I wasn’t expecting much from Jurassic World Dominion: I had very little nice to say about the previous Jurassic World movies or for that matter the other two sequels made from Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. So why did I go to see it? I dunno, I guess I’m just obsessed with being on time with the discourse these days. So my expectations for this were about as low as possible and yet still this somehow managed to be even worse than I expected, easily a series low. The last film ended with our “heroes” psychotically unleashing these genetically altered prehistoric monsters on the world, making them indirectly responsible for untold numbers of deaths. Somehow we’re still supposed to like them now because the Chris Pratt character has some deranged bond with a raptor and because the Bryce Dallas Howard character… actually I’m not sure why you’re supposed to care about her. Anyway there may have been an interesting way to address the new post-Dinosaur status quo of this world, but this film mostly just willfully ignores a lot of the challenges of such a situation and just kind of hopes you don’t question things like how large and presumably cold blooded reptiles are going to survive in cold climates (and no, the films don’t get conveniently pretend these things were actually warm blooded birds the whole time now, they chose to make them reptiles and they have to stick to that). The world of the film seems oddly disinterested in wiping out this invasive species and instead suggests large portions of the population would view these things through the preservationist eye one would apply to native species… which they aren’t.
Perhaps knowing that no one gives a damn about the Pratt and Dallas Howard characters the film also brings back the cast of the original Jurassic Park, but truth be told those characters were always somewhat thin archetypes and whatever depth they ever had has been stripped from them here. Ian Malcolm’s pseudo-philosophical points of view have basically gone in whatever direction the series has needed them to go throughout this series and this film doesn’t even try to put smart things in his mouth and just kind of assumes Goldblumian snark will suffice. As for Alan Grant, the film basically ignores his character arc from the first film (in which he grew to become fond of children and domesticity over the course of his adventure), and is made to be a childless bachelor basically identical to his previous self all these years later. And Ellie Sattler, while still smart and feisty, still lacks a terribly strong personality beyond that.
Both groups of protagonists in this film, which by the way has a truly unwieldy ensemble, ultimately find themselves in the same place: a “wildlife preserve” run by an evil tech bro who looks like Tim Cook who wants to use these dinosaurs for various evil ends. One of those ends is the creation of mega locusts who will wipe out all crops not sold by their company… which I can maybe imagine being an interesting idea if given more care and focus, but it seems absolutely ludicrous and out of place here. I should also mention that, while all the Jurassic Park films are rooted in pseudo-science, this one has two interconnected sub-plots rooted in the absolutely ludicrous notion that a living organism can have its DNA altered through an injection, a notion that defies the basic function of how genetics works and is eerily similar to some particularly unhinged conspiracy theories about the Covid vaccine. I don’t doubt that that particular parallel was unintentional but I think it does speak to how little this movie cares about science far beyond any kind of reasonable artistic license when compared to the legitimate science fiction of the original film.
Anyway, this wildlife preserve concept (which is really closer to just being a villain lair with dinosaurs), is particularly disappointing in that it more or less abandons the “what if dinosaurs were in the real world” concept from the first half in place of the more familiar territory for this series of a dinosaur zoo that breaks down as “life finds a way.” But maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the film would give up the challenge of doing something new like exploring dinosaurs in the real world given that it basically exists to pander to series fans. This is the same reason Grant, Malcolm, and Sadler haven’t changed a bit in thirty years besides now having greying hair: they’re only here for a nostalgia hit. The people at Universal clearly saw that bringing back legacy characters for a super team worked for the Fast and the Furious series and decided to do the same thing but without bothering to do it with the same kind of charm. The film also feels the need to recreate all sorts of other moments from the first film like having Dilophosauruses kill off a villain and having Ian Malcom still focused on using signal flares as an anti-dinosaur tool and women being sent to reboot a facility’s power. The film also continues the series’ very strange interest in anthropomorphizing the T-rex into some kind of “good guy” dinosaur we’re supposed to root for in fights with other dinosaurs that, despite supposedly being bigger, are never as interesting.
This is truly one of the laziest movies I’ve seen at this budget level. There are some serviceable action scenes to be found here and there are occasional moments like a mid-film car chase with raptors that suggests a certain gonzo B-movie energy that could have been used here more extensively but they’re undercut by the film’s two and a half hour running time and frequent desire to try to recapture the John Williams scored awe that Spielberg captured with that first film. You can’t pretend to be in the lineage of something like that when you have a script that’s this willfully stupid. But on some level it maybe shouldn’t be surprising that director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow doesn’t seem to think he can be bothered to give us something better. The other two Jurassic World movies also sucked but still managed to set box office records, so why try? He knows people aren’t going to mind that he recycles ideas from the previous films, in fact he knows they’ll celebrate that. He knows he doesn’t need to evolve and age his characters and will actually be rewarded for making them as much like what you’ve seen before. And he knows that he doesn’t need to put even the slightest bit of effort in making the science sound plausible because he knows everyone who questions it will be treated like a killjoy. This movie sucks, but it’s probably the movie the cinemagoers of this era deserve. And I was stupid enough to pay to see it because the hype cycle told me to, so I’m probably part of the problem too.
*1/2 out of Five