******SAUROPOD-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!******
1993 was a great year for movies; “Schindler’s List,” “Philadelphia,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Tombstone,” “The Fugitive,” “Hocus Pocus” (don’t judge!) and a little movie called “Jurassic Park”, based on the popular novel by the late Michael Crichton, which did for dinosaurs what Spielberg’s own “JAWS” did for sharks, bringing to life every childhood dream and nightmare every little kid (including myself) ever had about these long-extinct creatures that dominated the planet 65 million years ago. “Jurassic…” was a global phenomenon that ushered in a new level of computer graphics technology (which were used sparingly, but effectively), as well as a series of sequels that reminded me of the JAWS sequels, in that none of them ever really recaptured the magic of that first film. Not even close.
Of these sequels, 2015’s “Jurassic World” was perhaps the only one that came even close to the original’s entertainment value, with two new lead characters played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt. While each sequel brought back one or two cast members from the original (Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern have all had supporting roles), the only ace up the sleeve for this summer’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” was to bring the entire band back together for yet another ‘farewell tour.’ The previous sequel, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018), was already looking very tired when it was trotted out to theaters in those innocent, pre-pandemic days, though it ended with an interesting premise; the genetically-engineered dinosaurs finally escape their confines in Costa Rica and go global, promising a terrifying new alternate universe where dinosaurs and humans are–like this newest sequel’s various cast members–forced to cohabitate.
To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s “Ian Malcolm” from the original: the filmmakers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” (2022)
This review is for the extended cut of the movie (which clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes), which I digitally streamed onto a 7 ft/2 meter screen at home, via Peacock.com. This version runs about 14 minutes longer than the cut which ran in theaters. Since I have no basis for comparison between the two, this review may reference material which was not in the original cut.
The movie opens 65 million years ago, showing the last days of the dinosaurs, as they roamed free in their native epoch, sometimes violently clashing with each other over fresh prey, while clever mosquitos drained the blood from a given battle’s loser–thus setting up the creatures’ DNA-based resurrection in pantomime.
Note: This is the first moment in the series where we actually see unmodified ‘real’ dinosaurs living in their own time, and it’s also one of my favorite sequences in a movie that runs short on them, sadly.
Cut to the present, where a TV reporter acts as de facto narrator, going over the events of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” where the Costa Rican dinosaurs were accidentally released into the wilds of North America, where they soon spread across the world–both naturally and for exploitative purposes. In a nod to the second movie’s T-rex rampage in San Diego, helicopters pursue a runaway T-rex as it makes its way into a drive-in movie, with some moviegoers panicking, while others remain oblivious…
Note: I liked the T-rex drive-in movie meta gag well enough, but the annoying reporter delivering blatant exposition was wholly unnecessary. Not to mention that no one really watches straight TV news reporting these days, anyway; most people get their ‘news’ from the internet.
We then see ex-Ingen executive Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) continuing to atone for her role in the “Jurassic World” fiasco by rescuing ‘wild’ dinosaurs who are being collected and exploited for illicit purposes (much as her former employer exploited them for entertainment purposes). Also doing honest dinosaur work is Claire’s live-in beau & dinosaur-whisperer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who still does that ridiculous open palm-thing to ‘tame’ wild dinosaurs, somehow. Working with local rangers in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Owen tries to keep wild hadrosaurs and other dinos safe from poachers, with limited success. Owen and Claire are also acting as de facto parents to 14-year old Maisie Lockwood (Isabelle Sermon), the rescued clone of a brilliant, deceased Jurassic Park scientist, and granddaughter of former Jurassic Park owner, Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell).
Note: Teenager Isabelle Sermon, with her thick eyebrows and London accent, looks more like a spot-on clone of Lily Collins (“Mirror, Mirror”), the actor-daughter of singing legend Phil Collins.
Wanting to see the outside world for herself, the resentful, sheltered fugitive Maisie sneaks out on her bicycle into a dangerous ride into town, where, after wandering onto a dinosaur rescue station, she is immediately spotted and IDd. Picking up the pieces from Ingen Corporation’s many failures with Jurassic Park, rival company BioSyn has operatives seeking young Maisie for her untold value in human cloning research. BioSyn is led by Tim Cook-lookalike, Dodson (Campbell Scott); a character seen in the first film, who offering a hallowed-out shaving cream can to Jurassic Park’s computer programmer Nedry (Wayne Campbell), in order to smuggle Jurassic Park’s dinosaur embryos. Despite Nedry’s failure to deliver (due to his death by a venomous dilophosaurus), Dodson was somehow (?) able to recover the can of embryos and successfully reverse-engineer Ingen’s pioneering work. BioSyn’s evil operatives kidnap Maisie, as well as the young dinosaur pup from “Blue,” the ‘pet’ velociraptor kept on Grady and Claire’s remote wilderness acreage. Claire and Owen vow to find their young adopted ‘daughter’, and yes, Owen also ‘promises’ Blue that he will retrieve her offspring as well.
Note: Owen’s dinosaur-whisperer thing is stretched to ridiculousness in this film, as it was implausible enough in 2015’s “Jurassic World,” where he somehow used his open-palmed hands to stop repeated velociraptor attacks. Now the movie expects us to believe that “Blue” somehow understands English after Owen promises to get her baby back. Even Goldblum’s Malcolm later quips, “You made a promise…to a dinosaur?” Yes, it’s so silly that even the characters can’t swallow it.
Meanwhile, in Texas, a swarm of large, genetically-engineered locusts ravage the crops of independent farmers, while nearby BioSyn-modified crops remain suspiciously unaffected. Smelling a rat, paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is called to investigate. Visiting the home of the terrified farmers, Ellie immediately surmises that a caged, still-living specimen of the monstrous locusts had to be altered using prehistoric DNA from BioSyn. Seeking a second opinion, Ellie visits the fossil-digging site of her former flame, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who’s still living the bachelor researcher’s life in remote tents wherever his paleontological digs take him. Ellie confides in Alan that her two kids are off to college now, and that her ex-husband has split, leaving an all-too obvious invite for Alan’s return–both in her professional and personal lives. Soon, the two of them are off to investigate at BioSyn headquarters, where the lecherous Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) now works as the company’s in-house chaotician-for-hire.
Note: There was some controversy before the film’s release when Laura Dern gave an interview where she remarked on how the 20-year age difference between her character and Sam Neill’s ‘Alan Grant’ felt a bit exploitive. This was Dern’s opinion, of course, not her character’s. Dern’s quip soon blew up, with people on social media howling about the fictitious Alan Grant taking advantage of a younger, equally fictitious Ellie. This allegation of impropriety between 25 year-old Ellie and 45 year old Alan from the first movie is not only three decades late, but it’s also completely ridiculous. All age differences between lovers depend entirely upon the maturity of those involved, so long as both are of consenting and legal age.
Arriving at BioSyn’s remote Italian wilderness headquarters under the guise of a friendly visit to their old ‘friend’, Ian Malcolm, Ellie and Alan are welcomed at the helicopter landing pad of the Apple-Pixar looking campus by Tim Cook-alike CEO Lewis Dodson (Campbell Scott), and his young associate, Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie). Dodson glibly welcomes the surprise visit by his ‘legendary’ guests–survivors of the original Jurassic Park disaster, 30 years earlier. The focus-scattered CEO leaves his ‘guests’ in the hands of Cole, who takes them to see Malcolm, who’s busy promoting his new, pop-science book about the end of the world (of course). Avoiding cameras and nosy staff, Ellie clandestinely informs Malcolm of their real intentions; to investigate the connection between the monster-locust attacks and BioSyn’s work. At first, Ian seems a bit…detached, leading Alan to wonder aloud if he’s sold his soul to corporate greed–something the once-cynical chaotician famously railed against in the first movie.
Note: Despite their graying hair and lines, the characters wear minor variants of the same clothes they wore in the 1993 movie; Ellie in her loose blouse and t-shirt, Alan in his customary denim shirt and jeans, and Ian in all-black, with a leather jacket. It’s almost as if they needed to match their old action figures…
Meanwhile, Claire is acting on a tip from a friend at the CIA (Justice Smith) that both Maisie and Blue’s pup “Beta” were taken to the Mediterranean archipelago of Malta, where they might’ve been sold off to underground sorts who want to exploit their DNA. Claire and Owen arrive in the hot, dry country and quickly hit a dead end. There, they meet beautiful rogue pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who is Han Solo mixed with the genes of a supermodel. Despite her seeming moral ambiguity, the cynical pilot agrees to help Claire and Owen after they run afoul of BioSyn operatives in Malta, led by the utterly amoral Santos (Dichen Lachman), who uses a laser pointer to sic trained velociraptors after whatever prey she chooses–in this case, a motorcycle-riding Owen, who is racing to rendezvous with Claire and Watts at a rustic airfield near the coastline. A seemingly endless motorcycle chase through the narrow streets of Malta sees Owen receiving nary a scratch from the wild raptors pursuing him, as he arrives at the airfield juuuust in time to leap his motorcycle aboard Watts’ cargo plane, before using the bike to send an attacking raptor into the ocean below. Watts agrees to fly them both into BioSyn HQ, despite its restricted airspace, which is protected by trained pteranodons (as you do).
Note: The entire Malta sequence, clearly added to give the movie some color and scope, is, much like the ‘Canto Bight’ sequence of 2017’s “The Last Jedi,” a massive waste of time for the characters. We see interminably long motorcycle chases with pursuing raptors running through narrow streets with absolutely no sense of jeopardy whatsoever. Even the locals don’t panic, or even break from their daily routines. It’s like a chase from an Indiana Jones movie, but without any of the fun—just the mechanics.
Approaching BioSyn, Watts’ piloting skills are put to the test by attacking pteranodons, as Owen insists that Claire eject while Watts is forced to crash her fatally-damaged cargo plane into an icy landing spot. Claire ejects…into pteranodon-infested skies (how exactly was this safer than crashing with the others…?), where he manages to land her ejection seat into a tree. Unbuckling her seatbelt, she falls to the ground, and immediately attracts the attention of a massive Therizinosaurus, whose long claws make formidable impaling weapons. She manages to hold her breath just beneath the surface of an algae-thickened swamp, before her dinosaur stalker roams off in search of a new meal…
Note: Just as we saw a high heel-wearing Claire implausibly running from a galloping T-rex in “Jurassic World,” we now see her ‘hiding’ just below the surface of the swamp to avoid being eaten. In fairness, a closeup shot of the stalking Therizinosaurus revealed a glaucoma-impaired eye, which might explain its inability to notice Claire, just below the not-quite opaque water. YouTube’s CinemaSins channel will probably rip this movie a new one, if they haven’t already.
Meanwhile, Owen and Watts are making their way across (literal) thin ice, when they’re stalked by a fully-feathered Pyroraptor. The two of them manage to successfully evade the beast, before rendezvousing with Claire and making their way carefully inside of the BioSyn campus—secretly aided by unseen ally, Cole, who is quietly working against the evil being done by his company and is secretly aiding Claire’s (vaguely defined) movement. Cole has also carefully directed ‘visitors’ Ellie and Alan into a restricted sub-level of the campus, which confirms their worst fears; BioSyn engineered the super-locusts in order to gain a monopoly on the world’s food supply, since the monstrous insects don’t feed on the bioengineered crops at BioSyn designated farms.
Note: Ellie and Alan finding matching (and conveniently disguising) haz-mat gear, as well as using a gifted pass into the sub-level, is so over-the-top silly that it’d feel more at home in an Austin Powers sequel than a sequel to a Spielberg classic. Ellie & Alan also accidentally release a swarm of the locusts during their DNA collection, in a scene that rips off–er, homages, a similar accidental release of genetically altered bees in “The X-Files: Fight the Future” (1998), a superior movie.
Elsewhere in the BioSyn complex, we re-meet Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong, another returning face from the series). Wu is trying to befriend the captive Maisie by introducing her to archive videos of her late biological mother, the brilliant Jurassic Park geneticist Dr. Charlotte Lockwood (Elva Trill). Dr. Lockwood didn’t grow Maisie in a petrie dish; she gave birth naturally, and sought to raise Maisie, before her death. Unable to cure her own rapidly progressing illness in time, Charlotte did find a retroviral genetic cure for her infant daughter–a cure in Maisie’s DNA that promises to relieve untold suffering throughout the world. Wu, who’s made plenty of amoral choices working for Ingen and BioSyn, is seeking redemption not just by destroying the super-locusts, but also using Maisie’s DNA (voluntarily) to help cure others.
Note: Unlike his last appearance in “Jurassic World,” where Wu wore short hair and sinister gray/black yuppie attire, this more contrite version of Wu wears longer locks and a humble, grandfatherly sweater as a shorthand way of appearing trustworthy and believable.
Realizing the lab complex has been compromised by his visiting ‘guests’, Dodson becomes increasingly unraveled in front of his control room staff, leading Malcolm to hone in for the kill shot—making a very persuasive speech, convincing some of Dodson’s team to disaffect. Realizing the news of his genetically-modified locusts will be leaked soon, Dodson panics. Locking Ellie and Alan in their hyperloop transport car, but unable to persuade his former assistant Cole to join him, the unstable soon-to-be former CEO flees with whatever assets he can, and takes another hyperloop car to get off the campus. In a bit of poetic and entirely predictable justice, Dodson’s own hyperloop loses power later on, and he takes an emergency exit into a section occupied by several child-sized, venom-spraying Dilophosaurus–the same creatures that killed his bumbling partner-in-crime Nedry, back in the first movie.
Note: The character of Lewis Dodson, who is reimagined as a virtual clone of Apple CEO Tim Cook in this movie, sends something of a mixed message to me. Some have accused Tim Cook of lacking the innovation of his late predecessor, Steve Jobs; essentially running Apple on autopilot, which is absurd, considering Apple is still Fortune 500’s top company for 2021. The movie (one of the few big tentpole movies made by a non-Disney related company these days) takes a gleeful delight in character-assassinating Cook, who is really no worse than any other filthy rich Fortune 500 list executive–they’re all grotesquely greedy, in my opinion. Dressing up actor Campbell Scott (son of the late George C. Scott) look so much like Tim Cook just seems needlessly spiteful, and too obvious.
After another exhausting, wholly redundant series of chases, near-misses and escapes through the complex—including a deserted subterranean copper mine surrounding part of the hyper-loop tunnel—the entire group of heroes and ex-BioSyn whistleblowers (including Wu and Cole) are reunited, as they flee from the disintegrating, evacuating compound. Before his demise, Dodson set his own super-locusts aflame inside of their hatchery, and released their burning bodies into the nighttime sky above the complex (why Dodson did this makes zero sense, but then again, his stability was questionable by this point); this gives the surrounding hillsides a series of small fires to deal with, as well. Before the group can leave, Owen remembers the ‘promise’ he made for mama Blue to return “Beta” alive. With Alan and Maisie’s assistance, Owen goes back into the lab to rescue the abducted raptor, using a heavy tranquilizer dart to knock Beta out long enough to be safely taken out of the complex without endangering its survival, or the survival of its rescuers. Oh, and apparently anyone can now do Owen’s open-palmed, hypnotizing hand trick to halt a raptor attack, as both Maisie and Alan demonstrate…
Note: The abandoned copper mine in the hillside outside of the hyper-loop transport tube looked more like a Disneyland version of an abandoned mine than a real one. The heavily stylized lighting, for example, is heavy with deep blues and ambers. That same stylized color combination is also seen throughout the lower levels of the campus, where Owen and company rescue baby Beta. This aesthetically agreeable combination of cool blues and warm amber/golds is seen throughout many big blockbuster movies, as it is a scientifically-proven color arrangement, according to my veteran art teacher wife.
Fighting their way through assorted small dinosaurs and burning super-locusts, the group makes for a rendezvous at the helicopter pad of the campus. Once again, the beleaguered survivors face a new challenge as a T-rex fights for dominance with an ancient foe seen in the film’s prologue; the spiny backed Giganatosaurus, a species only confirmed in 1995 (two years after the first film’s release). Giganatosaurus has the fan-favorite T-rex on the ropes, until an unexpectedly heroic appearance by the long-clawed Therizinosaurus saves the day. Goring the creature at multiple points through its abdomen, the Giganatosaurus is killed, as the group quickly escapes from the colossal brawl in the remaining BioSyn heavy transport chopper.
Note: The final dinosaur ‘Battle Royale’ feels a bit like empty calories, since we know full well that no hero in this movie is going to die, let alone get seriously hurt in any way. Not even Blue’s raptor’s pup. The only ‘casualties’ in the group are a few minor scratches and Wu’s broken arm. Unlike Tim Murphy’s touch-and-go fence electrocution in the first movie (or even the poor lawyer getting eaten while hiding on a toilet), not one of the ‘heroes’ in this film are ever in any kind of serious danger. Imagine a “JAWS” where Mayor Vaughn is the only casualty, and that’s what kind of movie we have with “Dominion”; a bloodless PG-13 sequel with little to no stakes.
Free of BioSyn campus, new ally Kayla gives the group a ride in a company chopper to safety. Later on, we see Ellie and Alan rekindling their long-dormant romance, as he goes with her to testify at a dinosaur-infested Capitol Hill about BioSyn’s misuse of bioengineering. Dr. Wu is able to create an effective pathogen to the super-locust swarm, and the surrounding terrain of BioSyn valley is deemed a wildlife sanctuary. The coda sees dinosaurs flying, herding and swimming alongside present-day terrestrial wildlife, with a clunky narration telling us that we will all have to learn to live together…
Note: The movie’s tacked-on ‘Kumbaya’ ending runs contrary to everything we’ve literally just seen in the movie’s previous two and a half hours–not to mention all of the previous “Jurassic” movies; humans and dinosaurs can’t just ‘live together in harmony,’ or the previous movies would’ve never happened. It’s one of the reasons nature had the good sense to separate us by millions of years. The genetically-engineered dinosaurs’ resurrection in the “Jurassic” movies was both foolhardy and dangerous. That was the actual ‘lesson’ to be gleaned from the “Jurassic” movies, not whether a Mosasaurus and a killer whale can somehow learn not to eat each other.
Summing It Up.
Despite bringing together cast members and characters from all of the “Jurassic” movies, this final reunion tour fails to live up to anything close to the majesty and wonder of the first movie. Part of the problem is simple saturation; we’ve seen CGI dinosaurs so many times since 1993 that it’s impossible to make them novel again. Aside from the loss of novelty, “Dominion” goes on about 45 minutes too long for its already thickly-padded running time (made worse with this ‘extended cut’). Eliminating about three or four of the interminably long and pointless chase sequences might’ve helped, as would paring down about two or three subplots that ultimately go nowhere, anyway. This is a franchise that already overstayed its welcome two movies ago.
While director and cowriter Colin Trevorrow did a decent job reviving the franchise with 2015’s “Jurassic World,” Trevorrow has since proven this is a film series with a very limited number of playable options. There’s only so many times we can see characters scream, run, jump, hide, and evade these fearful ancient predators with little more than a scratched cheek before it becomes hopelessly tiresome. The movie’s coda shows beautiful vistas of dinosaurs roaming free alongside modern wildlife, suggesting that coexistence with these creatures will turn out just fine–ignoring the fact that everything in the movie’s previous two and a half hours demonstrates how living with massive, hungry dinosaurs on our ecologically-overtaxed planet would be an absolute nightmare.
With the novelty, awe and wonder of “Jurassic Park”‘s majestic dinosaurs now reduced to a large, rampaging pestilence, it’s long past time for this tired movie franchise to go extinct.
Where To Watch.
“Jurassic World: Dominion,” the extended version (all 2 hours and 40 bloody minutes of it) can be streamed on Peacock.com, and/or purchased digitally via iTunes, YouTube, or Amazon Prime Video. It is also available to buy on physical media (4K, Blu-Ray, DVD) through various online and in-store retailers (prices vary).