Let’s wind the clocks back, to what feels like millions of years ago, when big studios used practical effects and advanced storytelling to get audiences in seats, rather than use nostalgia. Legendary director Steven Spielberg set out on a mission to “wow” us all with his action, science fiction blockbuster, Jurassic Park, and deliver what it would feel like to see dinosaurs on the big screen, and how they would fold into the modern world. The film’s massive success spawned what all popcorn flicks of its type do, a franchise. With each sequel, or lega-sequel, that has been released, the magic of Spielberg’s original has slowly faded away, making each new entry a successful cash grab while also feeling thematically tedious and unnecessary. This brings us to the latest, and supposedly last, installment in the Jurassic sage, Jurassic World Dominion, which in an effort to combine the characters of the past with the ones from the modern films, completely misses out on being any fun or creative whatsoever.
Picking up four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the world is adjusting to dinosaurs living in our world after the volcanic destruction of Isla Nublar. It is an interesting premise that humanity would need to explore, and could have significant ramifications for the entire human race. But this movie doesn’t care about that because that would make sense. Instead, director (and co-screenwriter) Colin Trevorrow forges two storylines so bland and repetitive of what we have seen in this franchise, it’s hard to believe he got away with it.
The first follows Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), who is uncovering the truth behind a deceitful organization called Biosyn Genetics, run by Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Funded by the US government, Dodgson is using the technology from Biosyn, alongside the mind of Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), to create a new dinosaur capable of destroying the world’s food supply, thus becoming a dominant force in the world’s market. Think like Amazon, only instead of packages being sent to your door, it’s giant bug dinosaurs looking to kill you and your loved ones. In needing proof of Biosyn’s plans, and not having a creditable enough name to take down the cooperation at the governmental level (which is crazy since everyone in this movie knows who she is and how important her work is), Sattler enlists the help of two old friends, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), to get to the company’s main headquarters to stop Dodgson before it is too late.
While this is going on, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), is still trying to protect every dinosaur she can, but her efforts are starting to become too much for her, as she has to start trusting others with more power to save these creatures. She lives in the woods of a small town with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), her on and off boyfriend of the last two Jurassic World movies. Owen is pretty much doing the same thing as Claire but has more of a physical challenge to fight off, as dinosaur poachers are gunning for the same animals he is trying to save. But Claire and Owen aren’t alone, as they have adopted Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the clone of Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter, as well as Owen’s velociraptor Blue and her new daughter Beta. Yes, Blue had a child, and while the creature is cute, the explanation of how she had her daughter is so laughable and incomprehensible, that it’s not even clear that the movie explains it all the way for it to be understood. But what is clear is that Maisie and Beta are keys to fixing the problems of these new bug dinos have that Dr. Wu created. With this, they are taken and Owen and Claire, alongside a new pilot character named Kayla (DeWanda Wise) set off on a globe-trotting rescue mission to get them both back, which ultimately lands them at the same location as our other heroes, trying to survive against old and new prehistoric enemies.
These two stories, on paper, might seem like the logical way to merge the bridges of the franchise together to give us this “epic” conclusion. But as they are going on, you realize that everything that is going on is exactly what has happened before, with our legacy characters literally in the same costumes as the original film, and our new characters unable to be as captivating as Neill, Dern, and Goldblum to carry this movie to the finish line. The root of this problem is Trevorrow, who wrote all three Jurassic World movies, and while trying to add excitement back into a property that fell apart years ago, made the same film three times, and leaves this franchise on another dud. His paint by numbers, bland writing is only matched by his lackluster, incomprehensible direction during every action sequence that takes place over the course of the film’s two-and-a-half-hour run time.
It can’t be understated that Jurassic World Dominion doesn’t make any sense. The motivations of Biosyn in creating these locust-like beings are nonexistent, as you would think they are being bred for some sort of global takeover, but then they are cast aside like it is no big deal about halfway through the film. Maisie and Beta’s involvement in the plot, purpose for being kidnapped, and existence in the franchise are as perplexing as anything put in modern blockbusters in quite some time. Given that Trevorrow was supposed to direct the Star Wars movie that became The Rise of Skywalker (an equally frustrating movie) and lost that job for creative differences and the disastrous film The Book of Henry, this latest fumble shows that the director is no longer someone that can be trusted in delivering something that will be coherent and entertaining at this large of a scale.
The only rays of sunshine in this film are the original cast members from Spielberg’s 1993 classic and the newcomer Wise. Dern, Neill, and Goldblum are not only some of the best actors of their generation but are able to sell this clunky dialogue enough for your attention span to move to the next time they are on screen. Problem is, the focus isn’t solely on them, thus when we get back to their stories, and they are integrated with Pratt, Howard, and company, all we can do is shrug our shoulders and wish for the sequel, with all of them in it, that we never got. The other bright spot is Wise’s Kayla, who is the only fresh, exciting new character introduced in this project, and she is the bright spot of the film, able to steal every scene she is in with the cardboard performances given by Pratt and Howard. Hopefully, we see her in more projects down the road, as she has a dynamic screen presence.
There is no doubt that this movie will be just like the other sequels and be financially successful over the next couple of weeks. But luckily, Jurassic World Dominion is the last time we have to go back to a tired model of half-baked characters, alongside their unimaginative creators, not learning from the previous entry and continuing to do dull, dim-witted, passionless material with this bountiful concept. Let this property do what it should’ve done a long time ago, remain extinct.
Universal Pictures will release Jurassic World Dominion on June 10 only in theaters.
Photo: John Wilson/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment