes have to survive dinosaur attacks and escape. With two plots going on, one would hope that Dominion might have something new up its sleeves for its finale, but alas, the fans might riot if the blueprint changed (a probable course correction from the choices made in Fallen Kingdom and the fan backlash.)
The problem with Dominion, as many might have guessed already, is the over-bloated plotting and the plethora of characters that the film - even at its butt-numbing 147 minutes - cannot juggle. Subplots, new characters, and even more interesting ideas are completely abandoned, diced, or jammed in poorly for the sake of trying to keep the momentum of all of its characters and plot moving.
It’s enough that none of the characters, outside of Maisie perhaps, get any real character arcs. The raptor Blue, which remains the only character from the Jurassic World portion of this series with the best character arc, is sidelined after the first act as her baby, named Beta, is stolen by poachers. It’s a travesty. The original legacy characters are all sadly stuffed into their plots as hollow representations of the layered “people” they used to be and not a single one of the actors in this film looks like they give a shit if any of it works. When the two groups - World and Park - meet, it’s awkward and one can actually see Sam Neill struggle to fake interest when he looks at Pratt’s character and says “You’re the guy that trains raptors, right?”
Ultimately though, as Jurassic World Dominion dominates the box office and scored a perplexingly high A- CinemaScore, who gives a shit about plotting? Characters? We the people of the world have spoken. The only characters we want to see are the ones eaten by dinosaurs. That’s a fair point. I’m a Godzilla fan. I know that feeling deep in my bones.
This, of course, leads to the next issue with Jurassic Park Dominion. The spectacle and action. At times, yes, Trevorrow is able to nail it. The tension of Claire slipping into the water away from a feathered and long-clawed dinosaur is palpable. A giant winged dinosaur rips apart a plane in mid-air. That shits cool. This is what I signed up for when I vouched for Fallen Kingdom. Yet, all of it is so horrifically disconnected from any sense of weight. It’s apparent from minute one that this film has no intention of killing off any of its characters, so the tension rings hollow.
The spectacle is wildly hit or miss too. The big action set piece in Malta, featuring a raptor chase through the streets and two battling massive carnivores is so spastically edited and shot that Paul Greengrass might be inspired to make a new Bourne film after seeing it. The film then tries to add in a new big bad dinosaur, Giganotosaurus, to be a rival to the T-Rex which is added really late and gets a final big dinosaur fight that earns no emotional resonance like the last two films. It’s astounding that the same director that gave us such a fantastic finale in Jurassic World would miss the boat so boldly that this is what we ended up with here.
To its benefit, Jurassic World Dominion does have a handful of scenes that work and a few key emotional moments that pop, but in a film that features roughly one hundred characters, fifty-five plots, and one billion scenes, it’s not a great ratio between good and ‘what the hell is going on now?’ To add insult to injury, some of the great sequences used for promotion (a T-Rex at a drive-in theater or a camping trip ruined by dinos) are nowhere to be found. Further, teasing the promise of seeing regular people interact with awesome dinosaurs and never scratching that itch.
Yes, many Jurassic Park and Jurassic World fans will enjoy what Dominion has to offer in terms of spectacle and entertainment, but for a franchise that has regularly delivered some of the best summer blockbusters, even when bad, this latest entry is one of its worst - if not the worst. The writing is poor, the story is convoluted, and the spectacle lacks the emotional core and execution to make us all forget its other flaws. Universal may have spared no expense, but maybe they could have spared a moment or two to add some depth.