Bloody Disgusting’s Jurassic World Dominion review is spoiler-free.
The events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom saw Isla Nublar destroyed and its dinosaurs unleashed into the world by the film’s end, setting up a sequel that threatened to knock humanity out of the food chain’s top spot. Jurassic World Dominion picks up four years later. But instead of an epic clash for territory, this trilogy-closer chooses to retread the greatest hits and use its prehistoric animals mostly as props.
Save for an opening montage rounding up global videos of dinosaurs interrupting – and sometimes worse – the daily lives of humans, the world has adapted quickly to the integration of dinosaurs. Owen (Chris Pratt) now herds herbivores, while Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) works as a dinosaur-rights activist. That usually entails sneaking into illegal breeding farms at night. The couple has long settled into domestic bliss, living together in an isolated cabin where they secretly raise teen Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon).
Maisie’s unique genetic code makes her a coveted asset among the corrupt, putting her at the intersection of converging plot threads that includes a global catastrophe courtesy of genetically altered locusts that threaten to starve out humanity within days. It’s this bug-centric crisis that brings returning players Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) back into the fold, and introduces lively newcomers Ramsey (Mamoudou Athie) and Kayla (DeWanda Wise).
Jurassic World architect and director Colin Trevorrow, working from a script he co-wrote with Emily Carmichael, keeps the focus on the human players. It’s not dinosaurs putting the world in peril, but corporate greed. Trevorrow skips past highlighting the chaos of integration straight to humans exploiting the dinos’ existence. Brief scenes of human kindness get swallowed by breeding farms with sickly baby dinos, black markets with illegal trades and carnivore fighting rings, and more. For the most part, the dinos are subjugated; human-made bugs present the central conflict.
It’s supposed to be a race against the clock, but the bloated narrative never instills the necessary urgency. It spends a lot of time on character catchup and plot setup, taking a while before the adventure gets underway. Some of the larger, more bombastic set pieces get wedged in solely for spectacle and contrived forward momentum, bogging down the pacing in the process. An antagonist gets introduced as an integral part of the plan in Malta, only to get forgotten and never mentioned again. The film’s big bad is similarly underdeveloped, a caricature of archetypical greed, while an overarching antagonist gets an unearned redemptive arc.
Then there’s the overreliance on nostalgia. It’s not enough to bring the core legacy trio back into the fold; they’re forced to rehash their most iconic moments or wink at the audience through referential jokes and dialogue. The Dilophosaurus makes a return, which means that so does the Barbasol can in a blatant and silly callback. Dominion also can’t help but continue its Jurassic World streak of its requisite T-Rex battle and war cry. At this late stage, though, it’s lost its potency. Trevorrow closes out this trilogy by incorporating the franchise’s greatest hits.
Luckily, there are enough suspenseful dinosaur sequences and set pieces to offer a reprieve from the more glaring flaws, and most of the cast delivers. Neill and Dern slip back into their roles with ease, and the will-they-won’t-they dance between Ellie and Alan goes remarkably far in engendering rooting interest. Their scenes provide the most intensity, too, with a key tunnel sequence coming closer than most to achieving the original’s suspense. Their characters elicit the most investment and cheers, though Wise holds her own as an action hero who easily upstages Pratt.
Trevorrow injects just enough superficial dinosaur action to keep things barreling forward but never incorporates them as much as you’d expect. Dominion inexplicably puts bugs at the forefront of its closing film, underscoring that humans are the blight of the planet. The dinos are simply peripheral, trying to carve out their own space. There’s a distinct silliness to this outing and more than a few eye-rolling bits. Dern and Neill make for a welcome sight for sore eyes, and a plethora of baby dinos will make you swoon. Trevorrow also ups the ante on spectacle and dino intensity, making for a breezy and frequently entertaining ride. But there’s an unescapable manufactured quality, especially when it comes to the cloying closing message of the film.
Dominion may give most of its characters a strong send-off, but it ends the Jurassic World trilogy with a tired whimper.
Jurassic World Dominion will open wide in theaters on June 10.