Movie Review: Jurassic World: Dominion

Plot: Four years after the events of eruption on Isla Nublar and the Lockwood Estate incident, humankind is desperately trying to adapt as dinosaurs roam the Earth. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) investigates illegal dinosaur breeding sites for the Dinosaur Protection Group while her boyfriend Owen (Chris Pratt) helps relocate stray dinosaurs. Both are secretly raising Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) the genetic clone of Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter Charlotte, hoping to protect her from danger. However, when the morally corrupt Biosyn Genetics led by Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) kidnaps Maisie and Beta – velociraptor Blue’s baby – Owen and Claire embark on a journey to Biosyn’s dinosaur sanctuary in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. There they cross paths with Dr. Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) the original visitors of the first Jurassic Park. As the group uncovers Biosyn’s nefarious plot, all must work together to bring down the company and – hopefully – escape with their lives.

Review: In June 1993, Jurassic Park attacked movie theaters with reckless abandon, becoming the highest-grossing film released worldwide at that time. The film remained in the public zeitgeist (and theaters) for over a year and spawned multiple merchandising avenues, everything from t-shirts to video games. In the almost thirty years since Steven Spielberg’s classic debuted, five sequels have followed in its wake, with varying degrees of success. While I enjoyed 2015’s Jurassic World, its follow-up Fallen Kingdom, was vapid, convoluted, pointless, and uninteresting. As you might imagine, my expectations for Dominion were adjacent to a bioluminescent fish at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Thankfully, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Jurassic Park: Dominion is pure popcorn fun. Ridiculous, goofy, and often illogical, it nevertheless never fails to entertain. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s been a dearth of quality films due to Covid over the last two years, but Dominion feels like a true summer blockbuster in every sense of the word. An evil corporation, a kidnapped clone, genetically enhanced locusts bent on destroying crops, black market dinosaur dealers – Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow’s script has it all and somehow it works. Moreover, the film’s unsubtle message of “co-exist or die” never feels pedantic but more of a gentle reminder. A reminder with T-Rex sized teeth.

For the Jurassic Park franchise to move forward it was necessary to move beyond the islands. Thankfully, director Colin Trevorrow (who also directed Jurassic World) does just that, with Dominion feeling like a globe trotting adventure. It’s part Indiana Jones part Mission: Impossible with dinosaurs thrown in – and it works. Shot with the frenetic pace of a James Bond film, featuring some excellent cinematography from John Schwartzman, I couldn’t help but have fun with this movie. Whether it was the seedy underbelly of an underground dinosaur black-market, Owen racing on his motorcycle to get to a plane while being chased by raptors, or everyone confronting a Giganotosaurus, Dominion is everything a summer blockbuster is supposed to be.

The biggest risk coming into this film was the return of Alan Grant, Ellie Sadler, and Ian Malcolm. How would the trio (who haven’t been onscreen together since the original) fit into this 21st century dino dystopia? Thankfully Neill, Dern, and Goldblum haven’t lost a beat, with their chemistry just as strong as it was thirty years ago. Goldblum fares the best with his Malcolm once again a Rockstar mathematician, writing books and working for Biosyn in a professorial genetic ethics role. Of course, its all a front as he’s attuned to the company’s real plans. Ellie and Alan’s undercover antics are surprisingly engaging if a bit ridiculous. Their interaction with the new breed (Owen, Claire, and Maisie) feels very much hand in glove however, with Ian and Owen’s exchanges being particularly funny. Newcomer DeWanda Wise also shines as Kayla Watts, a former Air Force pilot who aides Owen and Claire.

Let’s be honest here, though, audiences aren’t braving Covid for Chris Pratt and Laura Dern. They are doing it for the dizzying dinosaur action, and that’s something Dominion delivers in spades. With an excellent mix of practical effects and CGI dinosaurs, the Mesozoic Era has never looked this good. With the introduction of two new dinosaurs heretofore never seen on film (Giganotosaurus and Theizinosaurus) and an airplane/Pterosaur air battle that’s top notch, there’s enough delicious dinosaur devastation to please everyone.

All of this culminates in an over-the-top finale that is everything you expect including the bad guys getting their comeuppance and the seven gallant heroes saving the day. However, just because it is expected doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining or enjoyable. And it is.

Of course, Jurassic Park: Dominion possesses a few problems. At 146 minutes it is entirely too long. The plot often feels derivative and strains belief, even for a movie about genetically engineered dinosaurs. Additionally, this is a rare swing and a miss for composer Michael Giacchino as his score comes off fairly pedestrian and pales in comparison to the original. Editor Mark Sanger utilizes way too many cuts and doesn’t allow scenes to breathe as much as they should.

All of these are minor quibbles, however. Ignore the Rotten Tomatoes scores. See this on the big screen with a giant container of buttered popcorn and your favorite sugar laced libation.

My rating system:

God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad

2 Straight Garbage

3 Bad

4 Sub Par

5 Average

6 Ok

7 Good

8 Very Good

9 Great

10 A Must See

Jurassic World: Dominion: 7/10