The Jurassic era lumbers to a conclusion with the overstuffed Jurassic World: Dominion. JW:D is a movie seemingly made by a committee writing team that was told “There are no bad ideas.” and they took that as a challenge. If I may channel Stefon from Saturday Night Live for a moment I will tell you that this movie has EVERYTHING. Giant mutant locusts! Jeff Goldblum in a pleather jacket! Poachers! Dated references! Pit fighting dinosaurs! Parkouring Bryce Dallas Howard! Characters squaring off against dinosaurs with their hand out! Pointless plot retcons! Chris Pratt jokes out a dinosaur! Weaponized velociraptors! Vests! That fake can of Barbasol from the first movie! Baffling plot contrivances! Alan Grant’s hat! ALL. THE. DINOSAURS!
On the last point, the movie does eventually deliver on its promise of dinosaurs by featuring all of them. I literally lost count of the dinosaur cameos and I have no idea how many species there were. Ask your resident 10-year-old for a count because they all kind of blended together for me. Even the movie’s big-bad dino failed to stand out from the brown color palette of this movie. However, for a movie that purported to be about determining which species – human or dinosaur – would rule the planet, there is an awful lot of human-on-human fighting.
The nagging question viewers will have with this movie is questioning why it even exists. The marketing tells us this movie serves as the ending to the “Jurassic Era” and closes the storyline that repeatedly focused on the exploitation of the dinosaurs for monetary gain. Now they are among us. Which is where they were at the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom so what was the point of this movie? Well, other than money?
I will give JW:D credit for not sidelining the legacy characters in favor of brief cameos. Laura Dern (getting top billing of the three returning stars), Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum are all given plenty to do and are pretty much on screen from the start. Justifying why they are there is a more tortuous path, but it was nice to see them regardless and the three still have chemistry.
Giant locusts have been decimating crops across the US. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Dern) – who last we saw was a Paleobotanist – has for some reason been tapped to find out where the giant locusts came from. On this inexplicable mission, she recruits Dr. Alan Grant (Neill) from his most recent dig site because he’s the only person she trusts or something to go with her to the headquarters of InGen rival Biosyn, at the request of Ian Malcolm (Goldblum). It really doesn’t make any sense, but it brings Ellie, Alan, and Ian back together on screen so yay!
Meanwhile, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Deering (Bryce Dallas Howard) are living off the radar in the pacific northwest with Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) to protect her from people who want to recapture her. Because she’s a dino-human clone. Or maybe just a normal clone. It’s honestly confusing and it gets worse for spoiler reasons I won’t get into. Blue and her baby, Beta, also live nearby in the woods. Inevitably Maisie and Beta are kidnapped spurring Owen and Claire off to Malta for a rescue mission where they run into a smuggler-pilot, Kayla, (Dewanda Wise) who helps them for reasons that can only be explained as its-in-the-script.
What follows are two parallel storylines that end up converging in the last act when all the characters finally meet. It’s a fun moment, lampshaded a bit that everyone who has had a run-in with the dinos in this universe knows of each other. There is some friction in the meeting, particularly in Ian’s attitude to the stalwart Owen. His sardonic response of “You made a promise to a dinosaur?” when learning Owen swore to Blue he would find Beta is the funniest line in a movie that takes itself far too seriously.
Rounding out the returning characters; is Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong), the hapless Dr. Frankenstein at the center of the crisis, and Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), the head of Biosyn. Who is Lewis Dodgson you may be asking? He’s this guy on the left:
Which I didn’t put together until the very end of JW:D and I’ve seen the original Jurassic Park an embarrassing number of times. It really doesn’t matter though, he could be any stereotypical evil tech billionaire in a Steve Jobs turtle neck, rimless glasses mold.
Blue is, as usual, more interesting than most of the human characters. She is still feral but apparently chooses to remain close to Owen and Claire. Making the choice to not domesticate Blue was a smart one, every time she is on screen the movie crackles with an intensity few other scenes match. This comes from the familiarity we have with Blue over the last two movies. We know Blue is highly intelligent, she is lethal, and she is mercurial. While she seems to have chosen to remain close to the humans she knows, they never underestimate her and treat he with fear and respect. Blue is not a pet, and I liked that the movie never treats her as one.
Colin Trevorrow, the 21st century’s Brett Ratner, directs with a workman-like approach and clashing tones. In one extended sequence in Malta, the movie plays as a modern Bond film with a motorcycle chase, extended gun battle, and a remarkably nimble Bryce Dallas Howard parkouring over the rooftops evading weaponized assassin velociraptors. The inclusion of dinosaurs is really the only thing that is unique from a dozen other action pictures. Later sequences hearken back to the original Jurassic Park trilogy, and even moments of Indiana Jones creep in, which is admittedly easy when Grant is not that far removed from Indy anyway.
The movie is entertaining as long as you don’t think too hard about it. The chemistry between Dern, Neill, and Goldblum distracts you from paying too much attention to the plot holes. Some of the new designs for the dinos are great, sporting feathers for the first time, and if a scene can logically have dinosaurs present, it does. Unfortunately, long stretches of the movie do not have dinosaurs leaving the viewer to start pondering those plot holes again. Note to the writers, giant mutant locusts are not a good substitute for a T-rex. Although most of the favorite dinos do have at least one key scene even if just a cameo.
Jurassic World: Dominion, while obviously not the end of the billion-dollar franchise, IS the end of this iteration. At least if you believe the marketing. If you’ve seen the others, JW:D will scratch that dinosaur-mayhem itch one last time. Just don’t expect anything to make much sense or be all that surprising. It’s a sad state when the most believable part of your cloned dinosaurs movie is the actual existence of the cloned dinosaurs.