WARNING: spoilers for Jurassic World: Dominion
And the Jurassic series comes to a rousing conclusion! Jurassic World: Dominion, the supposed “final” film in the franchise (I highly doubt it) has received mixed reviews to say the least. Many critics are calling this the weakest entry to date, but audiences are harshly disagreeing. As a fan AND critic, I can understand some of the complaints. But in my opinion, Dominion pushes past its faults to become the best of the Jurassic World trilogy. You heard me right. And it all comes down to three main talking points: originality, directing, and character.
Let’s start with originality.
Jurassic World: Dominion picks up four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom and places us in a wholly unique world. We are finally in a literal Jurassic World, with dinosaurs roaming freely throughout the planet. As such, we start to see how the world has reacted. Black market buying and selling, dinosaur fight rings, and genetic experimentation are the new normal. This feels like a wonderful expansion of the franchise. The ending of The Lost World: Jurassic Park is finally coming to fruition! This also makes the back half of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom sort of feel like an extended prologue to this film.
Jurassic World asked “what if Jurassic Park actually worked?” It’s a new story but still took many key plot points from that first film. And Fallen Kingdom felt like a poor man’s The Lost World by following its storyline nearly to a ‘T’. This means that Dominion features the most original story of these three films. The Biosyn locust infestation storyline is fascinating. Their kidnapping of Maisie is an interesting wrinkle as she proves to be far more important than we initially realized. This plot helps the film feel the closest to the ideas Michael Crichton played with in the novels. It also connects to the non-dinosaur creations we see in Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. We are in a world where genetic manipulation runs amok and giant conglomerates manipulate the market for their own benefit.
Lewis Dodgson, who only made a brief appearance in the first film, but is a major player in both novels, returns to the big screen. He’s a welcome villain to the series, and Campbell Scott plays him with just enough humor and wit to keep him from falling into the pit of cliched villains like Eli Miles and Ken Wheatley (both featured in Fallen Kingdom). Meanwhile, the rescue op for Blue’s baby (named Beta) also feels like a natural next step in our continuing journey with our favorite raptor, as well as further bridging the gap between man and beast. I was surprised by how little of Blue is actually in this film. But with the way the plot unfolds it would have been very hard to shoehorn more of her into the story.
So what about the dinosaurs?
I have great news for you: the dinosaurs have never looked better! This film features more dino animatronics than any other film in the franchise. Trust that the days of 100% CGI dinosaurs is dead and gone. If it can be a puppet, it IS here. And they are incredibly realistic! The use of so many puppets helps lighten the load for the CGI artists. Thusly, they can focus more on the scenes where the CGI is heaviest. Having so many puppets also helps with getting the lighting right because you have a real reference. Due to this, the lighting on the animals is much better here, with the digital animals looking more real than ever. A few bad shots aside, these are some quality special effects.
On the quantity side, this film has dinos galore! We have a ton of welcome new additions like the Atrociraptors, Quetzalcoatlus, Therizinosaurus, and of course the big bad of the picture, the Giganotosaurus. The Giganotosaurs alone is a terrifying and vicious addition to the dino cast. The Therizinosaurus reminded me of a super aggressive hippo or water buffalo. This thing has a gnarly mean streak and goes to show that just because an animal eats plants does NOT mean it is docile. And even though the Quetzalcoatlus only has a minute or so of screen time, its scene is certainly memorable. Even still, I’d love to see more! The Dilophosaurus makes a welcome return in a couple scenes, one of which is sure to please fans. And our old friend Rexy is still around. We don’t get a whole lot of the old gal, but what we do get is a stellar final fight between her and the Giganotosaurus. Overall, the film does a very good job of balancing new dino threats with the ones we all know and love.
This brings me to talking point #2: the directing.
Trevorrow has learned a lot from his last visit to Jurassic World and it shows! One of my biggest complaints about the first Jurassic World was that you could feel Trevorrow struggling in a few places. The directing felt weak and the editing needed to be tightened. It’s still very well done considering it was his first Blockbuster film, but I’m pleased to say that his directing is much stronger and the editing much tighter this time around. The best example of this is the Atrociraptors sequence. This is one of the most thrilling sections of the film. And it’s the scariest the raptors have been since the long grass scene in The Lost World. These are intense and vicious animals and I genuinely felt scared for our characters. In broad daylight, mind you. This scene also makes much better use of the targeting concept Fallen Kingdom introduced. It felt less gimmicky here. And the reference to The Shining was a fun moment. Every action scene feels unique and special. The Giganotosaurus attack is gnarly! And the natural way in which our characters encounter the beasts feels much more in line with Jurassic Park and The Lost World; they feel more random and less manufactured.
The pacing is excellent. I barely felt the nearly 2 1/2 hour runtime.
Talking point #3 is the characters.
Owen and Claire FINALLY feel like real people (well, certainly more real than their cardboard action-star personas in Fallen Kingdom). They share a couple genuine moments with each other and Maise. And the way Claire says “WHAT?!” when Owen suggests she jump out of the plane is the most hilariously real response ever. Zia and Franklin (played by Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith in Fallen Kingdom, and my two most dislike characters of the franchise) are thankfully relegated to one and two scenes respectively. But what pleased me the most was how involved each of our legacy characters were. They are integral to the story. Alan’s opening scene is a little iffy, but I’m not going to complain because I simply love seeing the classic three together again. Their interactions feel well deserved, and they fit right at home sharing a scene with Owen and Claire. Jeff Goldblum may be at his most Goldblum-iest! He is certainly front and center during some of the films most memorable moments. All of this helps Dominion feel the most like a JP film of the JW trilogy.
Maisie is also well used in this film. As mentioned above, Biosyn kidnaps her. But as we find out, it’s because Dr. Wu has realized how big of a mistake the locusts were. Maisie’s clone DNA proves to be vitally important. In doing so, this film digs deeper into her past, revealing an emotional connection to the world while also providing a tender resolution to Maisie’s need for a true family. In addition, these scenes feature wonderful callbacks and connecting tissue to past films, helping them feel even more engrained into the overall saga (notice the lab set from JP3?).
Not everything works, though. As much as I love seeing Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler finally get together, their romance feels very awkward. I’m not sure what it was, but each time they flirt with one another, it just seems fake. Especially the kiss at the end. Alan barely even embraces her, which feels odd considering he’s apparently been pining for her all this time. So that mares what would otherwise be a wonderfully cathartic relationship.
There are also a few moments where the movie will stop to tell a joke that isn’t all that funny (the cappuccino joke being the worst of the bunch). This is a symptom that has plagued these last 3 films. But at least the humor happens less often and feels less forced here than in Fallen Kingdom. A couple plot points also feel weak once you think about them, like Ellie knowing Maisie’s birth mother (what an AMAZING coincidence, groan). Or how easily Ellie and Alan are able to infiltrate Biosyn's secure levels. But the film zips by so fast you won’t think about the plot holes too much until after. It’s also clear that no one has figured out how to properly use the Mosasaurus. It shows up for an opening scene and then disappears. Why can’t we get a cool underwater scene with it going after divers or something?
Overall, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get when I walked into Jurassic World: Dominion, but I ended up really liking the film. This feels like the most logical and natural progression of the story. It features original plotting, some stellar action sequences, and just enough character to keep everything from falling apart. The addition of the legacy characters is more than welcome, and their inclusion helps this feel like a true Jurassic Park film, even if some of it is odd. Colin learned a lot from his last dino incursion and has delivered a final film that gives you a ton of bang for your buck. It may not be the best of the whole saga, but in my opinion, Dominion is the best of the Jurassic World films. And that is a pretty impressive feat for a third film to accomplish.
If you would like to know where Dominion stacks up next to the rest of the series, check out my Jurassic Franchise Review HERE.