“Jurassic World Dominion takes place four years after Isla Nubar has been destroyed. Dinosaurs now live—and hunt—alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.”
That’s the official summary for Jurassic World Dominion, the third and final entry in the Jurassic World trilogy and the sixth overall in the Jurassic Park film franchise. Here’s another one for you:
“When chaos strikes on Isla Nublar and Sorna, it’s up to you to survive against these dinosaurs. You can play any one of the 4 movies and their characters, such as Alan Grant, Owen Grady, and even as the dinosaurs.”
That’s the IMDB plot summary for LEGO: Jurassic World, the 2015 video game that adapted all four (at the time) movies using cutting edge LEGO technology. I truly wish this was a review of that game.
The game put players in control of some of the most iconic characters in the franchise, Grant and Grady of course, but also favorites like Dr. Ian Malcolm, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Claire Dearing. It was a fun, slightly underrated game that managed to really capture the heart of the franchise in clever ways. Of course, it helped that most of the game was just rehashing old scenes and iconic moments from a pre-established franchise. Voice clips of actors from the original trilogy were even used to give the game more of a nostalgic flair; how cool is it to hear classic lines from a legacy actor in a new version of an old franchise?
But remember and take heart, we’re not talking about LEGO: Jurassic World today. We’re talking about Jurassic World Dominion, the film that reintroduces audiences to some of the most iconic characters in the franchise. Chris Pratt is back, and so is Bryce Dallas Howard, along with several characters from franchise past, in a film that attempts to celebrate the legacy of the classic Jurassic Park movies with more than a few “Did you catch that?” easter eggs and callbacks to what came before. It’s an obsession, really. In fact, actors from the original trilogy were even brought back to…wait, am I getting some streams crossed here?
No, wait, this is definitely still Jurassic World Dominion. Like the LEGO game, and the film before it (and the one before that), Dominion is all about reminding you that is, in fact, part of the Jurassic Park franchise. It’s all here, folks: legacy characters returning, looking a bit more wear and tear than they used to, scenes that are shot to look almost exactly like that one scene from that one movie way back when, and a whole lot of close-call encounters with dinosaurs! What’s not to like? A whole bunch, it turns out.
While the basic premise of Dominion is very similar to the basic idea of LEGO: JW, the similarities in plot and quality stop there. I quite enjoyed playing the game with my younger siblings years back, reminiscing about scenes from movies I’d only watched on cable syndication or VHS, watching as they looked on with shock and awe at LEGO versions of a movie they’d just seen in IMAX. Dominion leaves a very different taste in one’s mouth once the credits roll after a grueling 150 minutes of — say it with me, now — more meddling in the forces of science and nature. Go figure.
In a franchise that’s already run out of ideas, Dominion somehow takes the cake and eats it too. After the destruction of Isla Nubar, humans and dinosaurs have been forced to coexist in a modern world. A premise that seems interesting when you realize the film is planning on doing nothing with it beyond being a backdrop for “Who’s that Pokemon?: 80’s actor edition.”
The film relies heavily on this nostalgia — as the franchise itself has for a while now — but ironically forgets the coolest part of its dino-charged history, the dinosaurs. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of dinosaurs in this movie. They’re roaming around North America, chomping up civilians and running away from evil scientists. The illegal dinosaur trading circuit plot from Fallen Kingdom is even still pretty major here. But gone is the sense of wonder these prehistoric beasts once brought with them in previous films. Gone is that sense that dinosaurs and humans are sharing the screen as near equals. A bond of “mutual respect” Grady remarks at one point.
Remember how terrifying the original Jurassic Park was to watch purely because it gave off the sense that the dinos were the ones in charge here, and the humans were out of their element? Well, in a shift that admittedly doesn’t find its origins in Dominion, but definitely comes to a head in the likely franchise closer, the dinosaurs just feel like set pieces half of the time. Grady’s raptors, Blue still the most important, are really the only animal characters now who feel like they’d receive top billing. It’s a cool concept, humans practically one-upping the dino species, but it feels about as earned as, let’s say, a scene where the iconic T. Rex pauses to recreate the series logo like he’s the precursor to the MGM lion. Wait, he does that? Unironically?
The film isn’t wrong to assume that a lot of people watching this have probably seen the original films, otherwise they’re newer moviegoers who got introduced to the dino antics with the last two Jurassic World movies. But director Colin Trevorrow assumes that’s all the film really needs. The human characters have never been the lifeblood of the franchise. A volcanic take, maybe, but that’s why it’s never really been a big deal when new characters are introduced, or old ones are left behind.
Of course, it’s nice that all the favorites are back, and it’d be a lie to say it wasn’t chilling to see Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum return as their respective characters for a semi-conclusive bow. Especially when you realize just how much screen time they share with the current franchise headers, Pratt and Howard and Isabel Sermon. All of them running around in Trevorrow’s dino-filled playground does make for some admittedly fresh, blockbuster-worthy moments in a sea of sameness.
But whereas those moments may work in the “Free Play” mode of a fun LEGO game, where your brother chooses Malcolm Goldblum and you choose Owen Pratt for some reason to reimagine The Lost World, here they’re just lukewarm distractions from a messy, merchandised adventure that is live-action without feeling alive.
Jurassic World Dominion opens in theaters through Universal on June 10. Watch the official trailer here.