Ever since Jurassic Park roared its way to enormous box office success in 1993, the dinosaur-centric film franchise has longed to recapture a similar high. The series’ multiple movies have tried and failed to replicate the iconic sci-fi action-adventure flick and, truth be told, the trajectory of the series has been on a downward turn with each passing entry.
For Jurassic World: Dominion, then, the pressure is truly on. The sixth and apparently final mainline entry in the franchise is tasked with simultaneously bringing the curtain down on a series that’s lost its shine, putting a cap on its two movie trilogies, and delivering more titanic and thrilling dino-on-dino action.
Just like the cataclysmic event that wiped the dinosaurs out 65 million years ago, though, Dominion is something of an extinction-level event for the Jurassic movie franchise. A ‘by the numbers’ and bland film, Dominion hammers in the final nail in the Jurassic film series’ coffin with a story packed with a semblance of style but very little substance. And that’s a crying shame – there are some genuinely good moments that, if they were expanded upon, could have made for a more captivating watch. As they are, even these can’t save Jurassic World: Dominion from what it is: a movie that’s overstuffed, overlong, and overly predictable.
Life, uh, finds a way – unfortunately
Set four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Dominion finds humanity trying and failing to coexist with the dinosaurs freed by Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) during Fallen Kingdom’s climax.
The trio now live in a remote location to keep Maisie safe – she’s a clone of Charlotte Lockwood, aka her mother, and nefarious organizations and mercenaries are searching for her so they can uncover the secrets of her DNA. Despite Owen and Claire’s best efforts, though, the now teenage (and rebellious) Maisie gets kidnapped alongside Beta – the baby of Blue, the velociraptor trained by Owen back in Jurassic World. Like Maisie, Beta is an identical copy of Blue – who she managed to reproduce without a mate – so its DNA from her is as special as Maisie’s.
Meanwhile, the US is struggling to combat a giant swarm of genetically engineered locusts that’s ravenously destroying crops across the farming heartlands – that is, apart from those modified crops owned by Biosyn, a villainous genetics company. Convinced that Biosyn is responsible for creating the locusts so it can control the world’s food supply, Doctor Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) enlists the help of fellow paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to investigate further.
As the groups race to rescue Maisie and Blue, and stop Biosyn founder Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) from carrying out his master plan, respectively, it isn’t long before they collide and, by proxy, are forced to decide the fate of humanity , their dinosaur breeds, and the world itself.
If Dominion’s plot sounds a bit packed, that’s because it is. It’s easy to follow – this is definitely a film where you can disengage your brain – but it tries to do too much narratively. Dominion is overloaded with plot exposition, unnecessary detours, and numerous action sequences that don’t thrill or delight; factors that bog it down and offer nothing substantial to the scenarios playing out. They’re included for the sake of it and make Dominion feel like it’s just going through the motions.
Of equal frustration are the movie’s concurrent storylines. The trailers make out that Owen and company join forces with the film’s original trio much earlier in proceedings, but it isn’t until the film’s latter stages where its plots become intertwined. By the time we actually get to see the chemistry spark and crackle between the film’s major players, it’s too little, too late. Their desperation to survive and flee Biosyn’s main headquarters becomes the plot’s main driver, preventing any meaningful character interactions from taking place.
Dominion’s overarching plot is also needlessly formulaic and predictable. It’s simple to work out where the story is going next – an aspect that isn’t aided by the amount of expository information delivered by the cast. And, even though the film’s A-listers are put in perilous situations throughout, you never get the sense that any of them are truly in danger. It removes any semblance of tension from the movie’s more suspenseful action scenes and you just get the sense that, by the finale, all the major players are going to be okay.
With so many superfluous inclusions, Dominion’s two hour and 26-minute runtime feels like a chore. There’s a serious argument to be made for shaving off 30 minutes worth of content here; a decision that would’ve made for a tighter, more cohesive narrative. As it is, Dominion is a drag that’s largely devoid of edge-of-your seat moments and efficient character development.
Let’s get the gang back together…
Given how beloved the original Jurassic Park movie is, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Dominion’s best bits are those steeped in nostalgia.
The reintroductions of Neill, Dern, and Goldblum are delightful, with each one bringing their characters’ signature sarcasm, sass, charm, and bravery to proceedings in a satisfying manner. It’s a genuinely crowd pleasing moment when all three are reunited, too, Dominion marking the first time they’ve shared considerable screen time since the 1993 flick.
For a movie that’s keen to push sentimentality button as often as possible, Dominion is laced with nods, call backs, and references to Jurassic Park itself. Sure, the former dinosaur-based attraction is mentioned by name, but it’s other parts of Dominion’s plot that are sure to make fans smile. To spoil them here would be to ruin the surprise but, rest assured, you’ll know them when you see them.
Curiously, Jurassic World: Dominion is also a funny movie, sometimes unexpectedly so. Yes, Goldblum’s trademark quips and Neill’s sarcastic sensibility inevitably draw laughs, but there are portions of Dominion that likely weren’t positioned as humorous affairs that end up being far more amusing than intended. For a movie as largely serious and dramatic as Dominion is, its humor is an underrated but welcome addition.
Speaking of its weighty content, Dominion isn’t afraid to push its thematic exploration in viewers’ faces. Its environmental message is an important one, albeit a little on the nose, while its ‘humanity is bad, and here’s why’ agenda is plain to see. The latter is a theme that acts as a throughline throughout the Jurassic series and, while it’s slightly annoying to hear about it for the umpteenth time, at least it’s a theme that’s consistent in an inconsistent movie franchise.
And what of the action? Unsurprisingly, Dominion’s finest physical encounters are those where two or more dinosaurs go toe-to-toe. We’re nearly 30 years into the Jurassic movie franchise, but it’s still as enjoyable as ever to see the series’ iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex duke it out with another apex predator. It may not be to some film amateurs’ tastes, but it’s the kind of big, dumb fun that Dominion needs.
It’s equally entertaining to see those same dinosaurs take a chunk or two (or should that be several?) out of their meaty human prey, too. It shouldn’t be so enjoyable to see these gigantic reptiles chow down on people who get in their way, but it still is. Given the laborious nature of the film’s human versus human action, it’s pleasing that, 29 years and six movies later, the Jurassic series continues to deliver crowd pleasing dino-on-dino or dino-on-human confrontations.
Jurassic World: Dominion feels like an apt ending to the dinosaur-based film series. The 1993 original aside, the franchise has been a hodge-podge of messy and bloated narratives, slightly cringey dialogue, and a safe re-treading of the same, tired formulaic storytelling.
There are some redeeming features about Dominion. The return of Doctors Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm is gratifying, it’s a funny and at-times tender affair, and some action sequences – mostly those involving carnivorous dinosaurs – are suitably entertaining.
Sadly, though, there are just too many missteps with Dominion for it to be considered a good movie. Some fans won’t care a jot about whether its story is Oscar-worthy, its themes deeply meaningful, or its lengthy runtime – they’ll simply reveal in the fact that Dominion yields more over-the-top, dinosaur-based action with some humor and heartfelt moments along the way.
Even so, Jurassic World: Dominion doesn’t come close to capturing what made the series’ first film so special. It’s an unoriginal watch that doesn’t say anything worthwhile or novel, nor does it make good use of its time. Much like the dinosaurs that co-starred throughout the franchise’s run, Dominion shows that, from now on, the Jurassic film series belongs with these gigantic, awe-inspiring reptiles: in the past.
Jurassic World: Dominion opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, June 10.