Going to be honest. As much I absolutely love the Jurassic Park franchise, I was not chomping at the bit to see the latest entry in the series Jurassic World Dominion. I just had such a weird ambivalence from my prior experiences with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which was easily the worst film ever set in the Jurassic Park universe.
Which is a real shame, as the Jurassic Park franchise formed an integral part of my childhood and really helped foster my love and passion for dinosaurs and paleontology (as well as science fiction). The first film was literally the first "grown-up" movie that I ever watched and I never miss an opportunity to watch the movie when it comes on screen.
Which just made my overall reluctance for Jurassic World Dominion all the more painful for me. I should've been chomping at the bit to see this film. However, much like Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, my enthusiasm was curtailed by the poor quality of the previous installment. I knew I would watch the film, but it was more out of loyalty to the franchise than any real excitement on my part (though I will say that some of the side projects and shorts associated with the film's marketing were absolutely fantastic and would've been almost better in my mind for the future of this franchise.
But was my reluctance warranted? Is Jurassic World Dominion as...unreliable....as its predecessor, or does it actually manage to capture some of the magic from the original trilogy of films?
- Directed by Colin Trevorrow
- Produced by Amblin Entertainment
- MPAA Rating: PG-13
- Runtime: 146 Minutes
Four years after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the world is struggling to deal with the reintroduction of dinosaurs into the global ecosystem. At the forefront of this debate is the company Biosyn, led by the mysterious and eccentric Lewis Dodgson, who has been collecting dinosaurs and shipping them to Biosyn Valley where they can be researched for medical purposes. However when famed paleobotanist Ellie Sattler discovers possible Biosyn involvement in a growing locust outbreak that threatens to become a global famine, she recruits Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm to sneak into Biosyn and uncover whats really going-on inside the mysterious corporation.
At the center of this conspiracy lies Maisie Lockwood, the cloned girl responsible for releasing dinosaurs into the world at the end of Fallen Kingdom. Now a teenage girl under the protection of Owen Grady and Claire Dearing, Maisie longs to learn her place in the world and what her creation actually meant for her family and "mother". But mercenaries working for Biosyn's soon kidnap Maisie and the asexual offspring of the Velociraptor Blue for unknown reasons and Owen and Claire must traverse the dinosaur black market to find her before she is lost to Biosyn's clutches.
Both Owen and Claire's and the three scientists stories merge to a catastrophic finale that will finally seek to answer what role dinosaurs, and Maisie, will play in the world at large.
I've said this more than a few times in the past few weeks while watching new releases but I really wanted to fall in love with this movie. My passion and nostalgic connection for the original Jurassic Park has always filled me with the hope that that same love can be harbored in a another film in the franchise. I love The Lost World and I even have quite a bit that I like from Jurassic World. But then I would also be forced to acknowledge that the Jurassic Park franchise is just one of those film series where the sequels will likely never surpass the original.
That's not to say that this movie is terrible or without merit. In fact, I think this film is pretty good. I had moments I genuinely enjoyed and would've loved to see more of and, as is expected at this point, Jurassic World Dominion has amazing visual effects that actually does try to include more practical effects than previous iterations in the Jurassic World trilogy. And there are quite a few individual scenes that are just a thrill or genuinely terrifying (I'm looking at you, Dilophosaurus scenes). However, I think where this film does its best is when it actually shows the unique and fun ways that dinosaurs are slowly integrating into the modern world, seeing dinosaurs traveling among regular animals and people, as well as Owen and Claire's introduction into the dinosaur black market were really cool and a great concept that I wish the film did more of.
But that brings us to where the issues begin. There are a lot of individual scenes that are great or thrilling or scary, but they are threaded together very poorly or there is just too many things disconnected, contrived or in the case of the original prologue (which was revealed as an early teaser in the marketing strategy film) gone altogether, that seriously make the emotional fulfillment of the film almost non-existent. I had fun in individual scenes but the film has a whole made me ultimately feel nothing. This is best encapsulated by the final fight between the T-Rex, the Therazinosaurus, and the Giganotosaurus. This should've been a triumphant badass scene that was the capstone to the movie. Instead it existed largely as a background obstruction for the character's to run and escape from. It makes me wonder if the upcoming director's cut will ultimately be more satisfying, as many other viewers seem to suspect it will be.
And if that doesn't help, perhaps a fanedit may help to better connect the individual pieces into a stronger whole. However, it still brings us to the point that the dinosaurs seem more like window dressing to the actual plot, which is largely a corporate espionage story involving a conspiracy to create genetically-modified locusts to control global food production. It's a storyline right out of a James Bond novel with Dodgson coming off almost like a supervillain at times, when he isn't trying to outight pretend to be a Elon Musk/Steve Jobs personality. While the overall espionage isn't terrible, it doesn't really feel like a Jurassic Park film and relies heavily on the interactions of the characters.
Here, at least, I thought that maybe Jurassic World Dominion would capture some magic of the original film by bringing together all the original protagonists (Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm) and having them collaborate with the heroes of the new trilogy (Grady, Dearing, and Lockwood). The issue is that the film doesn't really connect all the stories until the very end, and even then only tangentially. The characters don't always get a lot of time to shine and while the main cast does their best, its kind of funny to see two very different eras of protagonist at play in the same film. Chris Pratt and Sam Neill just have completely different energies in the film and they don't necessarily mesh well in action scenes. Sam Neill just feels so done with everything, which does give off Grant energy, but it also makes his relationship with Ellie seem strained and weird. Even weirder than in the original film.
Speaking of, we have to talk about Owen Grady. This dude just keeps doing weird action movie shit in my Jurassic Park film. I thought it was charming and funny when he rode a motorcycle among raptors in the first Jurassic World, but now we have laser-guided raptors chasing after Owen as he races to board a moving airplane, trying to rustle up a Parasaurolophus on the back of a horse, and wrangling Dilophosauruses from hurting Claire. Claire honestly has no reason to be here, near as I can tell. She has a few lovely moments with trying to show off her motherly tendencies to Maisie, but other than those few moments and the Therazinosaurus introduction, she doesn't really do anything.
If any characters do a fantastic job in my mind, it is Maisie Lockwood and Dr. Wu. These two characters have one of my favorite moments in the movie, filled with emotion and a generally good debate on the ethics of genetic research. This scene did feel like it was put in largely to correct some of the WTF moments from Fallen Kingdom but I did appreciate the moments with Maisie's mom and Dr. Wu's redemption arc. It really came off as an apologetic mad scientist that gives him so much more complexity then Dodgson.
I guess the final element that really comes to mind is that I found Dodgson's death ironic, but also really weird. Having him meet the same fate as the Jurassic Park employee he hired so many years before was thematically satisfying, but they had him give a really stupid line just before his death that still makes me scratch my head.
All in all, Jurassic World Dominion
feels like a well-made and great looking and sounding film that honestly has nothing to say other than individual set pieces filled with cheap thrills. The budget of a blockbuster, but the plot of a B-movie. With politically poignant narrative points that unfortunately seem to have had their emotional weight butchered in the editing room and characters that don't completely mesh given the very different tones of the two Jurassic Park
trilogies, Jurassic World Dominion
is an above average film that is good a fun time but you aren't likely to remember it very well or be very emotionally satisfying.
FINAL SCORE - 7/10
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