Dr. Alan Grant is finally safe on a helicopter, the dangers are behind him and as a small child graces their head on his shoulders he looks out of the window and sees the beauty of pelicans flying over the waters and the realization hits home; sometimes even the smallest wonders are enough. We all know the scene, the ending to the classic 1993 “Jurassic Park” that redefined what movies could accomplish. It is a film that basically said, no sequel can ever stand a chance…and yet. It has been almost thirty years since the first Jurassic Park and over the time we now have 5 sequels and two trilogies to its name. People can argue day and night over their own personal rankings of the franchise, but it is almost as rare as a mosquito trapped in amber to find someone who doesn’t rank the first film as the best. Now this isn’t a review to pan any sequel and how they do not live up to a masterpiece, that would just be cruel. And it would be even more cruel to do so to this latest (and apparently final) installment of the Jurassic era. Jurassic World: Dominion is the one that is supposed to wrap it all up, to leave us feeling how Grant felt as he looked out of those windows. To see that even for all its faults these films do have beauty in them, but somehow even the courteous of passes cannot be given to what Colin Trevorrow has delivered this time around. No Dominion ends on a note so void of emotion that you practically wish a T-Rex was chomping at your arm just so you could feel something. A two and a half hour slog that feels four hours and a reminder that sometimes the past should stay extinct. Welcome to Jurassic World: Dominion! It doesn’t get worse than this.
If you are keeping up with the Jurassic World trilogy then you may remember the dinosaurs are finally free. 2018’s (underappreciated) Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ended with our heroes Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) trying to stop the auctioning off of dinosaurs to the highest bidder. How do they do this? Well they technically didn’t stop them, but their new friend an 11 year old girl, who is also a clone, named Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). The dinosaurs are all free and they soon find themselves roaming all over the world. This is where we left off so clearly the next right move is a film all about humans and dinosaurs trying to co-habitat and the ecosystem that will be created and destroyed because of it. Well no, while the film gives us two (count them) moments where we see dinosaurs and humans coexisting (one very sweet moment involving a construction site and a family of brachiosaurus) Trevorrow and fellow screenwriters, Derek Connolly and Emily Carmichael have much bigger and nauseating plans in store. Owen (Chris Pratt being lifeless as ever) and Claire are still trying to keep Maisie safe from the world. She is a clone after all and they know any science group would love to use her for their own research. Maisie in typical teenage fashion wants to see more of the world and hates being cooped up. But Owen and Claire aren’t wrong, just lurking in the woods are poachers waiting for the opportune moment to snatch her and the new baby raptor that lives with his mother Blue nearby. This is a lot of human action for a world where dinosaurs are roaming freely. Oh! And did I mention this a legacy sequel?
There is a little bit of bewilderment to be reminded of the fact that not since the first Jurassic Park has Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Dr. Ian Malcolm been on an adventure together. The promise of bringing them back for this final installment was a perfect cash grab and opportunity to keep up with the trends of other legacy sequels that dominate theaters today. Luckily the second Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern amazing as always) comes on screen you are instantly transported back to 1993, she is practically wearing the same outfit too. Ellie is out in Texas investigating a farm that’s crops were destroyed by giant locust which we learn were genetically modified by the evil corporation Biosyn. Ellie quickly reaches out to Alan Grant and they are soon off to Biosyn headquarters where they reunite with Ian Malcolm who is working for them. It is a cheap way to get them all back together, but one positive is that unlike many other legacy sequels the main trio are given a ton to do and a full characters as opposed to mentors to die off and hand the torch to the next generation. When Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum are on screen together their same old antics come with them and it gives the film a great breath of fresh air. No time has passed for them, and we are welcoming them back with open arms.
The same can’t be said for the Jurassic World characters, some familiar faces from the previous installments come back including an underused Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda and Omar Sy. What we are left with is a dull Chris Pratt performance (seriously where is the charisma that made this guy famous almost a decade ago). Owen is meant to be the cool dad doing anything to save his kid (both clone and raptor) but he never feels like we wants to be here. Bryce Dallas Howard on the other hand gives everything she can to lift this lackluster script and a character who has previously been reduced to enough female stereotypes to fill a producer’s checklist. Dallas Howard dons the mother’s role a lot better than her counterpart. As Claire she knows she has made mistakes and continuously feels the need to make up for them. Again, it’s clearly a female role being controlled by male penmanship, but she lifts it up in every way she can. Claire also gets some of the more exciting moments of the film involving a fantastic chase sequence through the marketplace of Malta. She is also finally given another woman to actually connect with in the form of an autopilot for hire Kayla Watts (a wonderful DeWanda Wise). Watts is their ticket to the Biosyn headquarters island where you guessed it the past will meet the present.
While the film does find a few ways to reignite the spark of the franchise it also takes some extreme turns in the most boring ways. Michael Crichton the author of the original novel had many ideas similar to the ones Dominion tries to take on, but the screen writers do not have the same knack for tying it all together. Instead here everything feels convenient with little to no stakes. The lack of Dinosaur attacks are not the issue (there’s more than you realize after initial viewing) especially since a few of the other films didn’t even get to the chomp chomp until almost an hour in. There also isn’t a fault in wanting to expand more, in fact more blockbusters should take weird risks, but have a sense of purpose for doing so. If you want to add killer locusts then I say go for gusto, but don’t make it a plot device make it the film itself. By the time we reach the conclusion that is supposed to enact every emotion you have, you feel so unimpressed that half of you is hoping this is finally the end, while the other half wants one more film just so we don’t have to go out on this note. If the Jurassic era is truly over then it’s upsetting to know it went out without a mark. That the reminder that the world can be beautiful in the simple got overtaken by the mundane. Or maybe this is what we deserve for messing with perfection to begin with.
JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION is now playing everywhere