JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION Delivers More of the Same, Just Slightly Different

Colin Trevorrow returns to the blockbuster series that turned him into an A-list director.

Not exactly the meeting of old friends we were expecting.

As we’ve learned time and time again, intellectual property is forever. A series or franchise might end with a literal whimper, but studio executives learned long ago that time was most certainly on their side. Wait ten years, wait fifteen years and audiences, forgetting what they didn’t like and only remembering what they did, will be ready for a franchise to be reborn. It doesn’t always work, of course, but it did with Jurassic World in 2015, resurrecting a seemingly dead franchise and giving Universal a billion-dollar money maker. A sequel was greenlit before the doors closed on multiplexes the first weekend Jurassic World was open. And in a surprise to exactly no one, the sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, did more than well enough to justify Jurassic World: Dominion, a promised “end” to the entire series. Audiences, of course, know better.

The final minutes of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom promised moviegoers something only tantalizingly teased the moment the original Jurassic Park hit multiplexes back in 1993: Genetically engineered dinosaurs escaping from their sanctuary and wreaking all kinds of havoc on unsuspecting (and suspecting) humans, overturning the world order and relegating humanity to endangered species status—or at least no longer the unquestioned rulers of the planet we call home. Jurassic World Dominion, however, all but turns away from the promise inherent in the premise, instead substituting one of the most ill-conceived, poorly executed ideas in the entire six-film series: genetically engineered locusts created by the obligatory evil corporation, BioSyn, as part of a predictably rapacious scheme to force farmers around the world to rely on BioSyn-created grain (immune to the locusts, of course). It’s enough to make even the most diehard of Jurassic Park/World fans to wonder how and why such an incredibly weak idea made it past Universal’s executive board.

Also not exactly the meeting of old friends we were expecting.

Making the dinosaurs—the primary reason for the existence of the series—into secondary or background characters is bad enough, but relegating them to another derivative, cliché-ridden story is almost just as bad. While the dinosaur population has spread throughout North America, they don’t seem to post an imminent threat of any kind. They’re more of a nuisance than anything else, a problem to be either ignored (shades of living through a global pandemic) or handled with the least intrusive means available. In this case, that means letting dinosaurs roam unpopulated areas and capturing the more dangerous ones and transporting them to a climate-controlled sanctuary in Italy, the Dolomites.

Not coincidentally, the governments of the world have ceded all control to BioSyn and their gray-haired, sweater-wearing CEO, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Equal parts Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and every billionaire villain ever put on film, Dodgson has a dream to wrest control over Mother Nature (grain, locusts, dinos) and become the de facto most powerful man alive. Only a combination of new and legacy characters can stop Dodgson from enacting his evil plan for world domination, including Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), the nominal hero of the two earlier entries and a raptor trainer turned dino-lover of sorts; Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), a Jurassic World senior executive who becomes a dino-lover and dino conservationist; Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), their adopted daughter and the world’s first ever human clone; and the first trilogy’s central trio, paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist and Grant’s one true love Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and chaos mathematician and living god in black Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum).

The plot, such as it is, doesn’t connect the new and legacy characters until well into the second hour of the two-and-a-half hour film. Instead, audiences get two wobbly plot lines for the price of one. For Owen and Claire, it’s locating and rescuing a kidnapped Maisie and Beta, the daughter of Owen’s favorite raptor, Blue. With Maisie and Beta gone, Owen and Claire slip into action hero mode, following hints and clues to an underground dino bazaar on Malta (cue frenzied, frantic, ultimately semi-meaningful chase sequence). For Alan and Ellie, it’s taking a direct flight to BioSyn’s dino sanctuary in Italy, where they find Ian already waiting for them, and clumsily attempting a stealth mission involving locust DNA without Dodgson noticing. Spoiler: He eventually does, sending our legacy trio into escape mode.

While the two plot lines eventually merge, every obstacle, every setback seems artificially created to delay the inevitable meet-up between new and legacy characters. The super-secure sanctuary, of course, proves to be far less secure than Dodgson or his freshly scrubbed minions in matching polos and advanced degrees would have everyone believe. Before long, the dinos make their presence known and the legacy and new characters are running and stumbling for their lives. The threat, though, never really extends beyond the sanctuary, leaving the real-world stakes in suspended animation until audiences get their obligatory dino-on-dino action. In the end, Jurassic World Dominion doesn’t feel like a fitting end to the series as much as it does another open-ended entry, less of a promise and more of a threat that moviegoers will only have themselves to blame if another trilogy gets greenlit in the future.

Jurassic World Dominion opens theatrically in North America on Friday, June 10th.

Previous post Criterion Review: THE FUNERAL
Next post THE BATMAN on 4K UHD Showcases the Details in the Darkness