Jurassic World: Dominion Leaves Dinosaurs (and us) Out to Dry

[L-R] Jeff Goldblum as IAN, Sam Neill as ALAN, Laura Dern as ELLIE, Dallas Bryce Howard as CLAIRE, Chris Pratt as OWEN, Isabelle Sermon as MAISIE, DeWanda Wise as KAYLA in JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

The 1993 Jurassic Park merged the best of the action-thriller and monster movie genres into one epic summer blockbuster. Known for its revolutionary CGI and its speculative exploration of genetic science, this techno-thriller inspired the paleontologist in all of us. Now almost 30 years and five sequels later, the Jurassic Park franchise concludes (we'll believe it when we see it) with Jurassic World: Dominion, directed by Colin Trevorrow, with screenplay by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael, based on a story by Derek Connolly (who worked with Trevorrow on Safety Not Guaranteed). The previous film, Falling Kingdom, ended with the perfect setup for the final chapter: dinosaurs now roam the Earth alongside humans. No longer contained in preserves or institutions, dinosaurs are now competitors for the world's resources. Alongside this intriguing proposition, fans anticipated the return of Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who would somehow work into the plot alongside power couple Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). With a setup like this, what could possibly go wrong?

[L-R] DeWanda Wise as KAYLA, Chris Pratt as OWEN in JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

Unfortunately, the filmmaking team squanders the cast and setup by pivoting to a paper-thin scenario with an all-too-obvious agenda. There are some exciting and fun moments, but Dominion falls into the trap of being a film meant first and foremost to evoke nostalgia. Nostalgia should never be the point, but instead, a by-product that occurs when a story captures a feeling of something beloved and held dear. Put together the right mix of narrative elements, and nostalgia will come. In Dominion, the assembly of these characters feels cobbled together just to pull on viewers' heartstrings. Worst of all, this dinosaur movie spends more time with modified locusts and people than dinosaurs.

Owen and Claire now live in domestic bliss in an off-grid cabin, where they can keep an eye on the genetically cloned Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), who they are now raising as a daughter. The teenage Maisie is unhappy with their protective nature and wants more independence (as all teenagers do). When Maisie is kidnapped by contractors hired by Biosyn to bring her back for testing, Owen and Claire fly to Malta to rescue her. On the way, they pick up a kick-ass pilot, Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who agrees to help after an initial reluctance to get involved.

Meanwhile, Ellie Sattler investigates hordes of giant locusts that selectively destroy crops. After learning the locusts left crops harvested with Biosyn seed alone, Ellie suspects Biosyn is responsible and decides to investigate, calling on Alan Grant for help. Together, they travel to the Biosyn headquarters in Italy, where Ian Malcolm works. After some pit stops along the way, It is at this locale that the two groups will converge.

[L-R] Laura Dern as ELLIE, Sam Neill as ALAN in JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION

The original Jurassic Park movie contains the perfect blend of speculative science and thrills. The science grants just enough information to convince us the plot we are about to see is an all-too-possible real-life scenario. The rest is about tickling the audience's sensory drive with the right sounds and sights, jacking up the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Dominion contains some thrills and some science, but the screenplay is a mess. While the best parts occur in the wild, with dinosaurs and people interacting, most of the story takes place in a lab.

The plot of Owen and Claire looking for Maisie contains most of the action, with the pair trotting the globe on the hunt for their girl and Beta, the progeny of everyone's favorite velociraptor, Blue. There's a thrilling street chase, a visit to the dinosaur black market, and even the perfect monster movie moment, where Claire has to hide from a deadly predator in murky waters. This leaves the science component to the triumvirate of Dern, Neill, and Goldblum. Dern needs to stare at dinosaurs with mouth agape, Goldblum must wax poetic with thoughtful quotes, and Grant needs to play the straight man, tolerating Dern and chafing at Malcolm's ego. The three of them do these things very well. Unfortunately, the whole locust and Biosyn subplot just isn't that interesting. No one cares about locusts. We want to see dinosaurs!


And even bringing the veterans and new kids together feels anticlimactic, like I'm watching that meme of Spider-Man variants pointing at each other. "Hey, I know you … I know you. too."

There are some golden moments, like the Malta sequences and the times when our heroes must evade dinosaur attacks. The final showdown mimics the kaiju films of old, where it's nature – not science – that has the final say. And it is nice to see our beloved heroes grace the screen, even though the material is weak. Beyond that, the best new character must be pilot Kayla Watts. She's a true Han Solo, with a cynical, greedy exterior that camouflages the heart of a romantic.

This "final" chapter of Jurassic Park lands in the category of fine. It wants you to believe that it ties up all the loose ends. But it doesn't come close to resolving the most crucial plot point – what happens to the dinosaurs that try to co-exist in this world. They are left to fend for themselves, as we always knew they would. Maybe another movie – a better movie – would have tried to wrestle with that more instead of tagging it on as an afterthought.

Release info: Coming June 10, 2022 to theaters

Final score: 3 out of 5