Jurassic World: Dominion — It’s Just Kinda Boring

Image retrieved from TMDb

As someone who’s seen each of the preceding five Jurassic movies just once, I only went to see the latest and (supposedly) last entry, Dominion, out of a sense of cultural obligation and the potential to see some cool dinosaur action. The first two Jurassic World films were met with varying degrees of critical and audience reception, but they both find themselves in the top 16 of the worldwide box office (2015’s Jurassic World is at number seven). All this is to say, despite diminishing returns in quality, I’m not the only one who repeatedly has had high hopes of seeing dinosaurs on the big screen.

With Jurassic World: Dominion, you likely will neither be overwhelmed nor underwhelmed, based on what’s come before — if you’re like me, you’ll be solidly whelmed. The film is a bloated, convoluted two hours and 27 minutes with an entire storyline that could have been cut, but at the same time, many of the dinosaur sequences are genuinely thrilling, exciting, or horrific (or all three at once), depending on the situation. To get tensed up and have your heart racing while these massive beasts terrorize our human characters is almost worth the price of admission alone. Almost.

The poor story weighs so heavily on this movie that it’s difficult to give it a pass for excellent action. The leads of the World part of the franchise are back — Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard — but so are the leads of Park — Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum. And the legacy characters are full-on co-leads, even more so than the returning Spider-Men in Spider-Man: No Way Home. While it’s cool to see them all back, and while John Williams’ classic theme is great to hear on the big screen, coupled with the actors for whom we first heard it, it’s their storyline that feels bloated and drags the film down. Their inclusion is more than just a cheap, quick cameo, but at the same time, their storyline feels like it was included just to have a reason to bring back our favorite dino trio.

While the previous film — Fallen Kingdom — left off with dinosaurs being released into the wild, swimming with surfers, roaring at lions in the zoo, and looking down over suburban developments, Dominion spends less time on the implications of a literal Jurassic World, and more on the ways a giant corporation, Biosyn, is trying to destroy the world’s crops (or something) with… giant dinosaur locusts? What they’re doing isn’t exactly clear, and it’s somewhat baffling that this big of a curveball is thrown into the series at this point. Instead of making good on the promise of Fallen Kingdom’s ending, it instead stays way too contained. This is what Dern, Neill, and Goldblum are relegated to — the movie is about 80% done before they finally meet up with Pratt and Howard. It felt more like flipping between two channels on a Sunday afternoon than watching one cohesive movie. 

I do really appreciate this Twitter thread, which compares Dominion’s Biosyn storyline to director Colin Trevorrow being ousted from writing and directing the ninth and final Star Wars episode, and while I appreciate anything that calls out Disney’s soulless method of making modern blockbusters, it really hampers down any momentum or intrigue Dominion could have had.

Containing the plot and story of a movie literally called Jurassic World: Dominion to yet another park or biodome is a massive letdown. Dr. Malcom’s speech at the end of Fallen Kingdom promised so much, but Dominion only delivered in the form of news clips. Meanwhile, Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Howard) are busy playing house in the snowy woods with Maisie (Isabella Sermon), a clone created using the same technology as some of the dinosaurs. That summary is admittedly selling the plot line short, since they’re keeping her safe from Biosyn, but it’s yet another example of keeping the story too contained. Pratt and Howard are actually quite good in this when they’re given their few chances to act emotional and not just run or hide from dinosaurs, but those moments are too few and far between.

All the while, I can’t help but be enamored with many of the dinosaur scenes. The film opens with a massive mosasaurus attacking a fishing boat, which immediately establishes the terror of dinosaurs living among us. In the news reels, we see other scattered incidents as well, including dinos wrecking an outdoor wedding, but that’s about the extent of the worldwide troubles we see. Even still, Owen racing against dinosaurs on his motorcycle, or Claire trying her absolute best to survive being hunted, alone in the jungle, will have you on the edge of your seat or curled up in a ball, hoping for the characters’ survival. Like the original Jurassic Park, there are some moments that could easily find themselves in horror movies. When you go to a movie looking for exciting and terrifying dinosaur action, these are exactly the kind you’re looking for, and they don’t disappoint. Eventually, though, after enough near encounters and deus ex machina scares, the stakes just continue to get lower and lower, which takes some of the effectiveness out of the later attacks. 

Jurassic World: Dominion’s main problem is that it just doesn’t seem to have a point. It’s not the cynical sucking up of The Rise of Skywalker, and it isn’t the near-perfect wrap-up of The Deathly Hallows Part 2… it’s just kind of boring. There’s not a lot to it. It’s not going to insult your intelligence, but it’s also not going to make you think deeply about anything, or even make you leave the theater amped up. It just blandly exists, and that’s it’s biggest problem.

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