“The Epic Conclusion of the Jurassic Era” is anything but epic or feeling like an actual conclusion
As summer at the movies begins to get into full swing, Universal Pictures is finally releasing Jurassic World: Dominion, which has been framed as the first blockbuster to shoot almost entirely within a “bubble” during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020. Following a sequel that divided both critics and fans (even though I liked it quite a bit), Dominion brings back Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, along with the original three stars of Jurassic Park to help wrap up this trilogy of the Jurassic World franchise. While Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom may have its critics, it showed potential once the film hit the credits as the dinosaurs were set free from the park and began roaming the entire world–a world in which humans and dinosaurs try to co-exist? In the right hands, it sounds like a concept that should stick the landing just fine. However, Jurassic World: Dominion never gives audiences a sense of any real danger or a solution for its prehistoric creatures it has labeled front and center of their marketing campaign. Instead, it’s a mostly boring film with a plot that’s not even focused on the dinosaurs – which is what audiences are paying to see.
Taking place four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom, Dominion shows us a world where dinosaurs continue to roam the earth alongside humans. Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Dallas Howard) are mostly off the grid with Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), but they are trying to help dinosaurs in danger while the velociraptor Blue and her child are close by in the woods. But when Maisie and Blue’s child are captured by a rogue group, Owen and Claire must race to save them. Meanwhile, Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who were each off doing their own things since the events of Jurassic Park, are brought back together to deal with a new threat that could harm both humans and dinosaurs.
The plot, without getting into spoilers, eventually serves up the same “take down the evil corporation trying to take over the world with dinosaurs and other various things” scenario. However, instead of using dinosaurs to claim world domination, something else is used that has little to do with dinosaurs. For a film (and franchise) whose selling point is dinosaurs, to not even make them its focal point, is a huge problem and leads to various segments throughout the film becoming snooze fests. It’s as if they are treating the dinosaurs as an obstacle to trying to save the world as opposed to posing a threat. Also, for a film that has been labeled as the end of this franchise, there is no sense of finality here. There are no goodbyes or stakes that feel real here. Instead, bad plotting – even for a film with dinosaurs in it – and sprinkles of fan service to appease Jurassic Park faithful are found throughout.
When dinosaurs do show up throughout Dominion, they, of course, make for the best parts of the film. And in one set piece that involves roaming dinosaurs, Malta is the highlight of the entire film. However, for a film that is almost two and a half hours, it is light on action everywhere else. The fact that Dominion is taking away all premium format screens like IMAX from Top Gun: Maverick, a far superior action film, this weekend, feels almost criminal to say the least.
Pratt and Dallas Howard are fine in their return to the Jurassic World entry, but everyone could not care less about their characters when the dinosaurs are the real stars of these films. However, bringing the original three stars from Jurassic Park (Dern, Neill, Goldblum) brings more appeal to the human side of things of this franchise. It’s just unfortunate that their returns are mostly wasted here.
We likely will never see the concept teased at the end of Fallen Kingdom where the nightmare scenario of dinosaurs roaming the earth come to life in future installments of this franchise, despite Universal’s marketing telling you this is the end of the “Jurassic era” as we know. Many fist-pounding decisions were made here, including the exclusion of the excellent five-minute preview shown in IMAX theaters last November that was labeled as the prologue for the film. Instead, the film opens with a news segment from Now This about what dinosaurs have been doing around earth ever since they were let loose.
Universal would be wise to stash this franchise away in a museum and let if fossilize for a time before deciding to bring it back to the big screen anytime soon. When the best thing about the latest Jurassic film is watching the demise of a person riding an electronic scooter via being eaten by a dinosaur, it’s best for this franchise not to see the light of day for a while.