As perfect as Jurassic Park is, none of its now five sequels has ever fully stuck the landing. Part of that is how revolutionary the first one is, but part is just how odd a relationship the other films have with the premise. The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III kept a lot of elements while moving locations, whereas Jurassic World goes back to where it began. Then, its sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, does away with it for what becomes a haunted house flick. Now, we have Jurassic World: Dominion, which has promised to be something entirely new, while bringing back all of your old friends. Does it actually? Well, yes and no. There are some big swings here, though a handful of them are fairly big misfires. Jurassic World: Dominion throws everything at the summer movie wall, hoping enough sticks to make you have a good time. Plenty doesn’t work here, but just enough does to warrant a very mild recommendation.
Jurassic World: Dominion ends this particular Jurassic storyline in a manner that doesn’t even begin to answer questions, but engages your lizard brain that wants to see dinosaur chaos. The more it gives you prehistoric monsters, the better. When it tries to build out its new story, as opposed to wrapping up the one it has been developing, things get rough. Then again, by now you know that you’re not here for the franchise’s tight narrative.
Taking place in the aftermath of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, dinosaurs now coexist with human beings. That should be the start for an epic clash, right? Well, this film is more concerned with other things, oddly. Two diverging tales eventually bring our legacy characters into play with our new heroes. For the latter, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a full on dinosaur advocate now, while living in seclusion with Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and their adoptive daughter, the clone Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). When they discover that the raptor Blue has had a baby, it’s not long before poachers do too, kidnapping the baby, along with Maisie. Making a promise to Blue (you read that right), Owen sets out with Claire on a globe-hopping adventure to find the baby raptor, as well as the girl. At the same time, some old friends are looking into a swarm of locusts.
Yes, you’re not misreading that. A major plot point here, and what involves Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is a potential plague of insects. On a tip from Ian, Ellie is looking into these locusts, which are eating all of the world’s crops, except for those grown using seed from Biosyn, under the directive of Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), the Steve Jobs-like figure who has the government contract to study dinosaurs, holding them in a facility in Italy. Recruiting Alan, the pair go to Biosyn’s compound, where Ian actually is a speaker. There, they begin to uncover a nefarious plan, right as Owen and Claire arrive, alongside a new friend in pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise). Any guesses on if they’ll end up dealing with dinosaurs run amok? Well, of course, when they’re not dealing with those pesky locusts, that is.
Returning the original cast with the new protagonists is undeniably effective on a nostalgic level, even if no one is playing a fully developed character. Depending on who you are, Campbell Scott may be best in show with his bizarre villain. Well, best or worst, as there really won’t be any in-between. Bryce Dallas Howard is a far cry from where she started in the first movie, while Chris Pratt remains a solid action hero, if devoid of much of the charisma he usually possesses. As for Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Sam Neill, they’re clearly happy to be back, and that goes a long way. The rest of the cast includes Mamoudou Athie, Scott Haze, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Omar Sy, BD Wong, and more.
Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow also returns, co-writing with Emily Carmichael (Derek Connolly gets a Story By credit) and directing this sequel. Carmichael and Trevorrow craft a fair first act, though one that gets away from the promise of the last film’s ending (which is a shame, since the director has some great visuals here). then, the middle section is a slog, trying to be a cut-rate action adventure tale. Finally, once everyone is in Italy, things pick up, with some actual dinosaur terror. There, things are on firmer ground. Still, how anyone thought the locust element was a good idea boggles my mind. Why introduce random insects, which the movie doesn’t even do a good job of explaining, when you literally have tons of dinosaurs to play with? The fact that it works in spite of itself is a testament to how effective these prehistoric beasts are on the screen, when actually utilized.
Jurassic World: Dominion is critic-proof, to be sure. Nothing anyone says about it will impact the sure to be huge box office. There are new and old species of dinosaurs (finally moving away from the genetically engineered crossbreeds, too) eventually trying to eat characters we grew up liking, and that will sell tickets. In terms of being anything more than a passing fancy, it misses the opportunity to really plant a flag as a great sequel in this series. It settles, while also taking huge swings, and that’s a weird mix.