It’s the summer of nostalgia, it seems. Last month, Tom Cruise returned to one of his most iconic roles for Top Gun: Maverick, which has become one of 2022’s most acclaimed and successful movies. And now, Jurassic World Dominion is bringing back a couple of old familiar faces, too: Laura Dern and Sam Neill from the original Jurassic Park. (Jeff Goldblum is also back, though he had a cameo in 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.)
These old-timers join forces with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard as humanity must learn to co-exist with dinosaurs following the events of Fallen Kingdom. In other words, that means more people to run screaming from CGI dinosaurs wreaking all kinds of havoc, along with a sprinkling of philosophical conundrums about the limits of human science.
So far, it looks like most critics are less impressed with Jurassic World Dominion’s nostalgic trappings, which raises bigger concerns for the Jurassic Park franchise as a whole. Is it time to let the franchise finally go extinct? Read on for a brief sampling of critical reactions.
It’s unfortunate that the filmmakers didn’t uncover a story worthy of the technical aspects because the dinosaurs look better in Jurassic World: Dominion than they have ever previously looked, and that’s saying something. This is top-flight CGI and there’s never a hint that the resurrected creatures are sharing the screen with human beings. There are some wonderful throw-away shots, like one with a group of triceratops migrating alongside a herd of elephants, that hint at what this movie could have been if financial pressures hadn’t forced Trevorrow to include too many silly action sequences… and a dumber-than-dumb plot involving genetically engineering insects.
At long last, with Jurassic World Dominion, it’s time to take Crichton’s concept to its dystopian conclusion. Dominion opens with a few clever examples of dinos among us: A Monosaurus upending a fishing boat in the Baltic Sea, Pteranodons nesting on the roof of the tallest skyscraper, etc. But it doesn’t include the impressive five-minute prologue released last fall, in which a T. rex attacked a drive-in movie theater. Instead, Dominion spends very little time worrying about how humans get along with these fearsome reptiles, sending most of its characters to another remote dino habitat.
Jurassic World Dominion doesn’t tie any bows on the fact that dinosaurs are now an ever-present challenge in our world, nor does it believe in its audiences’ intelligence enough to explore that complicated of a story. Honestly, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous does a better job with such themes with its long-form narrative. That’s a warranted frustration with the continuation of the franchise, but Dominion still has enough going on to keep it both exciting and fun for audiences. The film’s successful marriage of hardcore nostalgia and new challenges works in its favor, and I can’t wait to see what the franchise does next.
To reunite the core cast members of both trilogies, now presumably full of insights and wisdom (either or both as actors or characters), and then give the final, introspective voiceover to a character not a single audience member has ever seen except in “archival footage,” offers a final insult to moviegoers who have been decreasingly mesmerized by these films. There are four or five “so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” jokes to make here that would suffice as a perfect encapsulation not only of this film, but of the totality of the franchise, but suffice it to say you would be better served by going outside and using your imagination to explore dinosaur-themed ideas than watching how these people spent the hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal to use theirs.
So why is Jurassic World Dominion still satisfying, in spite of its bloat, its shameless pandering to past franchise installments, and its utterly ridiculous notions, like Grady promising Blue that he’ll retrieve her baby, even though Blue forever seems moments away from ripping him open and feasting on his insides? It all has to do with Trevorrow’s supersized version of what all the Jurassic movies so far have offered: the uneasy, half-giddy, half-doomy sensation of boarding a theme park ride on the precipice of an apocalypse.
[U]ltimately, in a Jurassic movie, you’re looking for awe, excitement, and fun, and Jurassic World Dominion provides very little of that. If any. There are moments very obviously designed to elicit those emotions, such as the motorcycle ride through Malta or the underground cave sequence, but without a story you’re invested in, it’s all for naught. Instead by the end you can’t help but feel like you’ve been bludgeoned for two and a half hours with random asides and action scenes all hoping to cover up the fact the story and character arcs are non-existent.
In this third and possibly final chapter in the blockbuster franchise’s sequel series, the dinosaurs have escaped their island enclosures and now live among us. Returning director Colin Trevorrow hopes to dovetail both existing trilogies into a single satisfying conclusion, but this latest instalment struggles to recapture the magical sense of awe and wonder that once enraptured audiences.
When the famous Jurassic Park motif finally makes a full appearance in this film, it’s under very different circumstances than in the original. Spielberg unleashes John Williams’ iconic theme as a miniature climax, when the audience and the protagonists are seeing dinosaurs in all their majesty for the first time. The music radiates awe. Here, Trevorrow busts it out under a shot of a bunch of characters standing around and looking at each other after a half-assed suspense sequence involving a rolled-over car. That’s Jurassic World Dominion in a nutshell, really: witless callbacks to a better movie made by a better director, inserted in the hopes that the lizard-brain twinge of recognition will distract us from how shoddily made and creatively bankrupt the movie in front of us is.
It’s supposed to be a race against the clock, but the bloated narrative never instills the necessary urgency. It spends a lot of time on character catchup and plot setup, taking a while before the adventure gets underway. Some of the larger, more bombastic set pieces get wedged in solely for spectacle and contrived forward momentum, bogging down the pacing in the process. An antagonist gets introduced as an integral part of the plan in Malta, only to get forgotten and never mentioned again. The film’s big bad is similarly underdeveloped, a caricature of archetypical greed, while an overarching antagonist gets an unearned redemptive arc.
While Trevorrow’s films have little to add to the behemoth cultural touchstone forged by Spielberg nearly three decades ago, they manage to satisfy as solid imitations. It’s almost refreshing to see Jurassic World Dominion abandon the pretense that it’s anything other than reheated leftovers. Whether cynically or shrewdly, Trevorrow recognizes that the audience for this threequel does not have the appetite for new material. They want him to shut up and play the hits so they get a hit of the rush they remember from ages past no matter how diluted the dosage. At least he’s straightforward with his intentions to give them exactly what they want: direct rip-offs of images and sequences from the original film with composer Michael Giacchino doing his best recreation of the swelling John Williams score.
Structure-wise, Jurassic World Dominion is the polar opposite of its predecessor, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. In that film, a pretty standard first half suddenly made way for a Gothic horror second part, full of interesting themes and ideas. This time you get a pretty nice first half with some interesting developments, all of which is basically one big set-up for the last hour, in which all of our heroes come together in one clutch fighting for their lives in an out-of-control environment. If you like these heroes it is entertaining, but it’s also a very derivative and bloodless ending to this trilogy. It is basically one big collection of Easter eggs and shout-outs to the earlier films.
Jurassic World Dominion features some acceptably excessive special effects, and even stretches for peak nostalgia value by bringing back OG Jurassic Park stars Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum. But if the film kicks off in a reasonably promising fashion, it becomes wearying after the first hour, and brings on major eye glazing not long after that. There’s so much plot, so many characters, so damn much Chris Pratt, that the dinosaurs end up taking a backseat. They’re the forlorn underdogs of their own film.
Jurassic World Dominion arrives in theaters on June 9, 2022. Watch the trailer below.