Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s got dinosaurs, humans, dinosaurs eating humans, and science-fiction exposition delivered by the iconic Mr. DNA. Over its two-hour runtime, Steven Spielberg delighted audiences with a groundbreaking display of what the medium of filmmaking could do in 1993. Flash forward nearly 30 years to the sixth film in the franchise, Jurassic World: Dominion, billed as the culmination of not only the Jurassic World trilogy but the franchise as a whole. But after the disappointing second act, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Dominion struggles to get the franchise back to what made it so great in the first place.
Dinosaurs and humans now live in the same world. Rather than trying to round them all up and contain or destroy them, mankind has decided to just live with them, with a giant biotech corporation creating their own dinosaur reserve in the Italian Dolomites to study them for pharmaceutical applications. As is the recurring thread in the franchise, power and greed make people abandon their common sense. Naturally, BioSyn is just as evil and corrupt as InGen was, led by CEO Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), a character who paid Ned Landry to smuggle DNA from InGen in an empty Barbasol can in the first film.
Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) have settled into a cozy cabin in the sierra mountains where they look after the human clone Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) and Owen’s raptor Blue, who is now a mother. When Maisie and Blue’s baby Beta are abducted and smuggled to Italy, Owen and Claire go on a daring mission to rescue them through the worldwide dinosaur black market. They team up with pilot-for-hire Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) to help rescue the trafficked girl and dinosaur.
The big appeal of Colin Trevorrow’s third run through the world of humans tinkering with dino DNA is the return of the original film’s three principal characters – Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). One of the film’s biggest problems is that they’re essentially in a different movie for the first two acts. While they’re given a lot of screen time, they’re definitely the B storyline here, with bugs (not dinosaurs) bringing them together. The prehistoric locust subplot is barely explained, seemingly an attempt to comment on corporations like Monsanto who genetically modify plants to be less susceptible to pests, but that was lost in the editing process. The younger actors get to face off against dinosaurs for the majority of the film, while the legacy characters only get time with the big chompers when the younger generation are there to pull them up objects that always seem to put them at the perfect height for the biggest dinosaur to meet them at eye-level.
One thing Jurassic World: Dominion does well is tell a mainstream story about the delicate balance of nature. There’s talk of apex predators in the film and it showcases how man’s attempts to intervene can cause more harm than good to an ecosystem. The film tries hard to not be preachy, but bookended news footage drives the message home. Without saying it, the film reminds us that humans are the biggest invasive species on the planet, even when dinosaurs are brought back into the mix.
Pacing is pretty bad, with lots of slow sequences full of dialogue that should’ve been punched up. There are lots of groan-worthy callbacks to the original film that serve as a reminder of how far this amber apple has fallen from the Jurassic Park tree. Rather than trying to create its own iconic lines like “Hold on to your butts” or “We have a T-Rex,” they just pay homage to them or tweak them to fit these characters. “Hold on to your butts” becomes “Hold on to somebody,” delivered by Kayla Watts during a turbulent takeoff sequence.
Action sequences are generally pretty fun, with a new motorcycle chase sequence with raptors through the streets of Malta as the highlight of the film. You’ve got to have new dinosaurs and BioSyn has brought a few new ones back to life in a world overflowing with them. Leaning into more recent archeological discoveries, the feathered Therizinosaurus serves as a more accurate representation of what dinosaurs looked like. There’s got to be bigger ones and the Gigantosaurus was naturally larger than the T-Rex, so it’s back to predictably face off against the most popular of prehistoric creatures.
Highest of praises are awarded to the special effects department. Animatronics and puppets lovingly honor the legacy of the original film and help ground the computer-generated elements. With three decades of technological advancements since the original film, the CG is stunning and flawless. You won’t find any uncanny valley moments to pull you out of these sequences.
Jurassic World: Dominion is better than Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but far from the worthwhile culmination of a franchise 65 million years in the making. The film, sadly, doesn’t have as much fun with the dinosaurs + humans formula as it should. If that’s what you want, you’re better served by enjoying Jurassic Park and the first Jurassic World again. Still, a film like this on a big screen with surround sound and popcorn is hard to resist at the start of a summer movie season that promises lots of blockbusters.
I give Jurassic World: Dominion 2.5 out of 5 spitting Dilophosauruses.
Jurassic World: Dominion opens Friday, June 10th only in theaters from Universal Studios.