|Synopsis||In a world where prehistoric animals have run rampant, humanity finds itself on the brink of disaster. Several experts investigate the cause and try to find a solution, while another makes a promise to a dinosaur.|
|Length||2 hours, 26 minutes|
|Release Date||June 10, 2022|
|Writing||Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow|
|Starring||Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum|
Roaring to life on the big screen back in 1993, Jurassic Park was an overnight success that eventually evolved into a classic piece of cinema. Great script, great characters, revolutionary CGI and practical effects, with a memorable tale that posed a warning about playing God with untameable nature. The Lost World: Jurassic Park messily contained some of the left-over story elements in Michael Crichton’s book, though it tossed in some action pieces the audience wanted to see, such as a Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping through a city. So began the franchise’s descent away from moral issues and scientific quandaries, instead morphing into the monster horror subgenre.
After Jurassic Park III’s light-weight plot which almost entirely centred on dinosaur carnage, Jurassic World operated as a slight return to form, offering themes reminiscent of the original movie whilst once again doubling-down on delivering audiences what they guiltily wanted—blockbuster quality horror-like dinosaur scenes. In danger of the new trilogy re-treading the same ground as the first, it became clear these films needed to go where the others did not: dinosaurs on the mainland causing havoc (but still possessing a semi-intelligent plot). Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was the mindless middle film that was created purely so the story could reposition itself for the third movie, Jurassic World Dominion, so it could finally explore this seemingly last untouched narrative scenario. Operating as a climax to both trilogies, there’s a lot of pressure on this film as audience’s expectations are high. Does it deliver?
Violence/Scary Images: There are many close calls throughout the film where a character barely survives a dinosaur attack. Some people are eaten by dinosaurs, one of which is pinned by a bitten limb for a while. The film is extremely light on gore and blood, and tends to cut away at the most gruesome points. This movie features a lot more human-on-human violence compared to others in the series, with people shooting at each other, using stun batons, and callously setting up murderous scenarios that would get people slaughtered by dinosaurs. There is a plane crash. Giant locusts are a major plot point and may prove troublesome for viewers that have bug phobias. Dinosaurs and animals kill each other, sometimes for food, and sometimes out of territorial behaviour. One dinosaur is impaled. A major plot point involves the kidnapping of a child.
Language/Crude Humor: The s-word is said, as well as other swears such as a**hole, son of a… and h*ll and d*mn. The middle finger is raised at one point.
Drug/Alcohol References: None. A beer is offered to a character but it is declined in favour of a tea.
Sexual Content: Unmarried heterosexual couples kiss.
Spiritual Content: Some characters hold the view that humanity is no more special than other species.
Other Negative Content: The film features kidnapping and human trafficking, along with extensive time spent in an underground black market which features dinosaur cruelty and exploitation. A smuggler is portrayed in a positive light. The ethics of punishment/aversion based training techniques is seen and questioned. Animal activism at times comes at the cost of the endangerment of human life. Corporate entities threaten the quality of life for humanity.
Positive Content: The film promotes the exposure of corruption, keeping promises, valuing all forms of life, and helping one another. It teaches the dangers of scientific advancements when left unchecked.
The brief for (hopefully) the final film in this franchise may have been too ambitious. It needed to continue the storylines of the Jurassic World trilogy. It also needed to reintroduce the legacy characters of the Jurassic Park trilogy. New dinosaurs had to appear—that’s always a must. Let’s face it; people come to these films for the thrill of seeing dinosaurs hunt down humans. So lots of scary setups are also on the bingo card. However, given the prestige of the original movie, this is not allowed to devolve into a schlocky B-grade horror fest. No. A film in this franchise is also desired to have some semblance of intelligence, or at least a deeper theme regarding man’s folly.
In many ways Jurassic World Dominion ticks off these boxes, yet somehow the final result is still a soulless endeavour, devoid of the fun and thrills that made this franchise worth watching in the first place. It is difficult to pinpoint where exactly this film does go wrong, if there even is a specific moment or whether it’s merely the sum of its mundane parts. Yet there is some enjoyment and satisfaction to be experienced.
It doesn’t help that Jurassic World Dominion bears the scars of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s flaws. There were several things introduced in the previous film that needed to be addressed in this sequel. The story picks up a few years after the last, yet immediately the audience is asked to forcibly suspend their disbelief. Apparently the handful of dinosaurs that managed to escape the mansion a few years ago are still running free in parts of the United States, which is a difficult outcome to swallow in a country where many citizens bear arms, enjoy hunting, and possess one of the best and well-equipped militaries in the world. I realise there are five films detailing the difficulties of getting these creatures back under control and in captivity, but those were always small-scale teams, and the desire for poaching these prehistoric animals is canon in this franchise (although Camp Cretaceous is the one that explores that aspect the most). It just seems hard to believe these dinosaurs were able to breed faster than humanity’s ability to either hunt or reacquire them, especially when some of these species are the size of a literal bus.
What is more believable is the greater accessibility to the DNA technology and the creation of dinosaur black markets and illegal breeding facilities. Thankfully Dominion leans more in this direction. It sheds the ridiculous notion of weaponizing dinosaurs, which only looks cool in an alternative history swords and sandals gladiatorial-type plot Kung Fury style, but makes no sense in a world where drones now exist. Of course, it can’t dump the idea entirely, and while content is light in this area, it’s still executed poorly (seriously, if you have the time to point a laser at someone you wish to kill, then you may as well just point and shoot a gun—why even bother with the dinosaur?).
Then there’s the issue of Maisie. The end of the last film dropped a bombshell regarding the practice of human cloning, though it spent barely a minute exploring this completely different thematic direction. Dominion thankfully addresses the topic and Maisie’s existence is a major part of the plot. The problem is that in Fallen Kingdom, Maisie made the most idiotic decision in a film littered with stupidity. Audiences left the cinema with not a whole lot of love for her, and Maisie doesn’t exactly win viewers over in this latest movie either. She’s once again placed in situations where the outcome of her decisions impact the lives of others on a global scale, except now she’s a teenager and carries an attitude. It also doesn’t help that the film tends to hold a bias towards the side of animal activism, assuming that audiences will agree that preserving dinosaur life is important despite the supposedly catastrophic impact it’s having on civilisation, not taking into account that a number of viewers may have been on the side of letting them die on the volcanic island in the last film.
Yet these are more of the minor nitpicks. The bigger problems are found in three areas: false advertising, a lack of character development, and an uncomfortable change in genre. The most disappointing is the first. Dominion teased audiences with the idea that this film will be different as it will be set in the “real world”. The YouTube-released short films, Battle at Big Rock and The Prologue, both featured scenes where everyday people had terrifying run-ins with prehistoric wildlife. In the trailers for the feature length film, Dominion hinted that audiences will receive more of that content. So it’s sad to report that Dominion barely spends any time exploring this aspect further. It’s mostly a case of telling and showing, where we’re informed that dinosaurs are causing havoc, but there are no decent scenes of this outside of the initial exposition of the movie, and it’s not long till we are once again whisked away to an island with dinosaurs. We’ve seen that movie. Five times. If you want the dinosaur version of Godzilla stomping through a city (that’s longer than a brief shot here and there), you’re not getting it. Go and revisit The Lost World instead.
To be fair, only half of the cast travel early to the island. Dominion feels like two films in one as the Jurassic World characters and the Jurassic Park legacy characters follow completely different plots. It’s great to see Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm together again. It makes sense as to where these characters have ended up in life, although Ian Malcolm’s career trajectory is particularly fitting and amusing as it feels very Jeff Goldblum. Sam Neill is normally a phenomenal actor but he unfortunately seems to have trouble reconnecting with his old role this time around, hamming it up more than the other actors. Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum however slip back into these characters like a comfortable pair of old jeans. This trio explore a narrative that tackles the more scientific themes of the story. Naturally the film can’t help itself and tries to insert numerous nostalgic call backs—a lot of the time it’s corny with only a few moments feeling cathartic for a character’s development.
The Jurassic World crew meanwhile navigate the wider world and the underbelly of the dinosaur trade network. Their story is more action based whilst the genre slips more into spy/espionage territory. This is a fairly new direction for the franchise and as a result part of this movie is absent of that indescribable “Jurassic Park feel”. It’s more reminiscent of a Jason Bourne movie, or even Star Wars as characters enter a dive bar filled with paraphernalia, trying to find a pilot whilst dinosaur puppets squawk from the sidelines.
With essentially two major plots sharing the runtime, there’s too much happening in this film to really sit in the story long enough to appreciate and enjoy. Having six protagonists doesn’t help in that department. None of them really have any internal conflict that needs to be resolved, and the few issues they are struggling with are simmering just at a surface level. This means their worldview isn’t challenged, and how they enter the film is basically how they leave, with all their actions being purely reactionary to the external conflict. Now while some viewers may not care, what this does is make the film merely a sequence of events, and without any character development, it loses the weight of any human connection, effectively making the film a bit of a bore. It doesn’t help that these characters are loaded with plot armour, killing a lot of potential suspense. The person with the greatest character arc is actually Henry Wu, to the point where we may have received a more interesting film if we were allowed to follow him and see the world through his actions and perspective, though it seems we may have to rely on Camp Cretaceous to satisfyingly flesh out his character journey.
Most of the enjoyment in this film comes from upping your level of geekery. They are no longer holding back and they have finally released the big guns: Quetzalcoatlus, Dreadnoughtus, and Giganotosaurus. The giants are finally here! Although it’s the Therizinosaurus that steals the show. Since this film franchise has cemented itself as the dominant source of dinosaur content in pop culture, it does try its best to maintain some sort of accuracy. Gone are the genetic splices and mutants, which is probably the best decision this film makes, not because they were bad—they were fun while they lasted—but rather because that idea has already been explored in the previous two films, with Camp Cretaceous fleshing out what remains from that narrative direction. Dominion marks a return to purity, which finally gives this franchise an excuse to display a vast array of dinosaurs on film in the most accurate manner possible. Basically, we have feathers; their absence has been a long-held criticism from the dinosaur geeks. Awkwardly, due to fan service, some of the older inaccurate representations of some species are still in play, mainly the Velociraptor and Dilophosaurus. However, this can be excused given the story’s internal timeline regarding the different “brands” of dinosaurs.
When it comes to homework and what you need to see before watching this movie, it’s not as intense as some might expect. As a direct follow up to Fallen Kingdom, obviously that one is a must, and most of the returning characters are from Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. Dominion’s plot isn’t that hard to follow as a standalone, although like all sequels, the more you watch, the more you’ll appreciate. Possibly one of the harder aspects to glean from the franchise which might make it worth revisiting as a whole in one big movie marathon is the constant rise and fall of the various corporate entities over the years. While the ever-present business subplot that always runs in the background of these films isn’t hard to understand in this movie, there is a really nice bookend this time around as it’s timed with a return of one particular “big bad”.
Similar to Fallen Kingdom, the script isn’t strong enough to really pull off a compelling villain—it’s too heavy handed to present anything other than a one-dimensional stereotype with no nuance, complexity, or balanced personality. They are evil because they need to be evil in order to service the plot and nothing else, which is a far cry from the wonderful interactions we see in Jurassic Park.
Thankfully the humans aren’t the only villains in this piece, as the Giganotosaurus is established as the other “big bad”, taking over the mantle that was once held by the Spinosaurus and genetic splices. In an interesting circle of narrative poetry, The Prologue establishes that our “good guy” T-Rex’s genetic ancestor once fought and lost to a Giganotosaurus (which may or may not be a clone to the one seen in the modern era), which ferments the idea that there’s some history and beef between these two animals, pumping up audiences for a classic monster showdown. It doesn’t play much into the plot, but it’s a geeky little side story that nonetheless adds another layer of appreciation.
However, Dominion is stuffed full of characters and different ideas that it never takes the time to enjoy the little moments. As soon as someone manages to spot their favourite dinosaur and squee with delight, the scene is done and the movie has moved onto something else. These giants of the dinosaur kingdom are effectively relegated to blink and you miss them moments. It’s partly to do with the change of genre; Dominion spends too much time in the action and spy category that it forgets this franchise has always incorporated the suspense and thriller genre. The interactions with dinosaurs lack tension because the pace never slows down enough to have fun teasing the necessary build up to create that feeling of apprehension.
Dominion has a lot of little problems, but its biggest is that it just doesn’t contain a memorable moment. Elaborate close calls and creative set pieces are mostly absent from this film, which feels wrong considering this is supposed to be the grand finale. Jurassic Park had the iconic T-Rex and jeep sequence and those Velociraptors in the kitchen. The cracking glass saga may have taken up over five minutes of runtime by the time the characters escaped the trailer in The Lost World, but it was certainly worth it! Jurassic Park III is surprisingly strong in this area. Say what you may about its lack of plot, and that cell phone gag may have been goofy, but at least it was memorable. The Spinosaurus and those pterosaurs featured in some of the strongest scenes in the franchise, and even the film’s smaller sequences hold nuggets of gold. For example, in Jurassic Park III there’s a moment during a Velociraptor chase sequence through an abandoned laboratory where the characters find themselves dangerously trapped behind a metal door. It’s those little bits of creative choreography that elevate a scene from being run-of-the-mill to intense… and fun.
Dominion just doesn’t go that extra mile. Every close call feels the same as the last. It tries hard but nothing feels unique or displays creative flair. There’s scene set on thin ice that immediately shows promise, but it’s over too quick and feels predictable. It’s obvious the film is trying to make the Malta chase sequence its iconic moment, yet the choreography does nothing to display the uniqueness of the situation. Running and jumping from rooftop to rooftop is fairly generic action, where the raptors might as well be yet another parkour-loving gunman in every modern spy movie ever. It just needed a few extra moments to explore what makes a dinosaur chase particularly special; a beat of creativity and suspense to allow audiences to appreciate the scene and have it stick in their minds.
I feel like I’ve ragged on this movie heavily, though personally I didn’t find Jurassic World Dominion to be a horrible film. It’s serviceable. It gets the job done. It’s decent but nowhere near amazing. As possibly the last film in the franchise, expectations start off high, but with every missed opportunity or substandard line of dialogue or idea, a touch of enjoyment is whittled away until the movie sinks into mediocrity. The things it does right is outweighed by the irritability of the little bits it does wrong, but at least it’s a film that’s consistent in its experience; it’s not one of those moves where it’s going great only to tank right at the end. Dominion delivers everything it set out to do on paper, and hopefully we can now leave this franchise in the past.
+ A return to purity
+ Good to see legacy characters
+ The giants of the dinosaur kingdom make an appearance
+ Some cathartic moments
+ Smooths over the issues left by Fallen Kingdom
- Too many plot armoured protagonists
- No inner conflict or real character development
- No standout scene
- Bland action and plot
- No suspense
- Back on an island
The Bottom Line
Jurassic World Dominion offers a tolerable conclusion to the franchise thus far, even though its flaws ultimately outweigh its more enjoyable moments.