Jurassic World Dominion Review: For The Love Of T-Rex, It's Time To Let This Franchise Finally Go Extinct

In 1993, Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" changed movies forever. That's not hyperbole or exaggeration. Spielberg, working with a crack team of special effects artists, made us believe dinosaurs were back, if only for the runtime of the movie. Digital VFX work had been used in films before "Jurassic Park," but it was Spielberg's monster movie opus that displayed such work on such a grand, impressive, immersive scale. In the wake of that film, Hollywood would fully embrace digital effects — for better and, in a lot of cases, for worse. No one would accuse the film, adapted from Michael Crichton's pulpy sci-fi page-turner, of having a brilliant, air-tight script. But whatever it lacked was more than made up for by the work done by Spielberg and company. Ultimately, "Jurassic Park" did what so much of the best of Spielberg's work does: it reminded us that movies can be magic.

Whatever magic Spielberg caught in a bottle in that first "Jurassic Park" has long since evaporated. Not even the filmmaker himself could reclaim it, returning to helm the nasty, effective, but not nearly as-good sequel "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" before handing the third film, "Jurassic Park III," over to Joe Johnston. That threequel was a fun, fast B-movie with a big budget, but a lackluster reaction more or less rendered the franchise extinct. That changed when Colin Trevorrow came on the scene with "Jurassic World," a legacy sequel that asked, "What if we took all the stuff that made Spielberg's original so great, and made a less-entertaining movie?" Critics were not impressed, but it didn't matter — "Jurassic World" was a dino-sized hit, and spawned a sequel, the odious "Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom." That, in turn, spawned what is reportedly (please, god, let it be true) the final entry in Trevorrow's legacy sequel trilogy: the brain-dead nothingness that is "Jurassic World Dominion." 

Less a capper to a franchise and more a series of loud, ugly scenes with absolutely no weight or life, "Jurassic World Dominion" tries to entice us by luring back the original trio of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). The prospect of having that team back on board sure is nice, in theory, especially since the human characters in the "World" trilogy have all been abysmal, dull, and unlikable. But no matter how charismatic the three actors are (and they are!), they can't rescue a clunky, shockingly boring movie that ends with a frail whimper rather than a T.rex-worthy roar. How can you make a movie about dinosaurs boring? "Jurassic Park Dominion" found a way! 

Big bugs

"Fallen Kingdom" ended with an admittedly interesting scenario in which those pesky cloned dinosaurs, free of a secluded island habitat, escaped into the real world. Our world. The trailers for "Dominion" would have you believe that the film is set in some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland where dinosaurs are back on top and humans are struggling to survive. If that's what you're expecting here, you've been misled. Aside from a clumsy bit of exposition at the beginning of the film, complete with a montage of several dinosaurs out and about among humans, nothing seems all that different here. 

We learn that while a few tiny dinos are kicking about, most stray dinosaurs have either set up their own home in a national park, or they've been rounded up by Biosyn, a gigantic company with their own dinosaur habitat. Of course, we know from both these movies and the real world that giant, obscenely wealthy companies are always up to no good, and sure enough, Biosyn has nefarious goals. The company is the brainchild of the smarmy Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), who you might remember as the character who handed Wayne Knight a fancy can of shaving cream in the first "Jurassic Park." Dodgson believes he can use dino DNA to help cure various diseases. How? Don't worry about it. It's little more than a line of dialogue tossed off to justify the plot. 

And oh yeah — there are big bugs now! Specifically, a swarm of giant locusts (we're talking the size of house cats here) has begun decimating the country, gobbling up crops. Not to worry — Dr. Ellie Sattler is on the case! She wisely tracks all of this back to Biosyn, and recruits her old colleague and former boyfriend Alan Grant to help her get to the bottom of things. They fly off to Biosyn's secluded headquarters, and wouldn't you know it? Dr. Ian Malcolm is working there! Can these three characters team up to stop ... *checks notes* ... giant insects? 

Do you even care? 

'Jurassic World? Not a fan'

But of course, we can't just focus on that original trio. There are the "Jurassic World" characters, too! Remember them? It's okay if you don't, because they're some of the most uninteresting characters to ever grace the silver screen. When I say Allan Grant, you likely have a whole bunch of characteristics in mind: gruff and rough around the edges but ultimately kind; a guy who hates kids at first but comes along to liking them; a man at the top of his field; a researcher who loves getting down in the dirt and digging. Now, when I say Owen Grady, what do you think of, other than, "Who the hell is that?" Chris Pratt's "Jurassic World" character is a void; there's nothing to him other than the fact that he's supposed to be cool and handsome. Pratt can be charismatic and likable when he's playing goofballs, but this series has unwisely decided to have him play his character 100% straight. He's supposed to be a rugged adventurer, I suppose, but he seems more like a robot; an automaton with perfectly groomed stubble and a fondness for vests.

Owen and his girlfriend Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a former Jurassic World head honcho trying to make up for the mistakes of her past, are in hiding with Maisie (Isabella Sermon), a child cloned using the Jurassic Park technology. Maisie is a teenager now and doesn't want to stay in hiding forever, and sure enough, she ends up being kidnapped, along with Beta, the child of Blue, Owen's best bud who just happens to be a Velociraptor. Owen seems more broken up about the baby raptor's abduction and promises Blue that he'll get her back. "You made a promise to a dinosaur?" Malcolm observes later, as if saying it out loud absolves the script of its stupidity. Hey, "Jurassic World Dominion," pointing out how dumb you are doesn't help matters. It just reminds us of how dumb you are. 

With all these pieces in place, "Dominion" starts to feel like a globe-trotting Bondian spy movie that just happens to have dinosaurs. A spy movie with dinosaurs actually sounds like a fun idea, but there's no fun to be had here. The action set pieces are flat, rendered in such a way that we never once believe any of the characters are in danger. Remember how terrifying that T-Rex attack was in the original movie? Remember all the amazing action that followed? You won't catch even a glimmer of that here. Instead, Trevorrow decides to spend huge chunks of the movie with characters standing around in darkened rooms, having hushed conversations about nothing in particular. Dern is the only performer here really trying to carry the movie, while Neill and Goldblum both seem simply happy to be along for the ride. Pratt has never been more boring, and Howard has almost nothing to do. DeWanda Wise is a bit more memorable as a Han Solo-like smuggler who helps our heroes out, but she feels ported over from a different, better movie. 

I know nothing I say here will ultimately matter. These movies seem destined to make a killing at the box office, and I'm sure "Dominion" will be another hit that Trevorrow can lay claim to, even though we'd probably all be better off if he retired from filmmaking and went and did something else instead. The "Jurassic World" trilogy is finally over, and we can only hope the powers that be will wait a while before returning to this cash cow (or cash dinosaur, I guess I should say). And when that happens, here's hoping they find a better filmmaker to steer the ship. Someone who can try to rekindle that magic. At one point in "Dominion," Ian Malcolm says, "Jurassic World? Not a fan." Me neither, Ian. Me neither.  

/Film Rating: 4 out of 10