Part-Time Review: Jurassic World Dominion (2022)


I thought that 2018's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was a terrible movie, but felt it at least ended with a hopeful promise that the eventual follow-up would plow some new ground for the franchise: dinosaurs have now broken out and now threaten the entire world. We got that follow-up in 2022 and I was absolutely wrong to feel hopeful. Jurassic World Dominion is an overstuffed and disjointed Frankenstein of a blockbuster action picture that flaunts its creativity crisis like a badge of honor - reiteration plus imitation without innovation. Asking if Fallen Kingdom or Dominion is the worst film in the Jurassic Park franchise is like asking if its better for a boss to ask you to come into work on a Saturday or Sunday - both are disgusting but the severity will vary by taste.

The most obvious and glaring problem here is in the creative process. The entire film plays out like a mish mash of a million story ideas with a ramshackle plot thrown around it (held together by massive coincidences). I count no less than TEN (!!) basic story ideas/themes here: dinosaurs now roam the world, people smuggle them and use them for their own bad purposes, the inevitable extinction of mankind, Biosyn designed locusts to control the food supply, Biosyn has made a dinosaur preserve, a cloned girl holds the key to genetic engineering (with BD Wong somehow at the middle of it all), the need to save Blue the velociraptor’s baby, that we need to trust and depend on each other to co-exist, and then just good old plain running away from dinosaurs who want to kill you.

Add on top of that other clear notes the creatives wanted: bring back the original crew & combine them with the new crew, introduce a new "biggest dinosaur" the Giganotosaurus, include lots of throwbacks to the original film, then give it all a "Fast & Furious" workin’ as a team vibe. The resultant film feels like a room full of creatives all taking turns at running their version of the film without anyone protecting the vision. No wonder it’s the longest film in the entire franchise. The Transformers films were bad, but at least they had something like a unified vision with Michael Bay behind them.

I just don't get this film at all. Who in their right mind thought the way to cash in on the promise of Fallen Kingdom's ending was to restrict the film to another "park" (but it's a reserve this time!) story? THE ENTIRE WORLD IS FILLED with dinosaurs now and we get a throwback to an evil engineering genius controlling a reserve of dinosaurs for his own desires? The franchise took an entire two films to setup the premise that the story has now gone global only to use the entire two acts of the next film to setup a return to a Jurassic Park -esque "reserve". Huh?

In a clear sign that the creatives behind this film don't really expect much of the audience's intelligence is the particularly insulting explanatory news broadcasts that open and close the film. Movies have always used news broadcast as a somewhat indirect way to share key exposition, but this one does so in a way that essentially retells you the entire story and even directly poses to the viewer the key questions and themes of the film. It’s almost as if the creatives are asking the audience during the film, “Did you get all the cool stuff we put into this? Did ya? Well, if you didn’t I’m gonna make sure you did cause I'm about to tell it you." It's one of the most egregious abuses of the news broadcast I've ever seen in a film.

Are there any redeeming factors? Man, that's tough to say here. Is it nice to see some of the old crew here? Sure. Do they get anything meaty or substantive to do as characters? Not really. It's pretty clear they are a cheap cash-in, shoe-horned in for some sense of grandness and closure to the story. While Ian, Grant, Saddler, and BD Wong are somewhat welcome returns, Pratt's Own and Howard's Claire continue to be a mysterious leading pair. Their relationship lacks chemistry and has been bungled so badly over the two previous films that the creatives seem to acknowledge it here by practically dropping it entirely from the script. There's a hilarious moment where a new character by the name of Watts asks Owen, "You love her don't you?" Owen's response is pretty much how we all feel - meh.

The action, which was never that good in the trilogy reboot, is pretty subpar here as well. Rather than featuring a few large set pieces, the film throws a bunch of shorter encounters with dinosaurs throughout the film. It’s a poor substitution that sacrifices memorable and gripping sequences with cheap moments that are forgotten before they are over. The best and most memorable sequence of the film takes place on the island of Malta and is emblematic of the central creativity problem plaguing the franchise. EVERYTHING about this Malta sequence says it was written/edited/reshot to be an action sequence in the vein of the other franchises. First, there's the Fast and Furious vibes with with multiple threads of a team working toward a goal and getting their own villains and conflicts. Second, there's the Mission Impossible/Bond franchise vibes with big stunts/chases with criminal elements in exotic locations (just with atrociraptors in chase rather than super skilled assassins). The creative crisis of the Jurassic World franchise is that the original premise has been exhausted so they are creating riffs on the same basic idea (we can't control genetic engineering or dinosaurs) and trying to dress it up in the success of other franchises. It's the old aged rock star who has nothing left to say but hires modern producers to make him sound like the kids these days. It's Bon Jovi making a cover of "It's My Life" in 2000. It's reiteration plus imitation without any innovation. The actual story about dinosaurs being smuggled and Biosyn keen on taking advantage of genetic engineering doesn't have any reason to give us this action and you can feel it with every scene as they rapidly introduce new characters, cut to confusing locations, give old characters new abilities (Claire is a roof jumping hero now?), and seemingly build an entire action sequence out of thin air. I don't know if the motorcycle chase with the raptors through Malta was always storyboarded and written to be presented as it is, but it certainly looks like a last second decision. Most of the sequences here are shot so tight in medium and close-ups to hide the CGI'ed Malta that it makes me wonder if the studio and creatives weren't tinkering and redesigning continually behind the scenes. Still, all that said, Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" while a creative void is quite an earworm and this still can still be quite enjoyable with just how ambitious and production heavy it is. Ironically, it's the best and most memorable action sequence of a creatively bankrupt film. (For a full run-down of every Jurassic Park action sequence in the franchise, click HERE)

I hope that Universal puts the Jurassic franchise into the vault for at least a decade or so. We don't need another entry, we don't need an immediate reboot, the franchise needs a nice long extinction. Let a future generation rediscover it, re-engineer it, and wonder if they should have brought it back to life. We already know the answer.