“Now eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs in your dinosaur movie, right?”
As the (alleged) finale of its franchise, Jurassic World Dominion clearly wants to be a bigger, better movie than its two predecessors. It expands its scope by letting the dinosaurs run rampant across the globe, and what’s at stake is that reliable old chestnut, the survival of mankind. But these attempts at escalation backfire, cheapening the dinosaurs as well as the plot. By making the dinosaurs a part of everyday life, the movie robs them of their mystique; and by threatening us with an ending far too bleak for such a corporate piece of filmmaking, it renders the stakes non-existent.
But before the movie begins in earnest, it has to get us up to speed. After the events of Fallen Kingdom, our heroes Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are laying low in rural Nevada, protecting trained raptor Blue and cloned teenager Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) from bad actors looking to capitalize on their unique DNA. Soon, Maisie and Blue’s baby are kidnapped by mercenaries, leading Owen and Claire to travel the globe in the hopes of getting them back. Meanwhile, swarms of prehistoric locusts decimate the world’s food supply, but the crops belonging to genetics company Biosyn remain suspiciously untouched. Ellie Sattler smells a conspiracy, but to get proof she’ll need the help of Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm.
Dominion is nothing if not maximalist, piling on more storylines, more characters, more everything – except for, you know, dinosaurs. The movie makes the ill-advised choice to spend most of its first half as a spy thriller, reducing the dinosaurs to props in sub-Mission: Impossible action sequences when it bothers to include them at all. Given the tangle of genres, it’s no surprise that the narrative developments are engineered and inorganic. Things happen purely because they’re what’s required to move the plot forward, and the dinosaurs are exactly as fast, intelligent, or deadly as any given scene needs them to be. Never have they felt less like living creatures and more like plot devices.
The humans don’t fare much better. Dominion weighs itself down with forgettable new characters and needless cameos from franchise alumni – was anyone really wondering what happened to the other raptor trainer from Jurassic World? Those hoping that the ensemble cast will translate to a bigger body count will be sorely disappointed; the movie is downright stingy when it comes to killing off named characters, deftly avoiding any excitement or surprise.
Unsurprisingly, the movie works best in its third act, which all too briefly returns to the tried-and-true humans-vs.-dinosaurs scenario and reunites Jurassic Park’s iconic trio of lead actors. But while the appearances of Goldblum, Dern, and Neill generate a bit of goodwill, they’re also grim reminders of how inferior this material is. Dominion is a movie that tells the audience how to feel via exposition dumps and recycled music cues, betting that uninspired action and cynical appeals to nostalgia will make up for its lack of heart, soul, and competence.