The following review of Jurassic World Dominion is an edited transcription of the video above.
Jurassic World Dominion is the sixth film in the Jurassic Park franchise, though you can pretty much bill it as the third film in the Jurassic World trilogy. In fact, it’s fitting to compare this trilogy of legacy sequels to the most recent Star Wars trilogy of legacy sequels, since they both kicked off in 2015 with massive commercial successes leaning heavily on nostalgia, then moderately less successful second entries that mixed up the formula to varying results, then finished off with the same director from the first film (in this case, Colin Trevorrow), in many ways returning to the heavy nostalgia beats that defined the first of their respective reboot trilogies.
In case you pretty much forgot everything that happened in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the remnant hordes of dinosaurs from that original Jurassic World theme park have been let loose upon the entire world at the hands of a young girl (played once again in Dominion by Isabella Sermon), who happens to be a clone, so there’s another Star Wars connection for you. The technology used to clone her DNA has a close connection with what made dinosaurs in the modern day possible, as well as a mysterious plague of locusts that threatens to demolish the world’s food chain.
The shady tech company at the heart of this conspiracy is the familiar BioSyn, the same corporate antagonists who recruited Dennis Nedry in the first Jurassic Park movie to steal dinosaur embryos for their own competitive research. In this film, they’ve created an entire eco-habitat of dinosaurs, some of them with feathers and all kinds of deadly quirks the fans have been hoping to see for years. And characters from multiple Jurassic movies have to band together in order to stop BioSyn from unwittingly destroying the world with their reckless tampering of DNA. Or something.
The main selling point of Dominion is just that. Taking the recently established protagonists — Chris Pratt as former raptor-trainer Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard as park manager turned radical environmentalist Claire Dearing — and colliding them with the iconic trio of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. So in this film, there’s a parallel story featuring the return of Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm. Each of these characters have popped up throughout most of these movies, but this is the first time we get to see all of them back together since 1993.
First, let’s get the glaring problems out of the way. In terms of quality and screenplay, Dominion is truly all over the place. At its worst, it brings its own momentum and worldbuilding to a screeching halt in order to deliver painfully irrelevant fan service and Easter eggs that are too obvious to miss while simultaneously being hopelessly unnecessary. But in terms of entertainment factor, the sheer spectacle of the whole movie is thoroughly satisfying.
It’s a mark on Trevorrow as director, who has always been dramatically inconsistent. Capable on the one hand of setting up and paying off incredibly exciting action set pieces, while other scenes are completely inert and bafflingly underwritten. John Schwartzman, Trevorrow’s frequent cinematographer, returns with an equally inconsistent visual language compared to his work on the first Jurassic World, with some scenes being frame-worthy and genuinely inspired for their creativity and dramatic depth, while many other picturesque moments are jarringly simple and repetitive.
At its best, Dominion delivers on the promise of merging the dinosaur world with our own, while also having the propulsive engine of an Indiana Jones adventure movie. Gone is the singular mansion-trotting of Fallen Kingdom, as Dominion truly spans the globe for more locations and types of environments for these carnivores to chew on. The film’s best section is probably its swashbuckling chase sequence in an underground dino black market that stretches out into the streets and nearby apartments, with all types of violent dinosaurs getting a chance to rip bad guys a new one, while our heroes, scrappy as ever, struggle to escape with their lives.
You can at least credit Dominion with having a clear sense of its themes, because they’re the same ideas these movies always tend to fall back on. Nature is as beautiful and sacred as it is dangerous and unrelenting and unpredictable. The Jurassic World films have progressed this idea to being less about mankind and dinosaurs being better off apart, but rather entering a new era together, where they can potentially cohabitate. But Dominion gets preachier than ever in this regard, constantly propping up and lionizing its protagonists without really examining their inner conflicts or giving us a reason to care about their place in this changing world. They’re all simply on the right side of every issue at this point, and the film is more about watching how they’ll get out of the next mess, rather than any stakes that go deeper than amber.
It’s not surprising that this trilogy ends with such a surface-level romp in terms of writing and character development, but when compared to that original film, it’s easy to call this one yet another disappointment. Especially if you still expect this franchise to evolve, even after five lackluster attempts in a row.
Jurassic World Dominion opens in theaters everywhere starting June 10 through Universal. Watch the trailer here.