For the past thirty years, the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World film franchises have captivated audiences with their practical and special effects spectacle that brought dinosaurs back to life. And as “Jurassic World Dominion” marks the end of the second trilogy, the epic conclusion promises to deliver its most exciting chapter yet by uniting two generations of Jurassic saga films for the first time. Unfortunately, the film bites off more than it can chew as it cannot overcome a lousy plot, poorly written character arcs, and inconsistent tones.
Given its promising start, it’s strange to see how the finale limps to the finish line. The film opens with an ecosystem forever changed now that dinosaurs live amongst us. Not only are humans no longer at the top of the food chain, but they have to learn how to coexist with dinosaurs. It may not be an easy task, but it does lend itself to bringing some breathtaking visual pieces to the big screen. These dichotomic sequences include a frightening scene of one mosasaur chomping on a fishing boat and another involving a construction crew stopping in awe to see a snow-covered apatosaurus exit their site. It harkens back to when I first saw “Jurassic Park” on the big screen. The marvelous sensation that overcomes you when you see the apatosaurus fill the frame. That terrifying feeling when a velociraptor and dilophosaurus go in for the kill. It’s not there anymore because the film doesn’t even care about the dinosaurs.
So, “Jurassic World Dominion” would have been fine with its low-stakes approach. The opening minutes reintroduce us to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who uses his talents as a raptor wrangler to catch untamed dinosaurs. The sequence itself plays to Pratt’sPratt’s strengths as a hunter and feels like watching a rancher in action. There’s a connection the man has with the dinosaur, and the spirit of the American West comes to life through this one sequence. It’s reminiscent of the importance of respecting nature and the human race’s place in the grand scheme of things.
But as much as the film should have been about humans coexisting with dinosaurs, it comes apart at the seems when it introduces the evil scientist Dr. Lewis Dogson. Dodgson’s Biosyn is a genetics company that provides sanctuary for the surviving dinosaurs and uses their DNA to provide humans with food and life-saving medicine. And that isn’t nearly as bad as the film spending most of its time in yet another laboratory.
However, “Jurassic World Dominion” would have been perfectly fine with something lower stakes. Owen, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and the highly sought-after clone Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) are trying to live out their lives in a remote cabin. They know that people like Dogson will do anything to exploit Maisie for their greedy purposes. But, of course, that doesn’t stop Maise from wanting to be a kid. Still, she and Blue’sBlue’s hatchling are a valuable asset. That’s because their DNA is the key to ending a giant locust pestilence ravaging the Midwest’s crops. But it’s a pestilence started by none other than Dodgson.
For a finale that built its entire franchise around dinosaurs, the film spends a surprising amount of time on locusts being the evil tool that would help achieve Dogson’s goal of world domination. And kidnapping Maisie and Blue’s hatchling would help bring him closer to that. So as that one plot unfolds, another one starts that would bring the “Jurassic Park” legacy characters to the “Jurassic World” franchise.
Typically, the generational team-up would be an exciting moment for those who grew up with the franchise from the start. Unfortunately, it’s executed in a contrived way that takes away from the moment everyone has been waiting to see. There’s nothing natural about their introduction to the “Jurassic World” franchise. Instead, all of it feels forced. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is only in it because she is called to investigate a captured locust. She then takes it to Alan Grant (Sam Neill) for further study and convinces him to come with her on a trip to Biosyn headquarters, where they will meet up with Dr. Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum). The film spends so much time reintroducing these legacy characters for the sake of the team up, traveling to team up, and setting up the exposition for their story that it almost forgets about Owen, Claire, and Maisie’s story.
Yes, two simultaneous uninteresting stories are going on at once, and none of them have anything to do with each other. Because while Sattler, Grant, and Malcolm try to bring down Biosyn with incriminating evidence, Grady and Dearing go on a globetrotting adventure to save Maisie. The only connection between these two characters is Maisie. And even though two generations of Jurassic era film franchises uniting is epic, it’s how these characters are brought together that feels cheap. None of them are overly gushy about it. Of course, the dire situation doesn’t call for it, but the scene could at least give us a reason to cheer for a team-up that everyone has been waiting for.
The entire film feels derivative because it retreads old plots and character types that we are all familiar with, especially if you’ve watched the previous five movies. The evil greedy scientist owns a posh science facility in a remote area. The bioethics of cloning comes into question. Humans try to kill dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat humans. Dinosaurs eat other dinosaurs. Rinse and repeat. If it feels monotonous, it’s because it is.
And it’s not just the fact that “Jurassic World Dominion” feels like two different films going on at once. It’s how it cannot maintain a tonal consistency throughout the entire two-hour and twenty 26 minute runtime. Instead, the film goes from cohabitation to animal rescue to spy thriller to corporate espionage to quasi-Island of Moreau. It’s as if the film is confused about what it wants to be and what kind of story it wants to tell.
And in between all of the tonal chaos, Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael’s script throw in ideas and concepts that are only there for the sake of an action set piece. Dinosaurs who kill their prey after someone tags a target with a laser are essentially an unimportant piece of the storytelling. The chase itself is even more uninteresting as the editing is nauseating, and the choreography is flat-out confusing. Additionally, characters seemingly appear and disappear, and the film doesn’t give us a reason to care about what happens to them. If they survive, that’s fine, but we are missing an excellent opportunity for some of the villains to get what they deserve, eaten by a giant dinosaur. Even the glory of a dinosaur snacking on a human doesn’t feel joyfully cringeworthy because those moments aren’t earned and out of sight.
The way that “Jurassic World Dominion” spends its time talking about human clones, you’d think that they would stop and focus on the dinosaurs, which is what the fans care about. But no, it doesn’t. Instead, it doubles down on the convoluted cloning subplot that leaves us wondering where the heck are they going with this, and does it even matter?
Still, the cast worked with what they got. But that isn’t saying much. The character arcs are non-existent, and the dialogue is forgettable. Characters are on the move, but with a lack of urgency, which gives us even less reason to care about whether or not they will make it out of this pointless ordeal alive. Still it was nice to see that Dern, Neill, and Goldblum have that chemistry that we saw in “Jurassic Park.”
As chaotic as everything about this film is, the fact that no one gets any closure seems fitting. “Jurassic World Dominion” just ends. It didn’t even care about the exciting potential of telling a story about humans coexisting with dinosaurs or the buzz about bringing “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” characters for the first time. No, it just wanted to be a loud and overindulgent trilogy finale that doesn’t care about its own legacy.