'Jurassic World Dominion': A Disappointing Conclusion to One of Cinema's Most Iconic Franchises
It is no easy feat to make a satisfying ending to a trilogy, as can be seen in many cases where the third installment is generally considered the worst. In the case of Jurassic World Dominion, this is definitely something that Colin Trevorrow and crew struggled with. Add in the fact that this film is also wrapping up the Jurrassic Park franchise as a whole, and the prospect of coming up with a great conclusion seems like an almost Herculean task. Despite being disappointed by the previous two installments in the Jurassic World trilogy, I had a shred of optimism for this one due to how good the trailers made it look and the fact that it would be tying back to the original film in a major way by adding Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum to the cast. I was also intrigued by where the film might go given how the previous installment, 2018's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ended. Sadly, the film largely squanders any potential it had, and what we get is a strange mishmash of ideas that caps off the franchise on a rather clumsy note.
Like most people my age, I love the original Jurassic Park movie from 1993. It was one of the first movies I was ever aware of and one that I have seen countless times over the years. I like the sequels as well, but they definitely feel like a step down from the original. As for the Jurassic World films, I'm pretty mixed on them as a whole. There are some elements of them I enjoy, but they have some major flaws that I just can't ignore. With Dominion, it definitely capitalizes on one of the major issues I had with the first Jurassic World movie, which is that it feels like Colin Trevorrow has little interest in the dinosaur element of the film. For many people, myself included, this is a major selling point of the whole franchise. I mean, who doesn't love dinosaurs? Make no mistake, Jurassic World does have a fair amount of dinosaurs and dinosaur-centric action sequences in it, but he doesn't seem to have the flair or passion in directing these portions of the film, and is much more concerned with the story elements outside of them. This wouldn't be a problem if these elements were more compelling or if this wasn't a film that was following up a trilogy that heavily features dinosaurs, but that simply isn't the case. Admittedly, Trevorrow seems to balance the dinosaur element with the rest of the film in the first Jurassic World movie a little better than he does here, where he fails to capitalize on a premise that would have likely been more satisfying.
This film picks up four years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, with dinosaurs now coexisting among humans. In that time, humanity has struggled to adjust, but seems to be approaching a bit of a new normal. But when a swarm of previously extinct giant locusts return due to the shifting ecosystem, it throws everything in disarray, forcing characters both old and new to try and save the world. It's almost jarring how quick this film shifts from being about humans and dinosaurs trying to live together to being about giant locusts. This is perhaps the film's biggest failing, as it chooses many times to not focus on the dinosaurs, and instead go on other tangents. While I understand the necessity to explore the effects that dinosaurs living among us would have on the ecosystem, there is no need to focus on it nearly as much as this film does. It's even more obvious when the film does focus on the dinosaurs, as these scenes are much more enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, the film doesn't seem to be all that concerned with the dinosaurs, and save for a few setpieces, don't have as much of a presence in the film as one might think. This leads to certain stretches of the film feeling a bit lethargic and contributes heavily to the distractedness of the film's plot.
Again, trying to wrap up a decades old franchise isn't easy, but there are so many ways that this film could have better succeeded in doing this. The film just ends up feeling too scattered to feel like a conclusion, and is juggling so many plotlines to properly come together. It just feels a bit slapped together overall, but once most of them have converged in the film's third act, the film does flow a little better and ends on a decent note. I personally was hoping for something a bit more triumphant, but I'm just glad that they didn't fully fumble the ending. It feels more like a compromise, sure, but it is better than what I was fearing it might be at the very least.
One of the film's biggest draws is the return of its legacy characters, and while it is nice to see them again, the material they're given feels a bit weak. Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm is a mainstay of the franchise, yet he is given very little to do here. Sam Neill's Dr. Alan Grant fares a little better, as does Laura Dern's Dr. Ellie Sattler, but this is neither of their finest hours in these iconic roles. As for our Jurassic World characters, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard pretty much phone it in, and both seem ready to put these films behind them. Isabella Sermon is fairly decent though, and is honestly the heart and soul of the whole film. The introduction of her character in the previous film felt a bit clunky to me, but this film fleshes out her character nicely. I also quite liked two of the film's new additions, Mamoudou Athie and DeWanda Wise. Athie is a bit underutilized, but he has such a great screen presence, while Wise is easily the breakout character of the film. Hopefully this film will give both of them a little more exposure, and allow their careers to flourish.
Of course, one of the most beloved aspects of any Jurassic movie is the special effects. While some of the dinosaurs do look great in Dominion, there are some moments where the CGI is a bit dodgy. Furthermore, a scene in which Bryce Dallas Howard's character is ejected from an airplane is poorly handled, and looks far worse than any scene should look in a film with this big of a budget. Beyond that, the spectacle and visual effects are one of the film's redeeming qualities, and was one of the few things I particularly liked about the film.
When the film surrenders to being a big, dumb blockbuster, I enjoyed it much more, but as a whole, it feels too messy and too scattershot to be considered a good movie. There are some moments of fun in Jurassic World Dominion, but they are bogged down by an overstuffed plot, weak characterization, and a lack of creativity that the original films had. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy certain portions of this film, but there is so much of this film that fundamentally doesn't work and doesn't feel like the satisfying conclusion this franchise deserves. Some might be willing to give this film a pass since it is ostensibly a big, dumb summer blockbuster, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a movie like this to be much better and more cohesive than what we ended up with. This film is disappointing for sure, but I can't say I'm surprised with how it turned out. As much as it pains me to say, this film is a low point for the Jurassic saga and it firmly makes the case for why the franchise needs to end.