A “grand finale” now almost 30 years in the making, it’s hard to imagine how Jurassic World Dominion can possibly drop the ball as lazily as it does. After spending the previous film literally blowing up the island park that the dinosaurs have called home since the beginning of the franchise, writer/director Colin Trevorrow finally set the playing field for global expansion – something that everyone had already been wanting for years. Say what you will about Fallen Kingdom, a film filled with its own issues, but it admittedly did do a decent job of setting up some sort of epic conclusion, one that would surely make for some unique dinosaur spectacle at the very least. I mean, how could it not? You’ve finally got people living with dinosaurs everywhere! Well, don’t bother thinking of the endless possibilities because this film sure didn’t. Instead, get ready because we’re going back to… another park.
The backpedaling of Jurassic World Dominion is something that you’re going to have to see to believe. The notion of the Jurassic Park sequels being “out of ideas” has been very prevalent ever since Steven Spielberg made The Lost World in 1997, and for fair reasons. Despite a few noble efforts, the franchise has never been able to escape these accusations. It’s just always come down to selling new merchandise and giving the people who’ve stuck along what they want to see: more new dinosaurs, more big fights, more raptor kills, and, of course, the obligatory T. Rex money shot. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a soft spot for a big, dumb dinosaur movie, but the Jurassic Park series has never seen a filmmaker as adamant to prove its biggest critics right as Colin Trevorrow. Yes, we are truly out of ideas. Even when there are dinos across the world, we will still go back to another park, things will go wrong, we are going to spend more time in boring control rooms trying to bring the power back online, and the same old T. Rex is going to sure as hell somehow save the day.
This is where some would argue that none of this actually matters. As long as the film can deliver fun dino action and, in this case, satisfy that nostalgic itch with the returning legacy characters of Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum, then the price of a theater ticket is well earned. In this regard, Jurassic World Dominion just might get a pass. For the first half, you’ll get small tastes of an actual dinosaur film with global stakes. Aside from some pretty unimaginative exposition, the film does a decent job of reuniting us with the legacy trio and Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s leading roles. In case you forgot, this story is also now about human clones too and Isabella Sermon’s child character from Fallen Kingdom is now more important than ever. When Blue the raptor asexually produces an offspring, that baby raptor along with Maisie Lockwood suddenly hold invaluable data with their clone DNA, and thus become a target for the crooked biological engineering company Biosyn, which is on the verge of starting a global plague with prehistoric locusts!
This premise may sound a bit odd with this being teased as a grand finale to the whole series, but hey, it’s arguably going for something different from the start. Jurassic World Dominion does a swell job of letting the legacy characters get back into their groove while setting the emotional stakes with the newer ones. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard still make for one of the most forced and uncharismatic leading couples of recent, though this film isn’t trying so much to sell that to you anymore with there simply being not enough time. There’s so much going on plot-wise that it feels like a miracle when our two groups of characters finally meet towards the end, and this is meant quite literally as the story bends itself backward with miracles in order to get Pratt in the same frame with Sam Neill and Co. It’s a movie where things just happen by total happenstance, and you have no choice but to buy into it since the clock is ticking and we still have to get to more dino action on the agenda. It’s lazy writing sure, however, probably not the biggest offender in a Jurassic sequel. No, that’s still to come.
Going back to another dinosaur park, the Biosyn headquarters in this case, and having to escape before everything breaks down while the T. Rex fights another big dino villain is pretty jarring now being 6 movies deep into the franchise. But what is perhaps even more unforgivable is somehow failing a formula that has proved to always work until now. Jurassic World Dominion has all the goods for people that just want a big and loud dino extravaganza. It’s got more extreme dinos like the Therizinosaurus and Quetzalcoatlus. It’s got a motorcycle chase sequence across the streets of Malta with Atrociraptors, which are larger and deadlier than Velociraptors by the way! And again, you get to see the classic T. Rex go toe to toe with the Giganotosaurus, which the film goes out of its way to verbally remind you that it was one of the largest land predators to “ever walk the Earth” at least 3 times! Even with all of this, Trevorrow’s film is still one of the most uninteresting films of the entire saga, and certainly the weakest of the Jurassic World trilogy.
The culprits all range from the usual suspects. From certain actors sleepwalking through their roles with almost no effort (none of the legacy characters are at fault here) to its sheer predictability, these negatives combined can’t possibly be more damaging from the thought that this could very well be the most visually ugly Jurassic entry to date. There’s almost no real tension on screen thanks to clustered editing and questionable framing and composition. Chris Pratt punches the bad guys and not once do you feel or actually hear a punch land. Likewise, some of the biggest dinosaurs we’ve ever seen are given no real sense of weight or scale due to a poor mix of digital and practical effects. No one ever feels in danger, even when there’s a giant animatronic dino head about to eat them. By the time you can’t really see or feel what’s supposed to be the massive blows of the final fight, no other Jurassic film comes into competition for being this visually flat.
It’s very easy nowadays to pin all the blame on poor CGI, yet Jurassic World Dominion is the perfect example of why it’s not so much the fault of poor CGI but the ways it’s being used. The bigger irony is that this film uses way more animatronic/puppetry work than both previous Jurassic World productions combined. And, in truth, this fact is clearly visible as many dinos are far more tactile on screen, such as Beta the baby raptor, even with the help of additional CGI. Though as seen with examples like the Giganotosaurus, which switches between a life-sized animatronic and CGI creation during its only chase sequence, the digital version has to feel just as heavy and present as the physical one as the camera switches between the two, and since it doesn’t, the actors are merely screaming at a prop that never feels alive. Furthermore, it speaks to a much larger issue within the current state of blockbusters when complete CGI creations like Blue the raptor look visibly cheaper than they did in the last two films. When Hollywood’s favorite dinosaurs aren’t even looking as good as they did a few years ago, then you know there’s a problem with how VFX houses are being treated and mismanaged.
Still, for all that it’s worth, Colin Trevorrow would have had to seriously go out of his way to make a dinosaur film that’s borderline unwatchable. Jurassic World Dominion will probably still get the job done for a few, Laura Dern and Sam Neill are seemingly having a blast together again after all. This in no way comes across as a finale to the franchise, so give it another 5-10 years until Universal brings the IP back in some shape or form. Maybe that film will actually deliver a Jurassic adventure that fulfills the promise of its global title. For now, many of us are left to ponder where the series went wrong yet again, where Trevorrow goes next, and to what extent his firing from Star Wars had an effect on this film. If you ask me, this lackluster ending was a long time coming.