To paraphrase the Queen Bee of 2004, Mean Girls‘ Regina George, “Stop trying to make dinosaurs happen!”
Though the love for legacy sequels is at an all-time high thanks to the recent 1-2 hit of Top Gun: Maverick and Scream, the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World continuation fails to continue the trend, further removing itself from the DNA of what made Steven Spielberg‘s 1993 actioner such a dino-sized success.
To be fair to Jurassic World Dominion and director Colin Trevorrow, the original series of films didn’t exactly spur the most well-received sequels – 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park and 2001’s critically mauled Jurassic Park III – so it seems fitting with the series’ mentality that 2015’s reboot-cum-sequel Jurassic World gave birth to lesser products in 2018’s Fallen Kingdom and now, unfortunately, this.
The idea put forth in Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael‘s script isn’t the problem – dinosaurs roaming the Earth openly amongst humans has potential – but, much like Fallen Kingdom, Dominion never feels remotely organic to what the original films suggested; cloning and creating dinosaurs? Sure! The same treatment for humans? Now you’ve gone too far!
Picking up on the narrative trajectory that Fallen Kingdom laid bare, here a black market has emerged for exotic, prehistoric reptiles. This has naturally prompted governments the world over to get their greedy hands on what they can, with a shady (would they be anything else?) corporation known as Biosyn emerging as the most aggressive entity.
Scientists at Biosyn – which include perpetual Dr. wrongdoer Henry Wu (BD Wong) – believe that young Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon, sadly becoming a victim of a script that frames her character in the most obnoxious of ways) holds the key to their genetic studies – what with her being a clone of her own mother and all – so mercenaries are sent out to capture her, leading her adoptive parents Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), fellow survivors of previous Jurassic shenanigans, to give chase in a manner that bizarrely puts them in the same environment as a Bourne Identity movie; a motorcycle chase sequence in Malta feels plucked from the editing room of the Matt Damon series, merely swapping out gun-toting assassins with angry dinosaurs, resulting in an admittedly exciting set-piece that feels remarkably out-of-place.
Whilst that’s all taking place, Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), returning to the fray after their last Jurassic appearances in part 3, are investigating their own prehistoric discovery in the swarm of mutant locusts that have made their presence felt. This, of course, leads them to Biosyn as well, where they reunite with the velvety voiced Ian Malcolm (an always welcome Jeff Goldblum) who’s now a consultant and, behind faux smiles and agreeable nature, is all too eager to help Alan and Ellie uncover the company’s sinister nature.
At 146 minutes, Dominion is by no means in a hurry to tell any of its multiple stories, yet, somehow, it still never offers enough of what makes this series so appealing – that of dinosaurs themselves. Feeling more like an afterthought in their own franchise, Dominion very much slips in the same manner Fallen Kingdom did by placing a more prominent emphasis on the human characters and their desire to profit off such beasts rather than letting the creatures roam free and cause the type of havoc we know they’re capable of.
It’s, of course, a treat to see Neil, Dern and Goldblum back in the franchise that so many people associate them with, but bringing them back sadly highlights the lack of enthusiasm that Pratt and Howard bring to the table here. Though it’s nice to see Howard’s Claire evolve from being the stereotypical “stern business woman” she high-heeled her way through in Jurassic World to a more nurturing figure, she and Pratt aren’t able to muster much chemistry between them – their playful banter diminishing with each film – leaving the original trio, and feisty newcomer DeWanda Wise, to pick up the slack; Wise’s turn as Kayla Watts, a former Air Force pilot who aids Owen and Claire on their mission to save Maisie, brings much needed wit and sass to proceedings, temporarily making the film a more enjoyable process when she’s on screen.
When the final credit tease of Fallen Kingdom alluded to dinosaurs roaming the Earth and potentially wreaking havoc on major city locations I admittedly was intrigued, despite being vastly underwhelmed – some might even say angry – with what that film put forward. I should have known to not fall for such tricks though as Dominion fails to make good on that promise in any capacity (it’s remarkable how the “free” dinosaurs seem contained to one major area of land), turning out a tired action film that treats its dinosaurs like a contractual obligation rather than an organic structure to its story.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Jurassic World Dominion is now screening in Australian theatres.