Even nostalgia can’t save Jurassic World: Dominion

 June 15, 2022

When the original Jurassic Park debuted in theaters in 1993, CGI had been used successfully in a few big-budget films, but it was more of a showy gimmick than a filmmaking template. It was for this reason that audiences, upon first seeing Steven Spielberg’s towering reptiles, were equally as enamored as the on-screen heroes when they first set foot in the eponymous park.

In today’s CGI-suffused Hollywood era, however, we’ve been so spoiled by special effects that the premise of dinosaurs on screen is as novel as color TV. Still, it takes special effort to make dinosaurs boring. Yet, this is the triumph of director Colin Trevorrow, whose Jurassic World finale focuses on everything but dinosaurs.

The plot goes something like this:A cartoonishly sinister genetics CEO (Campbell Scott) devises a scheme to enrich himself by engineering giant locusts to decimate the world’s grain fields whilst surreptitiously supplying his own genetically modified, immune crop to supplant the world’s supply. Moreover, the same genetics company is also after a little girl, revealed to be a clone whose DNA holds the key to curing a myriad of genetic diseases. Dinosaurs just happen to be living among human civilization amid all of this. Don’t mind them.

Meanwhile, Chris Pratt reprises his role as a jacked Doctor Dolittle for dinosaurs. After his pet velociraptor’s baby is kidnapped by the same genetic research corporation, he promises the lizard predator that he will retrieve her. This silliness aside, Pratt’s action sequences are among the few enjoyable marks in the film.

In one scene, Pratt zips through city streets on a motorbike with raptors hot on his tail, accelerating onto a cargo plane as it takes off. Though the sequence feels more Mission Impossible than Jurassic Park,it’s a welcome respite from following around a bevy of newly introduced characters who serve no purpose other than to further the plot.

The original Jurassic Park featured generic side characters as well, but they were only there for dinosaur fodder. That was how the film maintained its suspense and sense of danger. It kept you on the edge of your seat, not knowing which character was about to be scooped up by the tyrannosaurus next.

In Dominion,none of the characters are ever in any real danger. Even Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who was introduced in Jurassic World as a lab researcher, later turned dinosaur PETA activist, somehow effortlessly outruns and outmaneuvers a raptor. And Barry Sembene (Omar Sy), who previously worked in a dinosaur zoo, is now an undercover French special intelligence spy. Everyone got a promotion except the franchise itself.

Along with adding new cast members, Dominion brings back Jurassic Park veterans Alan (Sam Neill) and Ellie (Laura Dern), presumably in hopes that the nostalgia they exude will buoy the project. But to its detriment, the film can’t figure out how to work them into the story. Instead, it continuously cuts back and forth between the new cast and the old, trying to tell two stories at once: the kidnapping rescue mission and the apocalyptic locusts.

Ultimately, Jurassic World: Dominion lacks vision or purpose. It exists in a world where dinosaurs fly and run rampant throughout the civilized world, yet it ignores them almost entirely, instead inventing new villains and meandering off into tedious subplots. Rebooting a beloved classic is no easy feat. Most outcomes are reminders that some fossils should just remain untouched, serving as vestiges of a bygone era.

Originally published at The Washington Examiner