Jurassic World: Dominion Review – This Legacy Sequel is Entertaining and Bloated, Full of Fan Service Moments

All films in the Jurassic collection feature a mixture of a few key elements: scientific hubris, corporate/capitalist malfeasance, a kid (or two) in trouble, and lots of dinosaurs. Colin Trevorrow’s latest entry into the franchise manages to put all of these elements on screen, and for the faithful that should essentially be enough to satisfy. Jurassic World: Dominion also finally unites the core cast members of the original trilogy with the rebooted version, and to be fair, that’s what a lot of audience members have been wanting for a long time. Whether or not the movie is entirely successful without call backs to Spielberg’s original vision isn’t really a question – the Jurassic franchise sells on nostalgia and for many that’s enough to keep it going. Dinosaurs doing their thing is big and exciting, and despite the varying quality of the films in the franchise, people will always be back for that T-Rex shadow.

Jurassic World: Dominion takes place a few years after the events of J. A. Bayona’s disappointing entry Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Trevorrow uses sections of his short film Battle at Big Rock to fill the audience in on how the human race is adjusting to living with dinosaurs, and the answer is not particularly well. However, the genie is out of the bottle now and it is up to ill prepared governments to try to find a way to balance the existence of two species who should never have shared space on the planet together.

Unsurprisingly many governments have handballed the responsibility for the issue to private companies. Here we are re-introduced to Biosyn (a competitor of John Hammond’s InGen that was introduced in the first film with the character of Lewis Dodgson trying to gain DNA samples of Hammond’s work). Of course anyone who is familiar with Biosyn knows they are the essence of corporate greed, but in the new world of human/dinosaur interaction they’ve managed to gain an important foothold in the territory of apparently being a “good” company working for the benefit of humanity and dinosaurs. Headed now by Dodgson (Campbell Scott) they run a research facility and dinosaur sanctuary in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.

Before the audience (and the main characters) are taken to Biosyn, the film plays a catch up with a ‘where are they now?’ for the new and legacy characters. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are living in a remote area with Maisie Lockwood (the clone of Charlotte Lockwood) and are acting as her surrogate parents. When they aren’t attending to their parental duties Claire and Owen are each trying to get endangered dinosaurs to safety.

Claire is breaking into illegal labs that are breeding dinosaurs with Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) and Dr Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Their efforts are small and making no real dent on the illegal dinosaur trade so Webb and Rodriguez both opt for jobs where they think they can make more of a difference.

Owen is out riding horses through herds of dinosaurs and (rather ridiculously) capturing them to be sent to sanctuaries. Suspending disbelief that Owen can lasso a dinosaur and hold it with a rope is difficult, but let’s face it, none of these movies really worked on advanced logic.

Maisie is entering her tween years and is finding the isolation difficult. She also has the issue of defining whether she is an authentic being knowing that she is a clone of her mother. What does make her happy is her knowledge of dinosaurs. Owen has been keeping in close proximity of the Velociraptor, Blue, who he trained at Jurassic World. Blue, due in part to her introduced lizard DNA has been able to procreate without a mate and now has a daughter of her own. Unsurprisingly both Blue’s daughter and Maisie are of great interest to the corporate scientific community and keeping them hidden is of utmost importance to Owen and Claire.

Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) the paleobiologist from the original film is investigating genetically modified locusts who are wiping out all crops not owned by Biosyn (shout out to Monsanto conspiracy folks here). She reaches out to Alan Grant (Sam Neill) who is still working excavating bones, and still underfunded. She asks Grant to help her with her investigation into Biosyn which is facilitated by a visit organised by no other than Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) who is Biosyn’s in-house ethics philosopher. Grant agrees and the original team are reunited.

Maisie and Blue’s daughter are captured by mercenaries working for Biosyn. This leads Claire and Owen on a chase to Malta where the underground dinosaur market is flourishing. Owen reunites with Barry Sembène (Omar Sy) who is working undercover to halt illegal dinosaur trades. Morocco is also where a new character, pilot-for-hire, Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) is introduced. The scenes in Malta almost play out like a Mission Impossible film – lots of action and stunts, Owen riding around on a motorcycle being chased by genetically controlled raptors. It’s all very over the top and feels like the whole section was designed to give Pratt more room to flex his action muscles. It’s not really necessary to the plot except to reinforce that Owen and Claire will do anything to get Maisie back, and of course reiterate that Biosyn really are the bad guys. However, the introduction of Kayla is welcome, and Wise does add something to the film even if her sudden turn around from disinterested party only in it for the money to person willing to risk everything to do the right thing seems a bit forced.

Finally, after a terrifying flight where Kayla’s plane is attacked by some version of pterodactyls (sorry, I’m not a palaeontologist and there are so many species of dinosaurs in the film it’s hard to keep up) causing Claire to have to eject from the plane, everyone arrives at Biosyn’s ‘sanctuary.’ It’s now that the real Jurassic Park film can begin. All major characters are on the ground doing what they can to out Biosyn’s unethical behaviour, but more importantly, through a confluence of events the sanctuary loses the ability to control the dinosaurs, so the audience is getting what they paid for – the OG team and the new team running away from Giganotosauruses and Tyrannosaurs (and other species). There’s also the expected banter, call backs, rivalries, and romance.

Trevorrow delivers on the promise of a proper Jurassic World film in the third act. It’s filled with fan service, familiar plot beats, and recognition of what made Spielberg’s first film a classic. As much as this is a plus, it can also be viewed as a minus. We have seen all of it before, in some cases a shot-for-shot recreation of the original film. This movie marks the sixth feature instalment in a franchise that has had offshoots through games, post-Crichton novels, a Lego movie, and more. The audience’s mileage may vary on how much they have invested in the franchise. For some the repetition will be annoying, but for others it will be exactly what they want to see. In no way does Jurassic Park: Dominion stand as a singular creation; it is a culmination of the two ends of the franchise. Does it really matter if it’s a quality film? Probably not. Thankfully it can be said it isn’t a bad film and a lot of people will enjoy it greatly. Of course the potential for another sequel exists, but what would be the point? Spielberg (who acts as executive producer) and Trevorrow’s visions of the Jurassic worlds have been merged and an end-point has been reached even if that end point doesn’t really answer the question about how humans and dinosaurs can co-exist.

Boiling it down to its essence, Jurassic World: Dominion is an entertaining if somewhat bloated movie that sees the franchise come to a basically satisfying close. Fans will eat up seeing Alan Grant and Owen Grady hold off raptors. They’ll love Ian Malcolm’s quirks and quips. Trevorrow and fellow screenwriters at the very least got the characterisation spot on and in a film that is overcrowded in places, it is the attachment to the legacy of the series that takes the movie over the line and into the realm of crowd-pleaser.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern

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