The Action-Packed Finale of the Jurassic World Trilogy, “Jurassic World Dominion,” Is Mostly a Tedious Gimmick
(From left) Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) in JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.
A strong-willed teen enters her mountain home in a huff, avoiding eye-contact with her over-protective mother. When the tough and rugged family patriarch returns home from a full day of horseback riding and animal herding, he greets his wife with a smooch as she tells him that he needs to talk with his daughter about her recklessness. Later, the family gathers around a campfire for dinner, comfy and cozy in their boots and flannel shirts. It’s not the beginning of a made-for-TV movie about a horse ranch – it’s the beginning of the latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise: Jurassic World Dominion. Luckily, the movie gets a little better along the way, and it hits its stride during the action sequences. The wholesome, home-on-the-range dialogue gives way to suspenseful fights and chases, and the lead characters step aside to make room for the original Jurassic Park trio: Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Oh, and of course, Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) is involved, as per usual. But even with the return of these familiar faces, it’s clear that Dominion is a different beast than its predecessors. In a frantic attempt to please fans and bring closure to the Jurassic World trilogy, the creative team behind Dominion threw a bunch of self-referential jokes and half-hearted Spielberg nostalgia into the screenplay and hoped for the best.
The “family” in question is former Jurassic World operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), velociraptor trainer and former Navy SEAL Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), and scientific miracle-child Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). These three characters aren’t actually related — but, at some point between the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) and Dominion, the trio developed a strange and seemingly unhealthy family dynamic (a plot device that was thrown in to add a few heartwarming themes to the script). Claire and Owen have teamed up to protect Maisie from the sinister, power-hungry people from around the world who want to study her and use the secrets of her genetic makeup to achieve world domination. Meanwhile, Claire and Owen are also working hard to protect the dinosaurs of Jurassic World from illegal breeders and underground traders. Little do they know that the biggest threat to the dinosaurs isn’t the underground criminal world, but a biotech company that claims to provide a safe haven for the creatures.
Considering the disappointments of Fallen Kingdom, it’s safe to say that audiences don’t have high expectations for Dominion. Much like its predecessors, Dominion can’t overcome the fact that it is not, and cannot be, the original Jurassic Park (1993). While the original film created endless opportunities for sequels and spin-off stories about dinosaur cloning and breeding, that doesn’t mean that those sequels are necessary. Jurassic Park may have had all the makings of a franchise-starter, but it’s also one of the most significant films of all time. Try as filmmakers might, no Jurassic Park sequel will ever be good enough. Dominion’s attempts to be good enough are mildly entertaining at best and cringeworthy at worst.
First, the cringeworthy: As mentioned above, the opening scenes of Dominion suffocate under the weight of heavy-handed themes about Claire, Owen, and Maisie’s makeshift family. These themes mellow out once the other characters and plot elements are introduced, but they certainly don’t set the movie up for success. There’s also the issue of the absurd plot. Granted, it’s a movie about scientists creating dinosaurs in a lab, so of course the whole concept of Jurassic Park is a little ridiculous. But audiences in 1993 didn’t care about the improbability of the plot. They were too distracted by the novelty of on-screen dinosaurs. Without that novelty to wow audiences in 2022, the writers went all out with absurd sci-fi plot-twists. If you’ve seen Fallen Kingdom, you know that the franchise was already starting to take the sci-fi elements a bit too far, branching out beyond what’s believable even for the fictional world of Jurassic Park. This problem only gets worse in Dominion.
Dominion is also full of self-referential jokes that quickly become tedious. Some are worthy of a chuckle, while others are only worthy of an eyeroll. Of course, with the return of the original cast members, a few self-referential jokes are to be expected. The script is also packed with fish-out-of-water jokes that make fun of the original crew as they try to figure out the modern world. However, there’s nothing clever or original about Dr. Sattler saying that Dr. Malcolm “slid into her DMs” — a painfully forced joke that absolutely kills the moment. The self-aware humor breaks the fourth wall in a disenchanting way and takes the beloved characters out of the charming cinematic world where they’ve existed so happily for almost 30 years. On the one hand, it’s great to see the gang back together again. But on the other hand, it’s not really Sattler, Malcolm, and Grant. It’s Dern, Goldblum, and Neill. The three original actors aren’t really acting so much as they’re just being themselves – which is fun to watch, for sure, but it’s a gimmick. Call me a cinema snob, but the cheap jokes in Dominion lack the charm, adventurousness, and wonder that made the 1993 Jurassic Park so special.
Now, for the entertaining parts of the movie: If there’s one thing that Dominion is good at, it’s action. The chase sequences and suspenseful moments are what make the movie enjoyable. Even though the dialogue might make you want to bang your head against a wall, you can’t help but care about the characters, and you want to find out if and how they’ll survive each situation. While much of the action takes place in settings that reflect the original park, there’s an extended chase sequence in a black-market dinosaur trading hub that looks like something from Star Wars, which adds a different tone and flavor to the movie. While the action sequences and cameos will keep audiences interested in the story, Jurassic World Dominion is the kind of movie you’ll watch once and soon forget.
For more information, head over to the Jurassic World Dominion website.
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