Jurassic World: Dominion Review -- Running On Fossil Fumes

  • First Released Jun 10, 2022
  • movie

The third installment of the Jurassic World franchise has landed with all the grace of T-Rex chasing down a tourist.

Much like the dinosaurs it so proudly features, the Jurassic Park-slash-World franchise has proved itself to be pretty much unkillable, with Jurassic World: Dominion hitting theaters this summer finishing off the second of two trilogy runs. Sure it may not have the culture footprint of a Star Wars or an MCU, but in terms of sheer nostalgia-fueled power, the Jurassic movies seem to be a perpetual motion machine--though, as Dominion very handily proves, there comes a time when these stories simply run out of gas.

Set four years after the destruction of Ilsa Nublar (one of the big kick-off events of the second film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), dinosaurs have now fully repopulated the world. How, exactly, this has happened (Fallen Kingdom ended with maybe 50 or so dinosaurs escaping a mansion) is never really illuciated or even questioned--what you need to know is that Jurassic World has gone full-on Dinotopia in less than a decade. There are illegal black market breeding facilities for triceratops, parasaurolophus are running around with herds of wild mustangs in the country, everyone's favorite mosasaurus is terrorizing crabbing ships in the ocean--you name it. This, according to a quick-and-dirty introductory recap framed cleverly as a NowThis news video you might see on social media, is a problem because not only are humans struggling to adapt to living with dinosaurs, but a shady corporation has begun campaigning to use these dinosaurs for genetic research in a Definitely Not A Theme Park "relocation camp" in rural Italy. The company--Biosyn--has been doing their best to safely remove dinosaur populations to their secure facility where they can be researched and, presumably, kept safe--but, unsurprisingly, Biosyn may or may not have the best intentions.

This all dovetails in with the return of the original Jurassic Park cast members, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldbulm), but has almost nothing to do with the Jurassic World characters Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Clarie Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Both Owen and Claire have been living with their pseudo-adopted daughter who was revealed to be a clone in the last movie (seriously), Maisie (Isabella Sermon) and trying to relocate dinosaurs on their own for unknown goals and unknown ends--that is, until Maisie is kidnapped by Biosyn which serves to set the bulk of the action in motion.

No one could ever accuse the Jurassic franchise of being air-tight in terms of scientific rigor or logic in the past, but Dominion throws any hope of telling a coherent story out the window as it frantically tosses seemingly random ideas and bits of exposition at the screen. The dinosaurs themselves aren't even the problem here--in addition to Maisie, there's also a Biosyn-related global ecological catastrophe brewing that has next to nothing to do with giant reptiles stomping around. More than once, the movie grinds to a halt to feature a big action set piece full of unnamed characters working towards completely unknown goals who exit the movie the moment their three or four minutes worth of stunt work are finished. Even the major turning points for the plot seem to happen at random and completely incidentally with no rhyme or reason--and the ones that do attempt to explain or justify themselves are almost immediately contradicted.

Biosyn's Not-A-Theme-Park Dinosaur Theme Park has a safety feature where all the dinosaurs have chips in their brains that can force them to move into a secure area, but it turns out that secure area is just the campus where all the people work, not cages or pens or some kind of barracks. There's a system that keeps the flying dinosaurs off of incoming helicopters and planes, introduced as a sort of aerial electromagnetic field that keeps the flying dinos in, but moments later it's revealed it can be turned on and off at will with no consequences. Those flying dinos are apparently able to come and go as they please, as long as they're not knocking planes out of the sky. But none of this matters in any specific way because, again, the dinosaurs themselves aren't the problem or even all that plot-relevant here--they're less fun pieces of worldbuilding or cool monsters for the heroes to fight and more background noise. Even Owen's trusty raptor bestie, Blue, who served as a sort of mascot character in both the first and second World movies is reduced to what basically amounts to a walk-on cameo.

Perhaps this would be forgivable if any of the performances Dominion had to offer were memorable in the slightest, but instead every actor involved seems to be as lost and confused as audiences inevitably will be. Pratt and Howard have never had less chemistry, while Neill, Dern, and Goldblum seem to struggle to recapture any of their old enthusiasm for their classic characters. Punchlines fall flat, one-liners and zingers get peppered into dialogue at random, new characters show up and attempt to justify their own involvement with monologues that amount to "actually, don't worry about it." It's bizarre character choice after bizarre character choice, ultimately coalescing into charmless mush.

The best thing Dominion has going for it is its visual effects--like all the Jurassic movies before it, no expense is spared in terms of actually bringing the dinosaurs to life. They look great, even when they're functionally set dressing and background detail, and the quality is more or less consistent, which is admittedly a low bar, but it's a low bar that many of the other major tentpole blockbusters released in the past few years have failed to jump. The new dinosaur designs, too, are pretty cool looking--though only one of them even gets a namecheck to go along with its arrival.

All told, Jurassic World: Dominion feels like a script for a generic disaster movie hammered awkwardly into the Jurassic franchise mold at the last minute. Where the other World movies may not have hung together flawlessly or explained themselves perfectly, they had the advantage of having at least a handful of interesting ideas that were, ultimately, pretty fun to watch--because, hey, who doesn't love watching big dinosaurs mess things up? But if that's the sort of energy you're looking for, unfortunately you won't find it here.

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The Good

  • Consistent visual effects look great
  • Some cool new dinosaur designs

The Bad

  • Wooden, stilted performances from the entire cast lack chemistry
  • A confusing plot that has almost nothing to do with dinosaurs
  • Virtually no internal logic to speak of
  • Endless flat jokes and awkward one-liners
  • How did dinosaurs completely repopulate the Earth in four years? What is going on?

About the Author

Universal provided a screening of Jurassic World: Dominion. Mason Downey is an Entertainment Editor at GameSpot.