REVIEW – ‘Jurassic World: Dominion” is the most disappointing film of the season

Witnessing Jurassic Park in 1993 was a life-changing moment. It was the blockbuster to end all blockbusters and my eyes practically burst out of my skull at the sight of what Steven Spielberg had cooked up. For the last 29 years, Universal Pictures has frantically attempted to recapture that lightning-in-a-bottle moment with a series of sequels that have never come close to the magic of the original.

While the two recent Jurassic World films both performed staggeringly well at the box office, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who loves those films as much as the one that started it all. When all else has essentially failed, it’s time to head down the “legacy sequel” path. With Jurassic World: Dominion, this franchise attempts to bring back all those nostalgic feels with the inclusion of the three original cast members. It’s a shameless ploy that does little more than remind us how truly masterful that first film was.

Dreadfully repetitive, overly long, and shockingly boring, Jurassic World: Dominion is possibly the most disappointing film of the season. It completely wastes a potentially great premise and instead merely offers up more of the same old schtick. There’s naturally warm nostalgia to be found here and easter eggs and franchise references a plenty, but this threequel closes out the trilogy in the blandest and most generic of ways.

Set four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we find ourselves in a world where dinosaurs now seemingly roam freely across the globe, causing all sorts of chaos and carnage. While humanity is struggling to find a way to co-exist with prehistoric creatures in their backyard, a new breed of mutant locusts with cretaceous DNA has emerged that could spell disaster for the world’s grain supply.

After a tip-off from her old pal Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), eco-warrior Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) suspects Biosyn Genetics and its nefarious CEO Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) may be behind the release of these pesky insects, either inadvertently or deliberately. Desperate to find proof of Biosyn’s suspicious actions, Ellie accepts an invite to tour their facilities at a dinosaur research sanctuary in Italy’s Dolomites and recruits her former mentor Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) along for the ride.

Meanwhile, former Jurassic World employees Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) have gone into hiding to protect their adopted teenage daughter Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), who was discovered to be a clone at the end of the last film. When Dodgson sends a group of goons to kidnap Maisie so he can study her DNA, Owen and Claire set off on a rescue mission that will ultimately see them unite with the original Jurassic Park trio.

At the conclusion of the previous chapter, it appeared the third (and apparently final) film in this saga would finally explore the promising premise of humans and dinosaurs living together in the real world. It’s something this franchise has flirted with but never fully embraced. The opening prologue of Jurassic World: Dominion features¬†amateur footage of dinosaurs wreaking havoc across the globe (including a rather breathtaking shot of a pair of pterodactyls making a nest atop a famous Manhattan building), suggesting this is the narrative co-writer/director Colin Trevorrow will be exploring. Sadly, that’s not the case.

While Trevorrow’s first act certainly taps into fascinating ideas like illegal dinosaur farming and black market prehistoric pet dealers, he quickly abandons this favourable concept to concentrate on a farcical storyline centred on genetically modified locusts and the maniacal scientist who has unleashed them on the planet. Often, it genuinely feels like this threequel is more about these monstrous bugs than it is on dinosaurs. It’s a bizarre choice for a MacGuffin and one that rears its head so many times that it becomes genuinely grating.

With literally a whole world to play with, it’s tremendously frustrating this film ultimately just ends up being another “a bunch of people are stuck in a facility with a bunch of dinosaurs” narrative. You can call the Biosyn setting a “sanctuary” all you like, but it’s just another name for a park. We’re going back to a park. A Jurassic park. For all its many faults, at least Fallen Kingdom tried earnestly to move away from this tired and well-worn scenario. This threequel mostly just rehashes elements we’ve now seen five times already.

Early in the film, there’s an exhilarating chase scene where Owen and Claire are hunted by a gang of raptors through the streets of Malta. It’s genuinely thrilling and brilliantly crafted, but the action sequences that follow just fall back on the same familiar tropes of the previous films. Someone is trapped in a claustrophobic space with one or several menacing dinosaurs. A group of characters get caught between two creatures in a battle for who gets to eat them. Lots of screaming. Lots of running. Lather, rinse, repeat. At this point in this franchise, it’s all just rather tedious.

Naturally, Jurassic World: Dominion has one ace up its sleeve that its two predecessors did not; the return of the original Jurassic Park gang. It’s something fans have been dying to see for almost three decades. It’s wonderful to see Dern, Neill, and Goldblum together again. It’s shameless nostalgia cinema, but it works. Their chemistry is as strong as ever and their narrative arc is far more interesting and engaging than the dull story threads Pratt, Howard, and Sermon are dealt with. However, the much-publicised fusion of cast members from two different trilogies feels somewhat forced and unnatural. The best moments occur when the different generations are separate rather than together.

As for the new additions to the cast, Scott makes for a laughable villain who often feels like he’s from another movie entirely. He’s a moustache-twirling bad guy without the moustache. His dialogue is painfully trite and his villainous motivations don’t make a whole lot of sense. DeWanda Wise injects some life and energy into proceedings as a ballsy pilot, but her character is as paper-thin as they come. An underused Mamoudou Athie brings his usual quiet gravitas to a completely thankless role that exists for expositionary purposes only.

And then there are the dinosaurs themselves. With so many ridiculous narrative threads flying around everywhere, these prehistoric creatures almost feel like an afterthought. But the energy of your cinema will elevate when they finally appear. Trevorrow creates a dinosaur cast of old favourites and new beasts right out of a paleontology textbook. There are no super-enhanced, genetically-spliced creatures here. And the film is better for it. The visual effects work is expectedly marvellous, even if it feels like we’re waiting an eternity to truly see what these dinosaurs are really capable of, particularly the dazzling climactic battle between the T-Rex and the Giganotosaurus.

There’s plenty of spectacle here, but very little substance. Maybe that’s entirely what people expect from this franchise now, but it all feels very derivative and tiresome. This should have been the glorious culmination of five films and 30 years. This is a franchise that began with a mighty roar but now ends with the faintest whimper. Trevorrow spends a running time of close to two-and-a-half hours repeating the same monotonous fluff over and over again to the point of pure frustration. This beast is now well and truly extinct. Please let its bones rest in peace.

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Omar Sy
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Producers: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley
Screenplay: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow
Cinematography: John Schwartzman
Production Design: Kevin Jenkins
Music: Michael Giacchino
Editor: Mark Sanger
Running Time: 146 minutes
Release Date: 9th June 2022 (Australia)