Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | June 9th, 2022
Jurassic World: Dominion (Colin Trevorrow, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.
In the 4 years since Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, not much has changed. That’s not to say that the narrative in the latest installment, Jurassic World: Dominion, remains stagnant, but that the commercial imperatives of the franchise have failed to improve the product much beyond the previous episode. If the new movie is more entertaining than its predecessor (which is faint praise, indeed), this is more a result of the return of original Jurassic Park cast members Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Sam Neill than anything else.
They’re fun, we love them, but is that enough? If one doesn’t mind purely mercenary storytelling impulses, then perhaps. But this alternatingly frantic and muddled film is too much a mess to make good use of its best parts. Mildly compelling, Dominion often submits to the most facile plot points imaginable, straining credulity all the way. Then again, if we accept that dinosaurs can be brought back, then who cares about logic?
Writer/director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) returns to the helm after allowing someone else to take the reins last time. Also coming back are Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, and Isabella Sermon, reprising their roles as Claire Dealing, Owen Grady, and Maisie Lockwood (cloned granddaughter of the guy who created the first park). Since we last experienced this universe, the world has come to terms with the fact that dinosaurs exist and roam free, even if they sometimes prove dangerous or fatal (as evidenced by an opening marine attack).
There is, however, an even greater threat, which is a swarm of locusts as large as they used to be in the Cretaceous era. Brought in to investigate is Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler, who has moved beyond paleontology into general climate research. When she discovers the genetic mutation in the insects, she contacts her old flame, Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant. Though they once seemed destined to end up together, life took another course and they went separate ways. She married someone else and had two kids, though she afterwards divorced; he never married, and appears to have carried a torch for her all this time (30 years!). So, yes, he joins her in this new quest.
They suspect Biosyn, a genetics company headed by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott, The Chaperone), which just happens to have recently employed Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm as an in-house philosopher. Thinking he could help them find out what’s really going on, they sign up for a tour of the facilities. Shenanigans follow.
Meanwhile, surrogate parents Claire and Owen find themselves unable to manage the teenage Maisie’s desire to escape their mountain retreat. The girl is valuable intellectual property, however, and so they are loathe to let her roam free. Nevertheless, events take a turn for the inevitable when kidnappers track them down, capturing not only Maisie but a baby velociraptor who is the child of Blue, Owen’s former trainee. She was supposed to be sterile, which makes her progeny valuable for study, too.
All of this eventually brings the folks from both the Park and World series together, with two new characters—a pilot played by DeWanda Wise (Fatherhood) and a Biosyn executive played by Mamoudou Athie (Uncorked)—added into the mix. Franchise veteran BD Wong, as Dr. Wu, even comes back for a chance at redemption. The action is sometimes exciting, sometimes ridiculous, and the CGI very uneven. It’s fun to see dinosaurs in snow and ice, rather than the tropics, and there are moments of real warmth and humor, as well as genuine pathos. It’s just never all that memorable. Rinse and repeat.