Review: ‘Jurassic World Dominion’

Entertaining Nostalgia-Fueled Dinosaur Action Keeps Sequel From Going Extinct

It was inevitable that we’d see the Planet of the Apes-ification of the Jurassic franchise. With Jurassic World Dominion, set four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a film I can scarcely remember to save my life, dinosaurs now walk the Earth and coexist alongside humans and the rest of nature. But it’s an uneasy alliance, as seen in a mock Now This video that opens the sequel. There are ecological, environmental, financial, and human consequences to having these prehistoric creatures roaming wherever they darn well please.

Jurassic World Dominion introduces this idea, but ultimately it’s not really about any of that responsibility nonsense. It’s about brazenly ramping up the dino-action and the dino-nostalgia to such a degree you’ll be too busy “oohing” and “ahhing” at the generational convergence between the O.G. Jurassic Park crew and the new. This isn’t a bad thing at all. The movie is undeniably entertaining and will frequently have you on the edge of your seat, but like previous Jurassic World films it likely won’t leave an impression solid enough to be preserved in amber.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) haven’t changed much over the years. He can still be found wrangling loose dinosaurs out in the wild, while her preservationist spirit remains intact if a bit more guerrilla-esque than before. The biggest change in their lives is that they have become “parents” to Maisie Lockwood (played by Isabella Sermon), the clone who became such an important part of the previous film. If that storyline didn’t appeal to you then, it won’t now as it becomes more of a central cog, Maise’s plight intertwining with the birth of escape raptor Blue’s child.

The plot kicks into gear with the arrival of a super species of locust that has begun destroying the world’s crops, and the possible involvement of agricultural corporation BioSyn. Owen and Claire get involved when Maisie and the baby raptor are abducted, kicking off the most exciting action sequence of the entire movie, a Bond-esque motorcycle chase involving a pack of modified killer raptors, the return of Omar Sy as Barry Sembène, and the debut of DeWanda Wise as kick-ass  Air Force pilot Kayla Watts. Watts, who feels like she wandered in from an Indiana Jones movie, gives the film grit, attitude, and swagger.

Once again directed by Colin Trevorrow who co-wrote the script with Emily Carmichael, Jurassic World Dominion twists itself into knots to give its characters reasons to exist. That extends to the returns of Laura Dern’s Ellie Sattler and Sam Neill’s Alan Grant, who get a tip from old friend Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) that BioSyn is up to no good. But it isn’t enough to keep them around, so the film keeps manufacturing reasons for them to stay. That said, seeing these three together does give you the warm fuzzies because who doesn’t love the orignal Jurassic Park? They still have tremendous chemistry together. If anything, they kinda make you forget about Owen and Claire who are much less interesting. Other characters scattered throughout the franchise pop up in circumstances that don’t feel right for them, with the exception of BD Wong’s remoreseful Dr. Henry Wu, whose story comes to a fitting conclusion.

Such a large cast makes the convoluted, yet meager story feel jammed to the gills. It’s best to just forget about what’s actually happening and enjoy the many species of dinosaurs, including some bizarre genetically modified dinos that cause all kinds of havoc. Updated visual effects continue to work wonders when creating these incredible beasts, and there are some absolutely surreal scenes of them out in the wide open terrain, and stomping through densely populated cities. They are props, in a sense, and are either overly friendly or deadly depending on the situation. What they aren’t, unfortunately, is particularly thrilling. The stakes never feel all that high and the danger level never too immediate. This might be the tamest Jurassic World movie yet, clearly designed for an all-ages demographic.

Jurassic World Dominion is easy summer blockbuster entertainment. When we finally get to see everyone from both movies all in the same shot, perfectly posed for what is clearly meant to be a future piece of merchandising, it  feels like the film has accomplished much of what it set out to do. However, that moment is also very satisfying, so even if this supposed finale doesn’t aspire to be much, it achieves everything it was bred to be.

Jurassic World Dominion opens on June 10th.