Colin Trevorrow injects plenty of dinos and nostalgia to the series, but not much else.
In the video game version of the original Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis, you can choose to play the side scroller as either Dr. Grant or a Velociraptor. Of course, you choose the raptor almost every time because dinosaurs are cooler than humans. It’s a great lesson for making a fun video game, but not for making a successful movie franchise.
The Jurassic World series, now three films deep with Dominion, has given up on humans. It’s all about the dinos now. Whether it’s the air, sea, forests, or beautiful Malta, there are plenty of CGI dinosaurs to inspire awe or terror. Who needs real characters with any complexities when you can just throw as many loud action set pieces and dino enemies until your audience is numb?
Summer blockbusters are supposed to be rollercoasters. Jurassic Park Dominion is a rollercoaster that malfunctions and keeps going on a loop until you go from feeling excited to scared to nauseous to exhausted, until by the end you just sigh heavily and accept this miserable fate.
Colin Trevorrow returns to the director’s chair after sitting Fallen Kingdom out. That sequel is also not good, but at least The Orphanage director, J.A. Bayona, gave it a strong eye and made things interesting by sorta attempting to make a Resident Evil movie with dinosaurs storming through a spooky mansion. For this outing, Trevorrow tries to combine two different mediocre sequels.
One follows our crew from the first two Jurassic World films. Raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and dinosaur rights activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are hiding out in the Sierras with Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), a young clone of a Jurassic Park scientist who figured out how to clone herself as well as pterodactyls. Out in the wider world, humans are forced to cohabitate with dinosaurs because Lockwood released them from captivity in the previous film.
The fact that this girl’s actions, and Dearing’s previous dino rescue efforts, may be responsible for thousands of deaths and the complete destabilization of the natural order, comes up briefly, but neither character seems too wracked with guilt. It brings up the most annoying moral quandary that the Jurassic World films don’t know what to do with.
The lesson from the first Jurassic Park is that when humans think they can play God with genetics, things go bad. Now that the dinosaurs have proliferated in Jurassic World, do we try to kill them to save humanity or learn to co-exist? These films want to have it both ways, but after six movies of humans having to run for their lives from some of history’s most vicious killing machines, it seems like we should have learned our lesson by now that this isn’t The Flintstones and we should probably avoid living with creatures that ruled the Earth millions of years before humans.
The second mediocre movie, and potentially the more interesting one, is a direct follow-up to the original Jurassic Park trilogy. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) reunites with Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) to investigate a plague of giant, prehistoric locusts that are ravaging the world’s food supply. Their search leads them to the headquarters of Biosyn Genetics, located in the middle of a huge forest preserve filled with dinosaurs the company has engineered.
There they meet the Biosyn CEO, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), who dresses and talks like an evil Steve Jobs, so you know he’s in it for the right reasons. They’re also reunited with the agent of chaos himself, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who’s there to be the doomsday warning comic relief character whenever the movie’s not too busy making him run from a T-Rex.
Both these mediocre movies collide into each other to create, like the scientists in this film, an abomination of nature. When young clone Lockwood is kidnapped and brought to Biosyn, Pratt and Howard follow in pursuit, with just enough time to have a bonkers motorcycle chase with raptors through picturesque Malta. It’s like a child watching a chase scene in a recent Daniel Craig Bond film and thinking, “What if it was that but with dinosaurs!” and then Universal pays them $3 million to write the script.
The Jurassic World crew eventually teams up with the nostalgic Park crew at Biosyn, creating a cast of too many people to keep track of, with little effort to make any of them interesting because we need to get to the next action set piece (including a sequence in an amber mine for some reason?) as quickly as possible.
Trevorrow pulls off a few decent moments, usually involving Bryce Dallas Howard in peril, such as a truly heart pounding fixed camera shot when she ejects from an old plane that’s crashing, or a frightening dino twist on the Apocalypse Now poster with Martin Sheen poking his head out of the river. There’s plenty of CGI blandness to go around in this film, but at least they have the decency to throw in a few animatronic dinosaurs to break it up this time, including a few cute baby triceratopses that have a Baby Yoda vibe.
Maybe we deserve this. We are the species that picks the raptor over the human while playing Sega. We’ll always be fascinated with dinosaurs and will watch most things that feature them. There are fourteen Land Before Time movies. The first two Jurassic World films grossed over $3 billion combined despite being lesser, lazier clones of the original. In one of Dominion’s only successful attempts at meta commentary, Dr. Malcolm tells a room full of Biosyn employees that they put up with a lot of nonsense because they love dinosaurs so much. I’m shocked he didn’t wink at the camera.
Jurassic World Dominion premieres in theaters May 10th.