Jurassic World Dominion is a hard film to talk about. After the problems of Fallen Kingdom, it felt like the magic of the original Jurassic Park was all but gone as the franchise got ground through the modern-day blockbuster format while refusing to update or change in meaningful ways.
Dominion still feels like a fossil buried in those trappings, the first half is filled with dull exposition, annoying dino-car chases, and pulling even more subplots into its convoluted timeline however between its fresh cast of Dinosaurs, good attempts to wrap up both trilogies, and some much-needed fixes on the last movie, you can just about see a fossilized wonder that shines through just enough.
Walking With Dinosaurs
Four years since Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) released Dinosaurs onto the world and humanity is seeing the horrifying results. Dinosaurs run amock through cities, they’re being sold on the black market and many wish for them to be destroyed. Thankfully many of the Dinosaurs are being transported to a wildlife reserve created by the Biosyn Genetics corporation led by one Dr. Lewis Dogdson (Campbell Scott).
Yep, that guy. He claims that he wishes to use the dinos to create new medicine however Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) finds that a new locust plague with Dino DNA is eating crops across the world except those created by BioSyn. She teams up with Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to get a DNA sample that can be used to expose the shady pharmaceutical to the public.
Meanwhile, Jurassic World protagonists Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living with their adopted daughter, Maisie (who’s a clone) as well as the Raptor Blue and her daughter Beta. Maisie and Beta are kidnapped by Biosyn and now Owen and Claire are racing across the globe to get her back.
Walking Through The Plot
If that plot summary is any indication there’s a lot going on in Jurassic World Dominion and the film has a bit of trouble digesting it all. The first half of the movie is used to pretty much get everyone onto the Biosyn nature reserve and suffers from a lot of the same problems as Fallen Kingdom. New, unnecessary plot points that come out of nowhere and the need to try and use dinosaurs as superhuman weapons. I mean, there’s already a Diplodicus walking through the streets, did we really need a plot about dino-locust as well?
Likewise, the Raptor chase scene in Malta reeks of a Hollywood attempt to turn Raptors into superheroes who can chase down motorcycles and jump through buildings. While I know Jurassic Park isn’t realistic, part of what makes it interesting is that the animals act at least somewhat like actual animals. Scenes like this totally forget that and pretty much take all the personality out of these creatures.
Once everyone’s at the Reserve, it’s pretty much your usual Jurassic Park affair. Characters get chased by the Dinosaurs and try not to get eaten.
For anyone hoping that the film would do something with the Dinosaurs roaming the Earth premise, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The film does explore a few new ideas like how public opinion on Dinosaurs has lowered and many are being trafficked on the black market. Ultimately though the film never really does anything about the worldwide prehistoric animal problem and is more than happy to stick with the usual ‘trapped with the dinos’ plot that these films are known for.
Back to The Park
All that being said, as far as Jurassic Park, trapped with the dinos plots go when everyone gets to the BioSyn reserve, it’s actually really good. The two generations of casts work well with each other and the showcase of dinosaurs is well done. It was cool seeing Sattler and Grant sneaking around the labs, especially as everything starts to go to hell, much like it did in the first movie.
The dinosaurs are also legitimately intimidating. The cinematography does a good job of portraying the size and danger of these creatures. They’re also well put together with a good mixture of practical and CGI effects. The second half of the movie also treats them a little more like actual animals rather than superpowered weapons. It does indulge in this a little during the climax but considering similar scenes happen at the end of pretty much every Jurassic movie, I can give it a pass.
There’s also a good amount of well-placed fanservice. These come in the form of callbacks, much-needed retcons of Fallen Kingdom, and even some nods to the more paleontology-oriented fans. There’s a scene where the character looks at a therapod with ‘pure’ dinosaur DNA and takes a guess of what its body is covered in.
The Crossover 30 years in the making
For the first time, we see the casts of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World come together and I thought it was well handled. There’s a good balance of characters showing respect for each other while also not gushing over how cool they are.
Owen and Claire don’t have much development but they still have much better chemistry as a couple with Pratt and Howard portraying them as more mature and wisened since their last outing. They still care about dinosaurs but it’s clear that their daughter is something new and important to them and they don’t know fully how to handle her.
With that being said, the original cast of Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm are the ones who truly steal the show though. This way these three speak to each other, feels like they were just chatting yesterday. Grant’s down-to-earth grit plays well off Sattlers’ cheerful enthusiasm even decades later and Goldblum’s distinct charisma as Malcolm is in full force. He even gets a scene where chews out Dodgson the way he did Hammond, and it is simply sublime. The movie leaves the three on a good note and if this is the last Jurassic movie to feature them, I’d be happy with it.
The one weak link in the cast is Maisie. Isabella Sermon is a great actress however her dialogue is written far too whiny. She spends the first half-hour constantly throwing a strop at her two foster parents about being a clone and not being allowed to leave the house (since people are trying to kill her). She does get better as the film goes on but it can really grade on you at the already exposition-heavy start.
Of course, while the human characters are important, the terrible lizards themselves are the true stars of the show and overall I think they’re handled well. I really didn’t think they would. After recently seeing Prehistoric Planet, I didn’t think I’d want to go back to Jurassic World’s corporatized movie monster dinosaurs but to their credit, I think they pulled it off for the most part.
One thing I like in particular is there is a heavy focus on new dinosaurs. Blue and the T-Rex are still around but they take a backseat to never before seen creatures like the Quetzalcoatlus, Dimetrodon, Giganotosaurus, and Pyroraptor.
While they ultimately all exist to attack the heroes, the dinos mostly acted more like actual animals fighting over territory, hunger, or fear similar to the first three movies. Just take the new T-Rex Rival of the movie: the Giganotararus. Despite being an ‘apex predator’ it doesn’t feel the need to kill everything it sees. When it and the T-Rex fight, it manages to drive her away and doesn’t pursue her since unnecessary fighting could lead to unnecessary wounds. I definitely prefer it to any of that Indominus Rex ‘killing for sport’ nonsense.
I think my favorite dinosaur was surprisingly, one that I didn’t think I’d like at all: the Therizinosaurus. When I first saw this thing in key art and depicted in its toy, I thought it looked a bit lame. The Therizinosaurus is such as unique creature yet it seems like they just took a raptor, gave it claws, and threw a feather rug over its back.
When I saw it on the big screen though, with proper atmosphere and motion, it looked really good. It’s a bad-tempered herbivore that seems to lash out at other animals as a form of defense, similar to Hippos. The way it moved and acted was distinct from the other dinosaurs making it truly memorable and intimidating.
And of course, it’s great to see the series finally giving dinosaurs feathers. They’ve not perfect depictions but it’s a good start and will hopefully show people that having feathers will not make the dinos any less scary.
The only dinosaur I wasn’t a fan of was the Atrociraptors since they were basically just regular velociraptors just painted a different color. Perhaps it’s asking too much for them to have feathers like the Pyroraptor but it’d be nice if they had something to make them feel a little more unique.
End of The Era
Jurassic World Dominion marks the end of the Jurassic World Trilogy and while the series will likely return sometime in the future, I feel this is a good place to conclude.
The movie is far from perfect. It doesn’t do much with the idea of dinosaurs roaming the modern Earth and the first half can be an exposition-filled drag but the second half captures the original Jurassic Park more than anything else the World Trilogy has tried. No made-up hybrid dinosaurs, it has a little fewer Hollywood action raptors, and ultimately reminded me of what makes Jurassic Park/World fun: memorable characters and dinosaurs.
Perhaps the film can be considered a ‘guilty pleasure’ for a paleo-enthusiast like me, but simply put, I thought it made the dinosaurs feel cool. It reminded me that the Jurassic Series can make dinosaurs feel cool. It’s not the original but it’s decent in its own right and does well where it matters the most.
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Jurassic World Dominion
- The New Dinosaur designs are interesting and unique
- The scenes with the animals are generally well shot and make them feel dangerous
- The original cast of Grant, Settler, and Malcolm are great and play off each other well
- Doesn’t do much with the ‘Dominion’ Dinosaur World aspect of the plot
- Maisie can be too angsty and annoying
- The first half is bogged down in bad new plot points and set up