Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
The epic conclusion of the Jurassic era.
Jurassic World Dominion feels like it’s been an adventure 65 million years in the making, due to the stop-start/ yo-yoing of production during the COVID-19 pandemic — it’s hard to believe it’s been four years since the last Jurassic film. Finally unleashed into the world, Dominion is the sixth Jurassic entry, (presumably) concluding Universal’s Jurassic World trilogy and the Jurassic series overall, which ignited back in 1993 when director Steven Spielberg awed moviegoers, introducing audinces to the magic of CGI — and what appeared to be living, breathing dinosaurs. Of course, trying to cash in on nostalgia, filmmakers wrap the six-film saga by melding Jurassic World characters with the legacy cast of the original series, uniting Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing with world-renowned paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).
Although the dino-action in Dominion is a roaring fun time, returning director Colin Trevorrow (having helmed 2015’s Jurassic World), who wrote the screenplay with Emily Carmichael, sticks to the series’ well-worn formula of prehistoric nasties stalking human prey in a remote location rather than commenting on, or exploring how unleashing dinosaurs into our ecosystem would change the landscape, humans now having to co-exist with the ancient behemoths. In the film’s opening, a scene shows Alan Grant digging up dino bones in a world now populated by actual dinosaurs — Why? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s because that’s what was cool about the character back in the day. Dominion is that kind of film.
Set four years after the events on Isla Nublar, which led to the dinosaurs being set loose into the contemporary world, the movie opens with a pretty great montage that shows how the prehistoric monsters have been co-existing alongside humankind, with dinos becoming a black-market trade of sorts — there are even illegal dinosaur cage fights happening behind closed doors. Note: that fantastic ‘prologue’ that Universal released online to tease the film, which takes place at a drive-in theater, doesn’t appear in the actual movie.
The story revolves around two ‘teams.’ The first is Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern), who discovers that a new breed of giant locusts with prehistoric DNA is spreading across the country rapidly, devouring crops at an alarming rate, which could lead to a worldwide famine. She figures out that the insects aren’t eating any crops engineered by a powerful biotech company known as Biosyn, which is also securing dinosaurs at a sanctuary on their complex in the Dolomite Mountains, Italy, to study them safely. When Sattler gets wind of Biosyn’s scheme, she decides to sneak into their headquarters to get proof, turning to Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to back her up. Once at Biosyn H.Q., the pair runs into their old mathematician pal Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who works there as an in-house philosopher and conveniently has access to the corporation’s top-secret labs.
The second ‘group’ consists of Owen (Chris Pratt), who’s still a bit of a ‘cowboy’ and is living off-the-grid in the woods with his girlfriend Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and their ‘adopted’ child, Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) — remember that genetic clone of Sir Benjamin Lockwood’s dead daughter we met in 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom? They’re trying to keep the kid safe from the outside world, seeing as Owen and Claire are afraid that she’ll be taken away and experimented on if she’s found. Alas, Maisie is eventually kidnapped by poachers, along with velociraptor Blue’s baby, Beta, causing Owen and Claire to go on a mission to rescue and retrieve them. Unsurprisingly, it leads them all to Biosyn’s dino-filled research facility in the Dolomites, where the OG crew meets the new, and everything that can go wrong does because … well, this is a Jurassic film, after all.
Dominion at least knows what audiences are paying to see because the action set pieces are relatively good. There’s a big velociraptor chase sequence in the streets of Malta that’s worth mentioning and a nail-biting scene where Claire comes face-to-face with a terrifying long-clawed Therizinosaurus, our heroine having to hide from the reaping lizard in a nearby pond. We also get a solid suspense scene set on a frozen lake of ice, where an armed Owen and Biosyn contract pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) must fend off a hungry Pyroraptor (who can apparently swim, contrary to what history and science suggest).
The film, however, sticks too closely to formula, focusing on a generic power-hungry tech/ business tycoon storyline whilst failing to explore the dino’s re-emergence and integration into modern society. The movie is more fixated on recycled ideas, with filmmakers dropping visual and musical throwbacks to remind us of the glory days — if you stop and think about it, the prehistoric lizards are basically window dressing for a fairly lackluster ‘been there done that’ narrative. Even the climax is a blatant rehash from Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, which is a smidge disappointing. Technically, though, the film looks great, chiefly the cinematography by John Schwartzman, Armageddon (1998). The VFX (albeit inconsistent) are also excellent for the most part; it’s nice to see both practical and CGI effects used on the dinosaurs, even if their integration isn’t as seamless as one would expect.
While it’s fun seeing the original JP cast back together again on-screen (Jeff Goldblum is the clear MVP here), they have very little purpose in the narrative and are sidelined for a bulk of the adventure. Contemporary hero Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), does his usual Gung ho shtick as Owen Grady — I still think his whole raptor wrangler thing is a bit silly — while Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help (2011), has very little to do as dinosaur activist Claire Dearing. Campbell Scott, Big Night (1996), is a bit goofy as the film’s chief villain, dodgy Biosyn CEO Lewis Dodgson (the guy who tasked Dennis Nedry to steal dinosaur embryos in a Barbasol can from Jurassic Park back in ’93, connecting the two-film series together). Other newcomers, such as Mamoudou Athie, The Circle (2017), who plays Ramsay Cole, the head of communications at Biosyn, fail to make their mark. Only Dichen Lachman, Altered Carbon (2018 – 2020), leaves an impression as the tough, power-hungry Soyona Santos (I wish she had more to do because she was great!). And BD Wong also shows up as geneticist Dr. Henry Wu because … of course, he does.
In the end, Jurassic World Dominion doesn’t trek too far off the beaten path, delivering about two and a half hours of all-too-familiar risk-averse filmmaking. It’s not entirely a bad thing, but given Dominion is supposed to close the entire Jurassic saga, I was hoping for something a little grander and, well, memorable. Although I’ve never read the Michael Crichton book on which these films are based, Dominion doesn’t do anything overly different, with Trevorrow and his team delivering the same cautionary tale about the dangers of genetic engineering without delving into the film’s high concept premise or even looking at what’s changed over the past thirty-odd years.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Dan Cachia (Mr. Movie)