‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ Review: An Overstuffed But Overlong Series Finale

Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Amblin and Perfect World/PG-13/148 minutes

Directed by Colin Trevorrow

Written by Colin Trevorrow, Emily Carmichael and Derek Connolly

Edited by Mark Sanger, cinematography by John Schwartzman and music by Michael Giacchino

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, B.D. Wong, Omar Sy, Campbell Scott, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Scott Haze, Dichen Lachman and Daniella Pineda

Opens in North American theaters courtesy of Universal on June 10

The most remarkable thing about Jurassic World: Dominion is that it seems to exist as it otherwise would have even had it been made in non-Covid times. Universal and Amblin sent the cast and crew of this Jurassic sequel back into production in the summer of 2020 as almost a test run for if Hollywood could resume production with copious Covid-specific safety protocols and safeguards. The summer-of-2020 production was outright spoofed and held up as an example of Hollywood pretentiousness in Judd Apatow’s (inexplicably lousy) The Bubble, and no one is going to argue that Jurassic World 3 is what the world needed then or now beyond bread-and-circuses entertainment. That said, in a year where too many “big” Hollywood blockbusters look and feel smaller in scope and scale seemingly due to Covid-related challenges, Jurassic World: Dominion still plays like a pre-Covid “no expense spared” Hollywood spectacular.

I was fortunate enough to see this over/under $200 million tentpole at the TCL IMAX, and the film covered the entire screen top to bottom. The shocking climax of Fallen Kingdom promised a new status quo of dinosaurs living amongst us, and this film mostly delivers on that premise. Yes, the specific plot eventually involves a diabolical perversion of science (an evil hybrid of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk using modified locusts to wipe out crops that don’t use “not Monsanto” beans) which seems disconnected from the new normal. Yes, our heroes’ parallel plots eventually merge inside an isolated and enclosed facility which allows the third act to play like a conventional Jurassic movie. But the first two thirds, especially the whirlwind first half of this (admittedly overlong) 146-minute picture plays like an overstuffed checklist of stuff we haven’t seen in a Jurassic movie.

We get scenes of humanity living among dinosaurs, including one early sequence involving dinos blocking traffic that approximates the wide-eyed melancholy wonder of Jurassic Park (Michael Giacchino’s score is especially haunting during this brief digression), moon-lit heist sequences, aerial peril, dinosaur fight clubs, globe-trotting and high-quality action sequences (fights, vehicular chases, etc.) where there’s always a dinosaur around to mess up everyone’s plans. Without getting into better/worse, Jurassic World: Dominion occasionally feels like Colin Trevorrow’s answer to The Rise of Skywalker and Aquaman. The retcons, reveals and character-specific nostalgia A) aren’t about appeasing alt-right Nazis and B) mean more to the characters than to the audience (the big reveal gives B.D. Wong a chance to *act*). Moreover, it’s clear Trevorrow also wanted to make a movie that is every movie all in one. However, in this Covid-era, it gets extra credit for its kitchen sink excess.

I guess if you need to know about the plot, we get dueling plot lines involving the clone child who freed the dinosaurs in the last film (she’s living with Owen and Claire in seclusion and isolation) along with our original Jurassic heroes (Grant, Satler, and Malcolm) covertly teaming up to figure out why locusts are destroying the planet’s food crops. Slight spoiler, but the kid (Isabella Sermon) gets kidnapped, sending Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard into what amounts to a spy actioner with dinosaurs. Along the way they reunite with a few Jurassic World characters (yes, Omar Sy, Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda got paid) and meet a rogue mercenary pilot (DeWanda Wise) who eventually becomes a sympathetic ally. Wise’s Kayla Watts is an ass-kicking Black lesbian, and at no point does anyone in the film find that anything remarkable or noteworthy.

There are copious characters in this would-be finale, including Campbell Scott’s evil billionaire and Mamoudou Athie as the bad guy’s trusted assistant who ends up acting as a walking dues ex machina along with a change-of-pace subplot for the now guilt-stricken Dr. Henry Wu. Throw in five main characters from two Jurassic trilogies, and a cowardly lack of bloodlust, and you have a mile-a-minute fetch quest actioner which only works (to the extent that it does) by sheer gumption. Yes, we get nostalgic Easter Eggs and references to the first Jurassic Park, but mercifully fewer than I expected with most of them confined to the third act. Alas, that means the film ends on a low note, complete with a redundant and repetitive climax which is unwilling to offer anything cruel, mean or unfair. I blame everyone who complained about Katie McGrath’s awesome Jurassic World death.

As feared from the first trailer, Jurassic World: Dominion (co-written by Trevorrow, Emily Carmichael and Derek Connolly) eventually devolves into a variation of the first Purge movie whereby a stunning status quo is merely window dressing for a conventional genre entry. However, the film uses its “dinos among us” hook as seasoning for longer than I expected, and the action set pieces are compelling and convincing throughout. I love Jurassic Park, and that this might be the least of the sequels, and one where the dinosaurs and dino attack sequences are beside the point, is a criticism but not a total condemnation. My son gave it a thumbs up, and I was relieved to see a “new” mega-bucks movie that looked like a mega-bucks movie. It may not be as good as Camp Cretaceous or The Book of Henry, but it’s a whole lot of movie.

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