Movie Review: “Jurassic World: Dominion”

Review by Paul Gibbs

I’m going to start by admitting that Jurassic Park is in my top three all-time “I will watch this over and over as many times as possible for the rest of my my life” movies. I was 18 in 1993 came, and for this lifelong obsessive Spielberg fan, I felt Jurassic Park was the last movie of my childhood and Schindler’s List was the first movie of my adultery (that’s the right word, isn’t it?). I admit that none of the sequels are anywhere near as good as the original, but I retain an enormous fondness for them. That’s even true of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which I consider easily the weakest film in the franchise, despite having the second best director.  And the nostalgic appeal of Jurassic World: Dominion is especially strong because of the return of the original “big three”, Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. So strong that it goes a long way in compensating for a plot that may be even messier than Fallen Kingdom.

As our story (and I use that word loosely) begins, dinosaurs are now living among humans, having been set free at the end of the last film. As the world tries to adapt, Jurassic World heroes Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Chris Pratt (Owen Grady) are hiding out with their adopted (always used loosely) daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the illegally created clone of the daughter of Benjamin Lockwood, the partner of late Jurassic Park founder John Hammond. Meanwhile, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is investigating mysterious events in Texas, and soon recruits her former colleague and lover, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill).

This is a film with definite A and B plots, and I’m not going to spoil any more details of either of them, except to say that one focuses on the Jurassic World heroes and the other on the Jurassic Park heroes. And that, oddly enough, neither plot is really about dinosaurs. The real stars of the franchise are there throughout, and the action scenes revolve around them, but the fact that they’re not at the center of the story demonstrates that director Collin Trevorrow (returning after directing Jurassic World and producing Fallen Kingdom has really run out of ideas for this franchise, and that’s understandable. This premise was not intended to be the basis for six movies. But somehow, Dominion manages to make its plot so overstuffed and convoluted that it wasn’t until the next morning that I made up my mind that it didn’t really have one. It may be an even weaker story than Fallen Kingdom, but at least it’s missing the utterly out of place gothic horror/soap opera tone the second half of that film had.

The good news is that the script (by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael) has a good handle on the personalities of the original characters, and Dern, Neill and Goldblum are so delightful in the roles that fans will have a blast with their return. And somebody (I’m guessing Carmichael) finally caught on that we don’t need to have characters constantly commenting on how tough and cool and manly Owen Grady is, which got unbelievably tiresome in the last two films. Pratt and Howard still work well off of each other, with Howard given the better role this time around (Pratt isn’t given much opportunity to be funny, which is still by far the actor’s strongest skill.). Director Trevorrow and 2nd Unit Director Dan Bradley has fashioned some wild and spectacular action and chase sequences, which genuinely had me on the edge of my seat at times.

The fan part of me was having so much fun with Jurassic World: Dominion that it didn’t want to listen to the critic part of me saying that it was a narrative wreck. I tried to balance those parts of me enough in this review that you don’t blame me if you hate it, but also get that on a certain level I’m recommending it for fans. If nothing else, the fact that the heroes were a combination of scientists and activists did my weary 2022 soul some good.

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