Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Written by Patrick Hao
Each time a new film in the “Jurassic Park” franchise comes out, the original 1993 Steven Spielberg film feels more and more like a miracle. It was at the perfect cross-section of practical effects and computer-generated imagery, as well as being an earnest blockbuster with no burden of becoming a franchise tentpole. By the time “Jurassic World: Dominion” released in 2022, the film’s aim was to hit all the demographic quadrants, cursed to become a misbegotten mess of a film in the process.
Colin Trevorrow returns to helm the third film of this sequel trilogy after not directing “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” His conception of a world in which dinosaurs roam free with humans are jeep commercials in which a dinosaur is running with horses. Trevorrow does try to harness the spirit of the morality tales of the original “Jurassic Park” scribe, Michael Crichton’s oeuvre, by setting the primary villain as a Mark Zuckerberg/Elon Musk type, biogenesist Dr. Lewis Dodgson. His plan is to harness the DNA technology to create prehistoric locusts to wipe out all the crops that are not his biologically enhanced crops, all while presenting himself as a benevolent billionaire.
This plan, for some reason, involves the DNA of Maisie Lockwood (a plucky Isabella Sermon), the first human clone from the last “Jurassic World” movie (and a plot point that I have absolutely no memory of), who has been adopted by this new trilogy’s heroes, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Along with Maisie, the evil corporation, Biogenysis, also wants to kidnap Blue the raptor’s self-conceived child. All of this leads to a globe-trotting adventure between Grady and Dearing that is more akin to an Indiana Jones tale than a “Jurassic Park” movie. Even recounting this ludicrous, circular plot shows that the filmmakers are missing the point.
Meanwhile, in an attempt at nostalgia porn, the original heroes of the first film, Dr. Allen Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are recruited by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to come to the Biogenysis facilities, which also serves as a dinosaur sanctuary, to investigate the recent plague of prehistoric locusts. While Trevorrow shoots the reunion between Grant and Sattler with the same fervor Spielberg did for the Brachiosaurus reveal, he struggles to make their existence in this new film feel justified. This is not assisted by Dern, Neill, and Goldblum playing their scenes with the same level of energy as a reunion show – it might be fun to watch but does not make for something compelling.
On the other end of the spectrum, Pratt has lost all his movie star charisma as Owen Grady as he continues to slide into a self-serious action hero. He squints, growls, and is frustratingly narrow. There is no reason for Pratt to be closer to Clint Eastwood than Bruce Willis as a star persona. Meanwhile, his onscreen partner, Bryce Dallas Howard is halfway to being retired as an actor and halfway into becoming a full-fledged director, and her performance reflects an actress who is disinterested in the form.
All of these frustrations with the performances ultimately lead back to the story itself. You can feel the filmmakers straining to justify why a third film needs to exist. In doing so, they bend over backward to create a capital “P” point morality tale about corporate greed. That is all well and good, but when it has to be beholden to the marketing overlords to create new dinosaur toys and nostalgia baiting, any plot becomes thinly conceived. Rather than simply focusing on dinosaurs and humans coexisting, everything becomes overly complicated with unconvincing set pieces and an action adventure that feels shallow in stakes.
The first “Jurassic Park” will always be lightning in a bottle. Each film in the franchise continues to prove it, especially as the filmmakers try to reverse engineer that magic. In a way, that hubris might not be too dissimilar to the biogenetesist who decided to bring the dinosaurs back to life. It might be time to put this iteration of “Jurassic Park” to bed because the creative potential of the series has been wrung dry for decades.
“Jurassic World: Dominion” Trailer
“Jurassic World: Dominion” is in wide theatrical release.