By: Jeffrey Ching
Jurassic World Dominion really had the potential to be something special. As some people have pointed out, Jurassic World actually is a fitting title, since the series builds up to the eventual plot of humans being unable to contain dinosaurs and, therefore, humanity is forced to co-exist with dinosaurs. Jurassic World then becomes a literal title as opposed to just the name of the theme park.
All the ingredients were right there for the franchise to end with a bang, and tell an epic story about how the whole world deals with this new reality. I’m sure humanity would have had zero chance of survival. But, what about today with all the amazing technology we have access to? Not only would that be a fascinating “what if?” scenario, but think about the epic set pieces you can pull off with any country at your disposal. This is a story that would justify Jurassic World Dominion‘s 2.5 hour runtime.
But, who am I kidding? 99% of Hollywood sequels are obsessed with nostalgia, fan service, and keeping the status quo. Jurassic World Dominion is yet another spineless sequel that takes zero risks. Pure nostalgia sequels seem to have a defeatist attitude of, “There’s no way we can out-do the original, so let’s just reference the past and remind people how awesome we used to be.” Dominion felt like filmmakers simply showing up for massive paycheques, to perhaps fund a much cooler project in the future. There’s nothing egregiously bad about this movie. It’s a competently made movie and it looks good, but it just feels perfunctory and basic.
Jurassic World Dominion shows some early promise. As mentioned, the premise of humans and dinosaurs co-existing is interesting, but the uninspired documentary footage prologue maybe should have been a giveaway that the filmmakers aren’t really trying (if the prologue felt lazy, the epilogue easily tops the prologue in laziness). Easily the high point of the movie is an exhilarating chase scene through the streets of Malta – it feels a bit like Casino Royale meets Jurassic Park. Chris Pratt on a motorcycle outrunning a raptor is really awesome, but this comes very early and where the movie peaks. It’s only downhill from here.
Jurassic World Dominion’s big idea for how to deliver a satisfying conclusion is simply getting the main characters of the original Jurassic Park and the main characters of Jurassic World together. This would feel special if we hadn’t seen The Avengers, Justice League, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Spiderman: No Way Home, Top Gun Maverick – the list goes on and on. I actually forgot that Laura Dern was in the original Jurassic Park, but after seeing her absolutely killin’ it in the likes of Big Little Lies and Marriage Story, her talent is being wasted here. Jeff Goldblum is definitely the highlight of the cast, injecting some much-needed comedy, and he looks like he can pull off this kind of performance in his sleep. I was excited when I saw Campbell Scott (a criminally underrated actor) playing the evil CEO of Biosyn. Sadly, he is given nothing to work with, and comes off as the most feckless, impotent villain. They didn’t even try when it came to him getting his comeuppance.
After the fantastic Malta chase scene, I wondered what other cool parts of the world they might shoot in. Well…every story and all the characters end up in one remote location – a dinosaur island, owned by the evil Biosyn corporation. At this point, Dominion goes through the motions, delivering the “greatest hits” that we’ve seen over and over again. Fan service, nostalgia, repeat.
The movie completely failed at raising my pulse or ratcheting up any suspense. All the main characters survive absolutely anything without a scratch. They’re even more bulletproof than the Fast and Furious crew (at least those people had neck pain when they got into bad accidents). Speaking of Fast and Furious, I’ve lost track of what sequel they’re on, but even Fast and Furious sequels have more ambition, attempting to be more epic in order to one-up the previous instalments.
If Jurassic World Dominion had no desire to create a thoughtful plot along the lines of Dawn or War For the Planet of the Apes (which were shorter movies, despite having far more complex screenplays), the 2.5 hour runtime is completely ridiculous. 30 to 40 minutes easily could have been cut and made for a far more tolerable experience. After the thousandth mediocre action sequence, I found myself tuning out, and thinking about what I should eat after this seemingly never-ending movie wraps up. I ended up getting a German doner kebab. It was very good.
I sincerely hope this is it for any Jurassic… movie. I’m not saying “no” to dinosaurs, but I’m saying “no” to this franchise. At this point, I’ll take a Good Dinosaur sequel by Pixar over anything else with the word “Jurassic” in the title.
**½ (out of 5)
Read more of Jeffrey Ching’s thoughts on film at The Ching of Comedy’s blog.