Roughly 10 or so minutes of the newest entry in the Jurassic franchise, Dominion, features dinosaur’s loose in civilization and the havoc that would cause for humans and the already established ecosystem. That’s it. What the trailers promised us again is a lie, it’s bait and switch to get money that this installment didn’t deserve. How many times will we get fooled into thinking that a dinosaur film where the prehistoric creatures take this world back that was once theirs ala Planet of the Apes only to be disappointed by the outcome. Enough is enough. Every film since the original has promised this premise and every film after 1993 doesn’t add up to a fraction of that. How many more times can we expect this franchise to redeem itself for it to ultimately leave a bad taste in the mouth after the experience finishes and the human characters save the day?
Tagged as “the epic conclusion of the Jurassic Era” the final product doesn’t come close enough to render that statement true. Once again, a Jurassic film is full of empty calories, devoid of charm, charisma, and imagination. After 5 attempts to recapture that same magic of Jurassic Park, the Jurassic era has run its course.
At the center of Dominion’s flaws rests a screenplay that lacks any ambition or risk that would propel the series forward to what is expected of it to the current events. A world overrun with dinosaurs is easy enough to capture, but director and co-writers Trevorrow and Derek Connolly play it safe once again. Their vision doesn’t align to what the state of civilization would be in after the events of Fallen Kingdom. And after seeing the follow up to the 2018 film, I much rather prefer that story to this one.
Once the dinosaurs are freed from Lockwood’s estate at the hands of Owen (Chris Pratt), Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the clone of Lockwood’s daughter, logic would suggest that the co-existence of dinosaurs and man would combust causing complete chaos. There’s a reason dinosaurs existed well before any civilization – the mixture of the two is a ticking time bomb.
Trevorrow and Connolly’s script is stitched together that rejects what was previously established with Maisie. Everything surrounding her background is shoehorned and retconned in to give some nuance to the role where it just doesn’t exist. Compounded is a story that rarely features the actual dinosaurs for 2/3’s of the film. You would think with a title like Jurassic World: Dominion the dinosaurs would be front and center, but they are more of an afterthought, a benchwarmer to highlight a set piece between all the melodrama or used as a tool for the greed of capitalistic gain. Just another geneticist looking for his net worth to reach a new tax bracket.
Dominion’s biggest villain isn’t the generic head of the new evil company Biosyn, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) or the new apex predator carnivore that rivals the T-Rex, its logic. Full of nostalgic nods to the original, much of the narrative is recycled – A look from Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), every man’s favorite can of shaving cream, the use of fire to get a dinosaur’s attention away from impending doom. Somehow since the events of Fallen Kingdom that are recapped in a “previously on” segment that opens the film, Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) has gone through a change of heart – he’s turned over a new leaf. Instead of creating the next big and scary abomination, his motivation is to help the protagonists. How admirable it is to change your ways with zero explanation or accountability to your previous actions.
All of this, for a dinosaur that Owen promised another dinosaur he would rescue.
When the script is a giant heaping mess, getting behind the characters and their individualistic pursuits is more demanding on the viewer. Chris Pratt’s Owen is reduced from a take charge leader of the group to holding his hand out to calm a dinosaur into not eating him or the person next to him. I nearly lost count how many times that arm movement was used while the famous Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil) follows suit. Some characters are there just to fly like Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) while others like Claire add no value to whats happening. Her character has gone from ambitious corporate elitist to dinosaur rights activist to overbearing stepmom.
The real hero of this story like it has been for 5 films is a corporate whistleblower tired of the ego trips and god complex’s both coming from Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and newcomer Ramsey Cole (Mamoudou Athie). Out of the three returning survivors of the first park, its Goldblum that has the most to do while Grant is plucked from obscurity and Sattler is researching matters of a biblical nature.
Convoluted doesn’t even begin to describe this mess of a screenplay.
If you’re like me, the best aspect of this type of story, that made Park so endearing is the fear these animals present when held in captivity for too long and they find a way to get loose. trim all of the fat and give a story of that primal fear and the story writes itself. Life finds a way, after all. It’s the survival of the fittest, Darwinism aspect that’s missing in action since the original. I would much rather watch society crumble from the co-existence than stop the next John Hammond and go home. From The Lost World on and carrying over into Dominion there are no stakes – the humans aren’t held accountable nor is there any real danger.
After that one short of a T-Rex stumbling upon a drive in movie, being disappointed in a Jurassic film is something we all have gotten used to. Trevorrow can be commended on the accuracy of the dinosaur designs – purists can rest assured that feathers and furry dino’s exist.
Written By: Colin Trevorrow & Emily Carmichael
Story By: Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly
Directed By: Colin Trevorrow
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: John Schwartzman
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neil, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Campbell Scott
Release Date: June 10, 2022
Running Time: 2 Hours 26 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 31%
Based On: Characters by Michael Crichton