2. Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
Jurassic World Dominion is all the fun you’d expect of your typical dinosaur movie. It has a wide range of dinosaurs (some fast, some big, some hyper-aggressive, some kind of cute), some fun and well-choreographed action sequences, exceptional visual effects, an invested cast, and all the nostalgia you can shake a flare at.
One massive ret-con aside – why did the writers come up with an excuse to return the dinosaurs to an isolated woodland area when they could have done literally anything else? – Jurassic World Dominion seems imbued with all the anti-corporate messaging of the original Jurassic Park, and in that way feels the most Jurassic of all the non-original franchise offerings.
There is a lot going on in Dominion, not least character arcs for over a dozen different mainstream actors, and at times it suffers from the reductionist tropes of the modern blockbuster as a result, but the pace of this Colin Trevorrow offering never lets up and at no point feels like the 2 and a half hours that it is. What’s more is that the way in which characters from the Jurassic World and Jurassic Park franchises are brought together seems somewhat believable if not necessarily organic, and there are some moments of inspired dialogue exchanges.
As a visual product, Dominion is by far the most accomplished non-original of the Jurassic franchise. Gone are the colourful greenscreen sequences of Jurassic World, as is the darkness of the Fallen Kingdom colour palette, and here is a much more naturalistic look that enhances the believability of the dinosaurs and brings attention to the at times incredibly impressive camera movements and shot compositions of cinematographer John Schwartzman. In Dominion, the chase scenes are reminiscent of the Mission: Impossible films in the best way, elements like the marketplace and the billionaire’s layer heist seem to be ripped straight from Star Wars, while scenes of crop mutilation seem to be taken from the disaster movies of the late 1990s.
There’s a lot to be enjoyed in Dominion, not least the return of Jurassic Park characters Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and while the film at times sags under the weight of reductionism per its massive cast and even bigger list of intentions, Jurassic World Dominion is about as good as you can expect from a risk-free 21st century tentpole blockbuster; an honourable homage to the original Jurassic Park and easily the most fun of any Jurassic Park sequel to date.
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
If ever there was a perfect blockbuster, it was Jurassic Park.
Released in 1993 and still looking every bit as convincing as it ever did, this revolutionary cinematic take on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name revolutionised cinema arguably as much as Steven Spielberg’s breakout hit Jaws did when it re-wrote the rules of distribution and created what we now understand to be the modern blockbuster.
Using state of the art, industry-changing visual effects that would famously cause lead animatronics and practical effects supervisor Phil Tippett to claim “I think I’m extinct”, director Steven Spielberg’s superb eye for tension, drama and spectacle was pushed to its limits in what would become a staple not only of the great director’s career but of the 1990s, nay a generation.
Featuring dinosaurs for just 14 minutes of the 2-hours-plus run-time, Jurassic Park was illustrative of the same techniques Spielberg had employed on Jaws: that less is sometimes more. Knowing the limitations of the technology at hand, Spielberg crafted scene after scene around the unseeable, ensuring each of us were on the very edge of our seats before we even got a glimpse of one of the ginormous prehistoric creatures. Who could forget that first Dinosaur reveal when Spielberg closed in on the shock and awe of Sam Neill and Laura Dern before presenting the Brachiosaurus in all its glory, era-defining John Williams score and all?
Importantly, Jurassic Park had a genuinely eclectic and relatable cast of characters, each of whom offered their own bit of magic to the film overall. Richard Attenborough, as the park’s founder John Hammond, was perfectly cast given that his brother David was (and continues to be) a world-renowned wildlife conservationist and documentarian, not to mention that Richard himself was the very best at being an endearing old fellow at the time. The casting of Jeff Goldblum as the enigmatic and charismatic Dr. Ian Malcolm proved to be one of the most inspired casting choices ever, with Laura Dern and Sam Neill acting as audience surrogates (the eyes through which we could each see this remarkable new park for ourselves) alongside some of the best child-acting you’ll see anywhere from Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello.
Perfectly cast, sensationally directed, inspirationally photographed and imaginatively constructed, very well written, endlessly quotable, entirely watchable and totally enjoyable, Jurassic Park is a high benchmark for the blockbuster film industry as a whole and by far the very best film in the Jurassic Park / World franchise, a true classic the likes of which we may never experience again.
Recommended for you: 10 Best Moments from the Jurassic Park Franchise
The Jurassic franchise is one of the most remarkable in all of cinema. Other franchises, whether they be the superhero likes of Spider-Man or Batman, sci-fi staples like Terminator or other predominantly 90s fare like Men In Black, each suffer from containing at least one widely acknowledged bottom of the barrel entry, whereas every entry into the Jurassic franchise feels at least somewhat inspired, like it at least has something that someone somewhere can enjoy.
While there are no comparisons in quality between Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, the franchise is overall a strong and satisfying collection of films; a series beloved and respected by audiences and critics alike.
Modified to include Jurassic World Dominion 30th June 2022. Originally published 22nd April 2020.