Jurassic World: Dominion [Review]

Jurassic World: Dominion is a step up from the previous installment, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, albeit saying that isn’t much since it still has drawbacks that make you reminisce about the original 1993 classic. Thank god for Dern, Neill, and Goldblum for pouring much-needed charisma onto the screen.

Way back in the 70s, Steven Spielberg changed the cinematic game with Duel (1971) and Jaws (1975) – making the films that initiated the term “blockbuster.” Spielberg is at his best when he’s doing popcorn movies, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, War of the Worlds, or Jurassic Park. I grew up with the latter of those; I watched it multiple times over and over when I was a kid. The film still holds up in almost every one of its aspects (the dinosaur animatronics, acute framing, airtight script, thrilling adventure set-pieces, etc.). Spielberg brought dinosaurs to life by sharply adapting Michael Crichton’s novel in a way that’s both fascinating and entertaining. It is a modern retelling of Frankenstein — an intricate tale about a man trying to play the role of God. Like Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) told John Hammond (Richard Attenborough): “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

The sequels that arrived later weren’t up to par, particularly the third installment, but they still had some of the original’s enjoyable facets. Unlike them, the 2015 franchise reboot, Jurassic World, had zero personality. Because I was a big fan of the franchise for the entirety of my childhood, seeing it being rebooted like that truly dispirited me. And its follow-up, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, had the same problems but was crafted in an even worse fashion. That one was even more frustrating since it was directed by J. A. Bayona, who made The Orphanage, The Impossible, and A Monster Calls. So far, the franchise’s reboot has been an utter disappointment, and now Colin Trevorrow is back at the helm to conclude the trilogy (for better or worse) with Jurassic World: Dominion. This entry is a step up from the second movie, but it isn’t saying much since it still has many issues that hurt its viewing experience. The film is set four years after the incidents in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, where Isla Nublar was eradicated. 

The first few minutes are centered on showing the good, the bad, and the ugly, mostly the mishappenings, of this “collectivity.” As implied by the last shot in that film, everything has changed. Dinosaurs run amok, they love and hunt alongside humans worldwide, but they do not co-exist. Can we face the consequences? Are we responsible for them, or should they be left to fend for themselves? These are the questions that the news reporter asks the world. People are trying to adapt to these changes. However, things are getting worse as the days go by, especially since the genetics company Biosyn is still trying to “control” the situation by experimenting on these beings. All connected with a purpose, the various characters of this franchise, both new, like Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and returning like Dr. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil), Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), strategize a plan to take down the enterprise and save Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon).

The first twenty minutes are pretty bland. It focuses on what our heroes are doing after all of this time, which isn’t pretty much overall. There was a rapid sequence where Owen is horseback-riding while chasing some dinosaurs, which was quite promising. The problem is that it is filled with mediocre dialogue caused by the poor screenplay by the writing trio of Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, and Emily Carmichael. Nevertheless, things start to change once the narrative introduces the triad of heroes from the original 1993 phenomenon: Satler, Grant, and Malcolm. They reunite them rapidly; the film wants to rush through this nostalgia-inducing introductory first act to begin to showcase its dinosaur action set pieces, which coincidentally come short in several facets. These action set pieces are constructed in a way that lacks the proper amount of tension and thrill, as well as an appropriate sense of direction and tight framing that the initial trilogy had, which range from motorcycle raptor chases and the classic two giant beasts fighting to the death. As a result, the viewer doesn’t sense the anxiety of closely living and engaging with these dangerous prehistoric creatures. 

There’s only one sequence that presents some of that fear and suspense. The scene in question is where Claire (who doesn’t get to do much but kills her scenes) slowly dives into a swap to hide from the predator – holding her breath under the water for dear life. Even though it is a scene that lasts no longer than two minutes, it stands out from the others because the audience can experience that fear of being hunted. The rest of them, as previously mentioned, is your standard action blockbuster orchestrations that you will forget as soon as you leave the theatre. There’s no impact or heft to them whatsoever, which happens with this entire trilogy of films. The only thing that keeps shining is Michael Giacchino’s score, which implements some of the orchestrations from the original trilogy and adds a quick twist to them. Most of the blame goes to the director, but Christ Pratt is also part of the problem. I think that he’s not an engaging lead, except for Guardians of the Galaxy, because his shtick works there. His characteristics are one-dimensional and uninteresting. He’s not even close to being the most intriguing character in this franchise (or in the other ones he’s involved in). 

Of course, he has done good work in the past, albeit it has always come at the hand of good directors like Kathryn Bigelow, Spike Jonze, and Bennett Miller. Nonetheless, in these Jurassic World features, he hasn’t found his footing – staying one note during their entirety – and Dallas Howard keeps outshining him, but they keep leaving her as the damsel in distress. Jurassic World: Dominion indulges in the now-regular technique of nostalgia-overload to hide these large weak spots. And, as expected, those are the sequences one would enjoy the most. Even though they feel forced onto the narrative, seeing this triad of charismatic screen presences (Neil, Goldblum, and Dern) interacting is too charming. Even a brief sequence that feels like a screwball comedy, and it leaves much to be desired. Instead, the trio is just oozing with personality. Meanwhile, with some exceptions, the rest of the characters are just too drab on-screen, unfortunately. 

What started as a promising concept has been botched into extinction with poor screenplays, low-grade lighting, and bland direction. Still and all, I feel like it wasn’t an overall terrible piece of work. Sure, the parts to sell the popcorn promises of dinosaur action are pretty dull, but it isn’t technically boring per se. The main problem is that they pushed it too far, and it lost a sense of coherence, even in the basics. This third installment had to fix some of the problems caused by the previous movie, and the writers didn’t know how to do it, so they filled the plot holes with nostalgia. Jurassic World: Dominion feels like a clear conclusion, but since it’s such a colossal money-hauler, I don’t think it is going away any soon. I just hope that they take their time with the following concept the team involved comes up with.