After two years of very few big budget productions making it into cinemas for a wide run, Jurassic World: Dominion isn’t just the return of one of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster franchises – it’s a return for the kind of ‘best enjoyed on a large screen experience’ that the series’ dinosaurs are perfect for.
Older movie fans will no doubt remember the buzz surrounding the release of Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Jurassic Park – a lot of which was about how the special effects wizards at ILM were going to conjure up life-sized dinosaurs on the big screen. Today, we pretty much take breathtaking special effects for granted, so it was nice to see that Jurassic World managed to still wow audiences when it revived the franchise in 2015. Dominion is the second sequel to that film, and is also claimed to be the final entry in the entire series – tying the original “Park” trilogy to the new films for the first time.
Story-wise, Dominion picks up a few years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in which dino island Isla Nublar was destroyed by a volcano and only a limited number of dinosaurs were saved from the impending disaster. It seems like they multiply (and mature) in a rapid way though, because Dominion casts us towards a reality in which dinosaurs and men now live side by side, and sightings of massive dinosaurs roaming around aren’t a rarity. You have to not think about it all too much, as the writing isn’t the main attraction here – this one’s more of a highlight reel for fans of the series than an exciting new narrative direction.
The core plot here revolves around Maisie, who we met in Fallen Kingdom and now lives in a remote location with Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing taking care of her. When the girl inevitably gets kidnapped, Grady and Dearing give chase, which leads to both a spectacular chase sequence that pretty much adds dinosaurs to a thrilling James Bond-like scene as well as a meeting with original cast members Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm. Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum all return to help out, and a new “evil corporation” is introduced in the shape of Biosys.
Fitting with familiar themes from earlier movies in the franchise, Biosys is led by a shady CEO played by Campbell Scott, and it’s Sattler who wants to thwart their evil plans. The fact that this leads to the original and new trilogy crossing paths is as much of a “what are the odds?” thing as the rest of the script, which seems to be more preoccupied with providing fan service for franchise fans than a coherent and captivating script. Some of the engineered/modified dinosaurs also require you to suspend your disbelief way more than the previous films did, as Dominion seems keen on coming up with “new” dinos rather than relying on ones we’ve seen before – though some fan favorites obviously return as well.
For a movie that’s about two and a half hours long, Jurassic World: Dominion packs a lot of moments, characters and story strands into one package. It’s almost like it wants to wrap everything up nicely and put a bow around it, but the result of that is also that some of your favorite characters and dinosaurs might not get as much screen time as you would have liked – and the same is true for some of the storylines that intersect here.
Having said all that, this is a film that works well as a piece of pop culture history that’s rooted in itself and aims to provide the kind of popcorn movie entertainment that we’ve gone without for too long. The dinosaurs look great, we get to see the characters we know and love once more, and we get to revisit thirty years worth of “Jurassic” content. As with any good highlight reel, it’s bits and pieces of good stuff that were pasted together, and that makes it entertaining enough even though the glue that holds it together – the script, mainly – isn’t that great.
It’s tremendously fun to watch though, despite the long running time, and it’s a great fit for the immersive 4DX technology that lets you “feel” that approaching dinosaur way more than any subwoofer ever did, and provides a thrilling extra dimension to the film’s many action sequences.