Jurassic Park started a dinosaur craze in 1993 that has never let up. Although still nowhere as good or suspenseful as the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton, the special effects and the amazing T. rex scene captivated audiences and made them hungry for more. A number of movies and almost 30 years later, and I just saw the latest in the long-running series. Humans still haven’t learned their lesson, and the filmmakers still dabble in the same cinematic tricks to show off the dinosaurs and pull off the action sequences. Let’s face it. The real reason that people go to these movies is to experience a variety of dinosaurs and watch them attack when they feel threatened. This supposed “epic conclusion of the Jurassic era” delivers the goods as far as dinosaurs new and old. Unfortunately, the bloated running time includes so much setup and exposition that I wanted to press fast forward to get to the good stuff. Jurassic World Dominion starts off at the pace of a lumbering Stegosaurus before finally picking up speed to Velociraptor levels later on.
Director Colin Trevorrow returns to lead the trilogy that he started with Jurassic World and continued as the writer of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He and Emily Carmichael wrote this script and perhaps tried too hard to throw in everything and everyone, including new characters, locations and dinosaurs. Trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and former Jurassic World theme park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) live way out in the wilderness where they protect Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a genetically pure human being who must hide from scientists who want to turn her into a lab rat. Owen’s favorite trained Velociraptor named Blue lives nearby and just gave birth to a baby. When both Maisie and Blue’s kid get nabbed by poachers, Owen and Claire follow their trails to rescue them. At the same time, paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) investigate why giant locusts are only swarming and eating particular crops. All roads lead to a Biosyn research facility in the Dolomites where Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) pursues nefarious plans and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) lectures like he’s on a college campus.
Just a synopsis of the major plot points took that many words to describe, and there are so many more subplots, locations and characters to consider. Pratt and Howard continue their fine work from the previous two movies, and their characters perhaps end up in more dangerous situations than before. They’re almost overwhelmed by the return of the “big three” of Neill, Dern and Goldblum putting on these characters like a comfortable pair of jeans. Goldblum fans will especially love his punch lines and snarky humor. Scott chews up the scenery as the bad guy, while BD Wong reappears as Dr. Henry Wu, the geneticist who caused this mess to begin with. Sermon notches just her second IMDb credit, and she’s one of the standout stars. DeWanda Wise makes a huge impression as sassy, badass pilot Kayla Watts, who helps the rescuers get into the facility and later ends up caught in the chaos. Mamoudou Athie also held my interest as Ramsay Cole, the assistant to Dodgson who helps everyone once he realizes what Biosyn has unleashed. Ultimately, Jurassic World Dominion feels like an unfocused ensemble film with many jumps back and forth between characters and plotlines.
Let’s talk about dinosaurs. Velociraptors feature heavily, especially in an exciting chase/attack scene in the streets of Malta when multiple predators follow Owen on a motorcycle. The latest generations of these creatures have supposedly been engineered with implanted chips and trained to lock on targets, but that doesn’t truly make them any more controllable. You want your T. rex? You’ve got it. In fact, a neat callback to that T. rex sequence from Jurassic Park takes place with another species. Aggressive new types of dinosaurs with feathers and long talons are probably already on store shelves as action figures. Because scientists in this series don’t learn a thing, expect to see the largest, most dangerous land dinosaur so far. Are the dinosaur attacks pulse-pounding and enjoyable? Hell, yes! The sound effects and Michael Giacchino’s score finish the illusion, so try to catch this release in an IMAX theater or at least one with great sound.
This story takes place years after the Jurassic World theme park dinosaurs have escaped into the wild and spread across the planet. Humanity still hasn’t figured out that this arrangement will not work. The movie delivers more of the same as issues arise and dinosaurs need to be contained. A neat callback to an event in Jurassic Park proves the point. People will perish, and the dinosaurs will indeed establish dominion over the Earth. I thought that this movie would address that kind of future, and it just sort of glosses over the issues, particularly the numbers of them versus us. Marketed as the end of the “Jurassic era,” I predict that another, darker era will eventually begin.
That John Williams theme from Jurassic Park still sends chills down my spine as it mentally takes me back in time. The filmmakers and Giacchino had to weave that into the movie. Just like the throwback cast members, those chords belong. Although too talky at times, there are nice scenes with the newer characters interacting with the “big three” as everyone finally meets. Give it a few years, and you might see an entirely different kind of entry in the series. For now, Jurassic World Dominion splices together fantastic action sequences with less interesting moments for a breed of movie that doesn’t quite qualify as an apex predator.