Jurassic World Dominion review – when they’re together, the original three command the screen

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill. Directed by Colin Trevorrow.

It’s been hard to be onside with the Jurassic franchise since Fallen Kingdom promised us the return of Jeff Goldblum, only for chaostician Dr Ian’s screen time to amount to two brief scenes, all shown in the trailer. With interesting director J.A. Bayona gone and Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow back after getting booted from Star Wars Episode 9, the franchise comes to a big huffing conclusion.

Since clone girl Maisie (Isabella Sermon) unleashed the dinosaurs into the world, things have gotten bad. Dinosaurs are attacking people, disrupting life and not adjusting to the their place in the world very well. Into this comes a swarm of prehistoric locusts, destroying all crops not owned by a sinister company run by Lewis Dodson (Campbell Scott). When Sermon and Raptor Blue’s kid Beta are taken, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Deering (Bryce Dallas Howard) set off to find her, while two familiar faces investigate the strange goings on under Dodson’s watch.

From the start, this may as well have been called Jurassic World: Generations, it feels so much like two separate franchises finally smashing together. Despite releasing the official opening on YouTube, the film starts completely different. Gone is the Walking with Dinosaurs style introduction and instead we have a ‘previously on Jurassic’ style documentary keeping us up-to-date on what is going on. It’s this kind of lazy, lack of attention that mars this sixth film.

While none of the sequels ever reached the heights of the original, The Lost World: Jurassic Park at least had an interestingly nasty side to, while Jurassic Park III was a fun diversion, and Jurassic World offered a chance to see what the park would look like open. Bayona made the previous into a stalk-and-slash horror film; here, in its second half the film seems to transform into a Taken style movie.

What Trevorrow seems to forget is that while the Raptors were conniving and the villains of Jurassic Park, the other dinosaurs were just existing. The T-Rex attacked because prey came into HIS domain, the other animals were just going about their business. Aside from one very sweet moment in which Maisie helps some loggers divert a brontosaurs away, there is nothing of the awe that marked the first two films out. Michael Giacchino also seems to have forgotten that John Williams provided not one, but two of the best theme tunes of all time for the franchise and barely uses them.

Now, the dinosaurs are nothing more than vicious monsters out to eat you at any chance. None of the slow burn of Jurassic Park is here despite roping so many people to return. Fan service works when it’s also serving a story, here we have Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum all back for various “reasons”, while Omar Sy, BD Wong, Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith are all roped in for one or two scenes as if we’re to cheer because Dr Wu ONCE AGAIN fucked around and found out with nature.

The film’s main set piece, a motorbike / van / foot / dinosaur chase through a Maltese city should have been the ultimate chase sequence, showing people at the mercy of relentless apex predators, but Trevorrow edits the sequence way too much. At times the camera can barely stay in focus, and when it does the editing is so choppy you think it’s Taken 3. It’s messy, and leaves nothing to enjoy about what should be great.

Every encounter with a dinosaur save for that Maisie one is a monster attack. It plays out like a video game, one or more characters go into a room, or into a part of the forest, or into a cave, they look around BANG dinosaur attacks. They recover, keep going, then another dinosaur comes. What Trevorrow forgets is that Spielberg gave us time to love to dinosaurs, to build up the threat, and when people die it means something. No kill is as horrific as Wayne Knight in the rain, none as funny as the lawyer on the toilet.

Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neil, and Laura Dern in Jurassic World Dominion

Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Laura Dern in Jurassic World Dominion.

Some of the performances are also deeply suspect. Campbell Scott opts to try and out-dweeb Jeff Goldblum – why? You have Goldblum, you don’t need your boring villain – and Dodson a call back to the first film is by far the dullest of the human antagonists – to try to out do Ian Malcolm. Sermon in only her second ever role after the previous film wavers. In the first act she’s poor, but the dialogue of an angsty teen is sub-soap opera stuff. Jurassic works when the kids are on side with the dinosaurs, and are smart, once Sermon is in the lab with little raptor Beta, then the film gives her stuff the chew on and work.

The usually dependable Dichen Lachman is given nothing to do and so opts to act like a character in Star Wars with her stilted delivery – it’s not her fault, her role is terrible. A fist fight with Bryce Dallas Howard is laughably bad, and then she just disappears from the film. It also appears like Chris Pratt loses more charm with every pound of fat he loses. Gone is the loveable oaf from Parks and Rec, even that Star-Lord charm which was most of what his role in Jurassic World was coasting on, is gone. He’s just a generic movie star character, unable to inject any of that Harrison Ford douchebaggery that the role needs.

Returning cast members Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum own the film, and this is part of the film’s big issue: it’s two films at once. One is a boring Taken adventure, the other is an actual examination of the series consequences. The film’s frantic pacing and writing means that we never get to examine things fully but a pointed moment between Dern and Howard: “do you ever have nightmares?” “all the time” alludes to trauma, something that, for it’s flaws, Jurassic Park III tried to hint at.

Neill and Dern still have the chemistry, and once they get into a room with Goldblum, the three command the screen away from everyone else. Neill’s incredulous response to “do you know how high the voltage of the fences in Jurassic Park were?” is a simply but cutting “yes”. It’s moments like these, and Goldblum’s ability to really add some Goldblum stank on a line reading that really carry the film.

Newcomer DeWanda Wise as pilot / badass Kayla is the standout outside of the original trio. She’s got the swagger but the hidden depths that Pratt thinks he has. Her character is capable in a way others usually aren’t, and offers a glimmer of hope. Had they exorcised the Maisie, Owen, Claire plot for the original trio and her doing recon on Dodson this film might have been worth the time.

By the end, you realise that the film has gotten so caught up in the mythos building of clone humans and dino-extinction that it forgot what the original film offered: a chance for some real, proper awe. The scenes of dinosaurs fighting dinosaurs are big and loud but lack any real consequence. The filmmakers were so preoccupied with if they could, they never thought to stop and think if they should. It’s a film of noise, and bluster, and callbacks but where there should be heart there is none. 

Crucially there’s no moment as moving as John Hammond’s admission of why he built the park to begin with. It’s just a bit of a slog.

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Paul Klein

Paul is Film & Media Editor @ No Majesty. Paul is a Film Studies Graduate from London, and former writer at The Metropolist.