The sixth film in a franchise that has, fittingly, managed to overcome its own apparent extinction, Jurassic World Dominion was subject to both high expectations, and yet still a very low bar. Though the film that started it all, Jurassic Park, remains one of the most beloved and influential films of all time, subsequent entries into the franchise have been of mixed (mostly not so good) quality. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in particular is considered by many as a low point, but nevertheless, Dominion rounds out the second Jurassic Park trilogy.
Bringing back legacy characters from the first film (and properly reuniting them for the first time) was always a transparent marketing gimmick, and it works in many ways. It’s not entirely unlike the way Scream brought back the franchise’s heroes, except it felt far less triumphant. Unfortunately, Jurassic World Dominion doesn’t seem to know how to balance its old characters with its new, and eventually just throws them all together and forces them to figure it out. There’s some chemistry between individual pairings (and a few trios, at a stretch), but it’s ultimately lost among the roars of its varied dinosaurs.
The franchise’s main characters all demanding attention through their excellent screen presence shouldn’t be an issue, but it is. No one character of Dominion‘s excellent ensemble feels truly valuable, aside from perhaps Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, who becomes the group’s de facto leader as they attempt to navigate a horde of angry, distressed dinosaurs. Even in this, Dominion manages to be generally uninteresting, with the plot driven primarily by oversized locusts, and not at all by the dinosaur action promised by the film’s trailers.
Of course, Jurassic World Dominion was always going to be CGI-heavy – the cost of cloning and training real dinosaurs would likely have exceeded the budget – so there’s no surprises there. The disappointment in Dominion‘s dinosaurs doesn’t come from how they look, though, but instead how they are treated by the film. Dominion‘s dinosaurs are disposable plot devices with very little personality or genuine importance. Much of the time, they’re an afterthought to the machinations of Biosyn or Grady’s own mission, and they feel as much like an inconvenience to the story as they do a draw to the film – they’re there, but they don’t really seem to matter.
In this, Jurassic World Dominion fails to live up to the heights of the first film. Instead, it picks up various loose plot threads in a way that highlights just how ridiculous the sci-fi story has become, and it tries desperately to make a statement about the importance of environmentalism and preserving nature, but even something that obvious gets lost in the bungled plot. It’s sad to see, because even though it’s a distinctly straightforward narrative, it’s still too involved to feel genuinely interesting.
One major success is the way that Jurassic World Dominion captures the general tone of the franchise. It delivers everything one might expect from a Jurassic Park/World movie, almost as though ticking them off of a checklist. This does make the film feel formulaic and wooden even as it attempts to harp on about chaos, and that’s where it all begins once more to feel like a cheap imitation of Jurassic Park.
Sadly, all of Jurassic World Dominion‘s finest moments are underpinned by the clear lack of original ideas. Instead, it’s a by-the-numbers Jurassic Park clone that fits with every other sequel in the franchise – it’s not high quality, but it delivers its gimmick well enough to be worth a watch. It does have one or two small innovations that are interesting, like its return to tightly-shot, dimly-lit horror(esque) scenes, and the introduction of Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie), who may be the film’s most interesting character.
Jurassic World Dominion isn’t entirely bad, but it does seem to prove that the franchise is done. There are obvious narrative avenues that could be taken in order to continue its story, but the premise is becoming so stretched and convoluted that it hardly seems worth continuing. Instead, it would probably be a kindness to quit while ahead and retire the idea, at least until the prospect of an actual reboot begins to seem exciting again. Still, it’s entirely likely that this will not happen at all, and within five years, there will be yet another Jurassic Park movie on the way to both entertain and underwhelm.
Summary: Not so much a confused mess as a tangle of stories and characters that no longer seem interesting, Jurassic World Dominion is somewhat entertaining, even if it does almost nothing of any genuine merit.
Highlight: The character of Ramsay Cole was interesting, although it would seem that his importance to the story is essentially spent – even so, Mamoudou Athie’s charismatic performance was a pleasant surprise. When the cast is allowed to shine, they really do (even if they’re all mostly wasted, they each have their moments).