Jurassic World Dominion Review: Campy Cretaceous

Any given audience member’s appreciation for Jurassic World Dominion will likely vary inversely to the degree they prefer their cloned dinosaur movies to take things seriously. Director Colin Trevorrow is not Michael Crichton. The original author used his knowledge of science to fuel compelling adventure stories. The current director uses his knowledge of action sequences to fuel a narrative that only feels nonsensical when it stops moving. Trevorrow treats Jurassic World Dominion like a shark — if it doesn’t stay constantly moving, it will drown. dominion review.

Contrary to what that Imax teaser promised, none of that prehistoric-set footage made it to the final cut of the movie. Instead, news broadcasts fill in the plot gaps for franchise newbies, as we see a world in which dinosaurs just casually stroll around destroying stuff and attacking people. As a moviegoer, one might wonder why the military didn’t just go full King Kong and machine gun them all to death right away. But as people who live in 2022, we might understand why. Society is prepared to live with many conditions that kill people regularly. At least as long as our individual right to otherwise do what we want is not infringed upon in any way, ever. Trevorrow may not have intended the direct COVID parallels, but rampant man-eating dinosaurs reflect an obvious ad absurdum version of the argument. dominion review.

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On top of all the dinosaurs, things worsen with a literal plague of giant locusts, whose biblical appetites for any crops except for the genetically modified kind made by not-Monsanto threaten to destroy the food chain. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) gets called in to investigate, and manages to recruit old flame Alan Grant (Sam Neill). It seems they have a friend on the inside at the seed company, which also happens to run a dinosaur preserve, and, well, you can guess, who found a way to that position. Chaos!

Meanwhile, more recent series protagonists Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing live in a cabin in snowy woods. They are also keeping the existence of genetically modified clone teenager Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) a secret. Pet raptor Blue still hangs about, and now has a genetically identical baby daughter born of asexual reproduction. When poachers kidnap both clone girls — human and dino — it’s a race against time for Owen and Claire to find them and bring them back. You’ll never guess who’s behind it…if you didn’t read the paragraph immediately preceding this one.

While the ending of the last film and the beginning of this one tease a civilization full of dinosaurs, only the movie’s middle sequence, set in Malta, really uses that scenario to its advantage. The rest takes place at the not-so-secret mountain lair of the obvious villain, where it’s a lot like previous parks, only more evil. The story follows more of a James Bond model than usual, with globe-trotting action leading to said high-tech lair and heroic attempts to thwart massive, maniacal plans. Only instead of James Bond, we have five protagonists.

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Well, more like four. Jeff Goldblum appears more sparingly than the rest, as if quarantine forced his role to be limited. Five again if you count franchise newcomer Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), a pilot and smuggler who joins in the action about halfway through. Poised to possibly become a lead if the others don’t renew their contracts, she also gets a single line of dialogue suggesting she’s canonically LGBT. One that can and will easily be trimmed in hostile countries, no doubt.

It’s either ironic or expected that Trevorrow, who nearly directed Star Wars Episode IX, seems to have taken George Lucas as his muse. Jurassic World Dominion features the pace and structure of a serial cliffhanger, complete with high-speed chases, and big chunks of nonsensical dialogue delivered with seriously dramatic musical underscore. Only Goldblum, bravely ignoring all punctuation in his copy of the script, manages to bend such instances to his will. His may not be the movie’s biggest performance, but it’s loaded with what Nicolas Cage calls “nouveau-shamanism,” the kind of instantly meme-able performance that still works in context. Of course there is an in-joke moment where he buttons up his shirt.

At one point, when the characters find themselves caught between battling lizards, Sam Neill exclaims, “This isn’t about us!” He’s dead-on. Some exceptions undoubtedly aside, most viewers aren’t coming to a Jurassic World movie for the humans. And when it comes to dinosaurs, this installment delivers. Virtually every action sequence features some new creature ready to pounce, from the genetically engineered “atrociraptors” to actual feathered dinos this time. (The retcon explanation is that they’ve finally created dinosaurs without any DNA modifications.) Naturally, some old favorites like the spitters also show up, to create some suspense as to when they’re gonna frill out their hoods and spray.

RELATED: Colin Trevorrow Reveals More Jurassic World Dominion Plot

The plot may inspire all sorts of questions, like, “Why did Ian Malcolm go to work for obvious villains?” Or “Why is the locust plan so incredibly, stupidly suicidal with no built-in failsafe?” But it also doesn’t care about the answers, and neither should you. Maintaining the Dino Crisis survival horror mode from Fallen Kingdom, it’s one mission-based task after another, leveling the heroes up and forcing them to face new boss creatures each time. If one of the sequences mildly resembles the parody version in Judd Apatow’s The Bubble, blame quarantine. But also, be really amazed at how large the scope of everything else is despite such things.

The Jurassic World sequels inspire intense vitriol in some quarters relative to the first two Jurassic Park sequels, and Dominion‘s not likely to make new converts. But putting aside silly gripes like Claire’s heels, Owen making mildly inappropriate jokes, and that babysitter’s violent death, the Jurassic World sequels are the better sequels at everything that matters. Which is to say, action and dinosaurs. Nothing in the franchise tops Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park. But neither of its first two sequels begin to approach the World trilogy for sheer fun. As the Star Wars sequel trilogy proved by not doing it, planning the three-movie arc structure in advance surely helps.

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Come for the dinosaurs. Stay for the dinosaurs. Enjoy the crazy-huge locusts too. As far as the humans go, they’re fun enough, and smart enough to know they’re never upstaging the real stars.

Grade: 3/5

Jurassic World Dominion opens Friday, June 10 in theaters

Recommended Reading: Jurassic Park: The Original Novel

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