Shhh! Don’t tell the critics at The Guardian and The Times, but you are able to enjoy a popcorn blockbuster for what it is. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be saying that, but it’s true.
The critical reception to Jurassic World: Dominion has been less than stellar, with a measly 32% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Going in, I was incredibly worried that my favourite franchise was going out on a Rise of Skywalker whimper. But how good is this final chapter in the Jurassic era?
Four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world. This fragile balance will reshape the future and determine, once and for all, whether human beings are to remain the apex predators on a planet they now share with history’s most fearsome creatures.
The film opens, not with the early release prologue as you might have been expecting, but an exposition heavy news reel, getting us up to speed from the events of Jurassic Park, right up to 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It’s a nice way to get the audience up to speed – and much better than having your characters spout expositional nonsense.
And from then on in, Dominion never stops to catch its breath. There isn’t one moment in this 2 and a half hour movie where something isn’t happening. It’s messy and incomprehensible at times, but boy is it great fun.
Director Colin Trevorrow, who brought dinosaurs back from the brink of extinction in 2015 with Jurassic World is back in the directing seat, with a script penned by himself and writing partner Derek Connelly, as well as Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Emily Carmichael.
The plot itself is solid, and the first half of the film in particular treads new ground for the franchise. And while the second half is a rollercoaster ride of fantastic action sequences, the series goes back to its safety net: confining the action to a secluded space.
That first act really is where the film shines. We’re taken to new locations for the franchise – a dinosaur black market in Malta is fantastic and the following action scene is filmed beautifully, and a lost sauropod in a snowy logging plant harks back to the wonder of seeing these animals on the big screen for the first time in 1993.
It’s in the first half of the film that we are re-introduced to Jurassic World staples, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). Hidden away in a secluded cabin, their relationship has clearly stepped up a gear – not that you are given any time to appreciate this – the pacing throughout the entire film could be better.
Howard and Pratt do share chemistry with each other, but this is very much Claire’s story and her arc from 2015 to now is much more pronounced than Owens, who continues on with his furrowed brow persona and not a lot else. One of my least favourite parts of the series, the introduction of human clone Maisie is handled much better in Dominion, with some more backstory that helps negate the stupidity of that plot point.
Director of Photography Jason Schwartzman manages to create a film that has the look of both Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom.
The return of the OG cast is a real treat too. Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern and Sam Neill don’t meet the new characters until much later on in the film, giving them their own storyline that works well. Seeing the three of them meet again after so many years is an emotional moment that’s handled respectfully – even more surprising considering the speed at which the film moves.
There are of course new characters added to the film, and most of them fail to make a lasting impression, but DeWanda Wise’s cocky pilot Kayla and Mamoudou Athie’s Ramsey are two highlights in a ballooning cast that struggles to know what to do with them from time to time.
When it comes to dinosaur action, the film turns the dial up to 11. I can’t think of a species of dinosaur that isn’t featured in some way throughout the course of Dominion. Some of the scenes work better than others – the therizinosaurus is a brilliant addition and has some of the best action sequences in the film, while the pyroraptor is lacklustre to say the least, but for dinosaur fans, this is a smorgasbord of species.
And the special effects too are really very good. There’s a fantastic mix of animatronic animals and CGI. A couple of rough edges on Blue and the atrociraptors aside, Dominion is a great looking film that dinosaur fans will absolutely love.
So let’s talk about the script. I’m happy to report that the speech-bubble-esque dialogue in Dominion’s predecessor is nowhere near as pronounced. While the dialogue isn’t as natural as that in the Spielberg-directed films of the 90s, this is a vast improvement – despite some curious inclusions from side characters that did make my eyes roll from time to time.
There’s also a complete lack of stakes. At no point in the film did I really feel like any of the main characters were in danger, and this is a problem with the majority of Hollywood blockbusters – they’re too afraid to kill off fan favourites in fear of backlash. Had we lost one of our lead characters in an act of heroism, I would’ve left the cinema feeling more fulfilled.
And for a film billed as “the epic conclusion of the Jurassic era”, the ending is a little underwhelming. I would have preferred the series to have a hard stop here, moving away from films and into other outlets like television.
Overall, Jurassic World: Dominion is a confidently filmed final outing for the franchise. Colin Trevorrow clearly had a lot of ideas going into the production process, and while this has harmed the film’s pacing – everything moves far too quickly, there’s a lot of fun to be had globetrotting with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, while Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum try to infiltrate a shady organisation. Will it be a big winner at next year’s Oscars? Of course not – but if you like to get your monies worth at the cinema, this is the film for you.