In Review: Jurassic World – Dominion

Review by Tim Robins

WARNING: SPOILERS FROM THE JURASSIC START

Raargh! Kklak! Chirp, chirp, chirp… Yes Jurassic: Whatever is back, bringing with it a swarm of dino-locusts chomping its way through the world’s farmlands, at least those not blessed with bioengineered crops. I’m not sure what the creatures’ genetic origins are. I just called them McGuffisaurs, as their main function is to send half the main cast on a quest to locate their origins After that, they are quietly dropped until the film’s climax.

Jurassic World: Dominion is the third and, I hope, final film in a trilogy that was already a sequel to the Jurassic Park trilogy, begun with the still unrivalled Jurassic Park (1993). Whatever qualities the subsequent movies possessed , none captured the charm and child-like sense of wonder of Steven Spielberg’s deft, family-friendly take on Michael Crichton’s novel.

Jurassic Park followed the escapades of a group of experts invited to give the thumbs up to a theme park where genetic engineering and the blood of ancient mosquitoes trapped in amber have resurrected dinosaurs for fun and profit by its owner, John Hammond. This being Crichton, writer and director of Westworld, (1973), things go horribly wrong in unexpected ways.

Now, four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), the dinosaurs are on the loose. God may have told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the Earth” – but the prehistoric creatures temporarily under the control of BioSyn (geddit?) Genetics have other ideas.

Jurassic World: Dominion is less a case of “answered prayers” as “be careful what you wish for”. Fans have been waiting to see what the world would be like once the various creature got loose en masse, ever since a T-Rex stalked the streets of San Diego in Jurassic Park II, but I’m not sure they expected the ludicrous mix of Park/World’ tropes, with a James Bond movie thrown in for good measure. Imagine Moonraker, but with dinosaurs in every scene. When Chris Pratt’s dino-wrangling character Owen Grady is chased across the rooftops of Valletta, Malta’s capital city, by Atrociraptors, I wondered if Pratt would grab one by the neck, dangle it off the rooftops and demand “Where’s Giganotosaurus! Where’s Giganotosaurus!” This didn’t happen.

The film tries to ‘honour’ the different casts and tones of both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World trilogies. From Park, Laura Dern and Sam Neill return as, respectively, palaeobotanist Ellie Sattler and palaeontologist Alan Grant, both bent on solving the origins of the dino-locusts that feast on any crops not grown from Biosyn seeds. By an incredible coincidence, chaotician turned new age guru, Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, on fine form), is hanging out at Biosyn’s HQ with geneticist Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong) and CEO Dr Lewis Dodgson (this time played by Campbell Scott).

Meanwhile, (and that “while” is sometimes a very long while indeed) the Jurassic World gang hog most of the action scenes as Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) must rescue the kidnapped Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the clone of Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter that Lockwood raised as his granddaughter, who is now under Owen and Claire’s care in a cabin in the wood.

Worse, velociraptor “Blue”, who has been hanging out near the family, has her baby kidnapped at the same time. When Blue angrily turns on Grady, he vows to get her baby back. As seen in the trailer, this leads to an amusing exchange between Grady and Malcolm when the two casts meet. Grady, “I made a promise we would bring her home” Malcolm, “You made a promise to a dinosaur?”

‘Knowing’ humour certainly helps the film. In one scene, Malcolm is shamed into doing up the top buttons on his shirt – his days as a sex god are truly over. There are lots of visual call-backs to the previous Park-World movies; perhaps too many, although some of my happiest moments were scenes that evoked cinema’s other dino-tales, such as Valley of the Gwangi and Irwin Allen’s Lost World. (A scene in which Grant et al escape through Dimetrodon-infested amber mines is straight out of Allen’s playbook).

New cast members bear the burden of making the film more diverse. DeWanda Wise plays Kayla Watts, a feisty pilot and smuggler, while Mamoudou Athlie makes an engaging member of the Biosyn team, with conflicting values. But their motivations turn on a dime. Much of the dialogue is spent repeating the plot to characters, and us, the audience, as if even the writers found it hard to remember who was where and why they were there. I had hoped Maisie was going to express her genetic heritage by transforming into a human-hybrid-dino thing. This also didn’t happen.

Jurassic World: Dominion has been compared to the mess that was Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – but that’s much too harsh. The films’ Jurassic have never pretended to anything other than utter nonsense. However, the studios should realise less is more.

Are three angry dilophosaurus much better one? Is an even bigger dinosaur than a T-Rex that much more impressive? The answer to these and other questions is a resounding “No”.

Then again, at least you’ve got dino-human danger throughout, but it is a shame the central question – can Palaeolithic monsters live alongside Earth’s current flora and fauna? – is dealt with in two montage sequences – and the final montage is totally unearned.

Critics have fallen on Jurassic World: Dominion like a pack of ravening velociraptors. In many ways, the film may well deserve to be torn to shreds, but that hasn’t stopped it making big bucks at the box-office. Variety reports that the film “devoured an estimated $143.4 million from 4,676 theatres in its domestic (US) opening after roaring to a Friday gross of $59.6 million”.

Time and toy sales will determine whether Universal wants to take another bite out of the franchise. Personally, I would be happier if other dino-properties at least got a look in – Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Moonboy and Devil Dinosaur or, better yet, 2000AD’s “Flesh”.

Tim Robins

Jurassic World – Dominion is in cinemas across the UK now

Dear reader, a review is an opinion, not a statement of fact – other opinions are available, including yours

Jurassic World: Dominion-related items on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide. His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip with Mike Collins. Since 1990 he worked at the University of Glamorgan where he was a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Media Studies and the social sciences. Academically, he has published on the animation industry in Wales and approaches to social memory. He claims to be card carrying member of the Politically Correct, a secret cadre bent on ruling the entire world and all human thought.



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1 reply

  1. I’m still amazed that Flesh isn’t a Netflix or Amazon show yet. It’s a dynamite premise.

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