Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenwriters: Emily Carmichael, Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Isabella Sermon, Omar Sy, BD Wong
Dinosaurs, nostalgia and locusts… oh my!
We’re not in the park anymore. The dinosaurs have escaped, and for the first time they’re roaming freely across the Earth. Kind of…
Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom co-writer Colin Trevorrow returns to the director’s chair for the third (and reportedly final) instalment in the Jurassic World trilogy, Jurassic World Dominion. It’s a movie that has been promoted around the premise of finally presenting our favourite pre-historic animals as wild and free, roaming into drive-in cinemas and nesting atop of famous American landmarks. And yet, with all the potential that comes from a T-Rex being able to wander into a Walmart or a Velociraptor being able to hunt humans across the Amazon, Trevorrow and co-writer Emily Carmichael have reverted back to the tried and tested formula, once again finding a convoluted way to return the dinosaurs back to solitary confinement. The biggest thing missing from Jurassic World Dominion is the realisation of the very premise it has been sold on.
But don’t worry, that’s just about the only thing that is missing…
Jurassic World Dominion is packed so tightly with so many different things that it’s no wonder this is the longest Jurassic movie to date at 2 hours and 27 minutes. We catch up with Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) living in relative isolation with their surrogate daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), just as a big pharma CEO (Campbell Scott) is rounding up all the dinosaurs and placing them in a forest in the Italian alps, using the mountains as a kind of natural fence to keep them all in their place. Once Maisie and the child of Owen’s velociraptor friend Blue go missing, Owen and Claire embark on a trip to Europe to get the children back, becoming intwined in underground markets and with billionaire psychopaths along the way. Meanwhile, a unique breed of locusts is decimating crops and threatening the very resource pyramid we all rely upon. It’s a lot.
Like many recent blockbusters, there is little to excuse Jurassic World Dominion of its excess, the script choosing to ignore the original Jurassic Park’s lessons in offering ever-escalating stakes at a precise rate in favour of something closer to filmic cocaine: rapid, undeterred, adrenaline-boosting sensation. Sure, the dinosaurs aren’t actually free after all, but look at all this stuff!
For those familiar with the modern blockbuster, and those expecting all the trappings that modern studio tentpoles come with – including but not limited to the overarching attempt to take narrative shortcuts in order to maintain the attention of even the most addicted TikTok users – Jurassic World Dominion is what you should expect. It’s not the all-time classic that Jurassic Park is – it isn’t deep enough for that, nor as focused or as immaculately realised – but it is a good 2020s blockbuster. In fact, it’s one of the most fun modern-mould blockbusters there is.
Trevorrow and Carmichael’s script is left wanting in terms of its central premise, yes, and there’s no doubt that this is a narrative of convenience in many instances too; but which tentpole isn’t? We have each been battered around the head by the same copy and paste films for years, the difference here is that Jurassic World Dominion actually makes you feel something.
It’s difficult to hold resentment towards any film that has you clasping your hands one minute and grinning ear to ear the next. Jurassic World Dominion does that. Through nostalgia, some next-level visual effects, and some utterly brilliant call-backs and homages, Trevorrow has constructed 2 and a half hours of fun that absolutely flies by. The dinosaurs are menacing and look better than ever, the human stakes are very recognisable, the pacing is fast and unrelenting. If you’re looking for an escape or something to take you back to an easier time in your life, Jurassic World Dominion is more than capable of doing that. And it does it all with Jurassic Park’s political ideologies very much in the foreground.
One thing that is grossly under-appreciated about the Jurassic World movies is how they brought the Jurassic films back in line with the original Jurassic Park in terms of their core beliefs. Dominion, like Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic World before it, never loses touch of how it is humanity that is the great evil, that it is precisely ungoverned wealth (and all the power that it brings) that is the biggest threat, the biggest bad, that we can ever face. Dominion isn’t as emphatic at sending this message as the original Jurassic Park is, but it’s clear that there is a genuine attempt to build the film from this ideological base, and that imbues Dominion with all the stuff that made Jurassic Park so resonant. Our world is to be lived in together, by people of all ages and races, humans alongside animals. Such a message isn’t one to be taken for granted, especially when we live in a world of ever-increasing individualisation and isolation, on a planet seemingly in the midst of another mass extinction event. It isn’t much, especially from a multi-billion-dollar corporation, but it is something. And, in a world of nothings, something can feel pretty damn good.
With so much going on in terms of abstract ideological messages and more literal story beats, and as such Jurassic World Dominion having so many people and story strands to keep up with, there is a lot in Dominion that acts more as out-and-out fan service than meaningful interaction, but this is not the case when it comes to the returns of the three original stars of Jurassic Park: Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. Together, the original trio are re-introduced and later reunited in a way that seems as organic as can be expected from such a nostalgia-heavy sixth franchise instalment. Their performances are fun, and the way the movie revisits the core relationships will be enough to bring smiles and purposeful cringes from even the most Jurassic World-averse viewers. Isn’t it such a shame that we’ve had to wait thirty years for this?
At times, Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World Dominion is like the best parts of other movies – a motorcycle chase through Malta rivals the work of Tom Cruise and company on the Mission: Impossible franchise, Dr Alan Grant’s attachment to his hat is no doubt an Indiana Jones homage, and some science centre exploration seems to have been lifted directly from breaking into the Death Star in Star Wars – and while none of these individual elements hold as much meaning as in their cinematic brethren, there’s no doubt that it is still fun to absorb. And that’s what Dominion is: fun to absorb. It isn’t Jurassic Park, only reminiscent of it. But Jurassic Park was born in 1993 and died in 1993, and no other Jurassic film has got close since.
Jurassic World Dominion is a modern tentpole blockbuster heavy on nostalgia and built on the shoulders of giants. And for what it is, it’s so much of what you could hope for and a whole lot of fun along the way. Jurassic World 3 is an enjoyable and rewatchable dinosaur movie. It isn’t going to change the world as the original Jurassic film did, but in a modern landscape of fun and mostly meaningless regurgitations of recognisable IP, it fails to succumb to the almost-TV feeling of other franchises, instead acting as a reminder of how cool the movies can be.