Lumbering on at 2.5 hours, Jurassic World Dominion is a test to see how many dinosaur movie tropes you can reiterate in one feature. Here is a film in which you’ll see Bryce Dallas Howard flee from a velociraptor. Then she’ll hide from a bigger dinosaur. Then sneak around other dinosaurs. After two hours, one has to question if there’s anything more to Jurassic World than just running from dinosaurs, repeating the same things we’ve seen time and time again. The answer might be no considering how the theatrics grow monotonous in a film with so much to explore and so little unearthed.
Taking place after the events of Fallen Kingdom, Dominion takes place in a world where dinosaurs have become a part of society in the same way climate change affects us. There are frequent dinosaur attacks, where people are terrorized at the beach or get into car crashes with looming dinos. Some dinosaurs are treated like pets. Some like cattle. Some like rare creatures being traded for high prices, similar to the scenario that was trying to be prevented in the last film.
That last point might’ve deeply dismayed the dinosaur lover Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who made the controversial call to let dinosaurs roam free than be killed out of greed. She would be conflicted if it weren’t for the fact that there is way, way too much going on in this muddled mess of a script. Claire is not only still trying to save dinosaurs from unjust captivity but is also keeping the clone Maisie Lockwood protected from the corporation BioSyn that wants to dissect her. The two reside at a secluded cabin in the mountains, along with dinosaur wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) tries to keep a close eye on his best raptor Blue.
At the same time that all this is going on, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) has returned as a scientist investigating a new phenomenon. There are strange bugs ravaging crops. They appear genetically modified and Ellie suspects that BioSyn is behind it. To find proof of this conspiracy, Ellie enlists the help of her old-flame Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and the ever-present evolution lecturer Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). They all eventually meet up at BioSyn’s dinosaur containment facility in an obligatory moment of deja vu.
The first half of the film is needlessly complex for trying to conceive of a world with dinosaurs and mercenaries. We get a bunch of antagonists who deal in swiping children and dinos, leading to shadowy underground markets of questionable characters. The investigation of a missing Maisie leads some of our characters on a globetrotting quest, dashing around city streets to avoid gunmen and gangster-trained dinosaurs who run rampant throughout the city, featuring the sassy pilot Kayla (DeWanda Wise) coming along for the ride. But in order to get to those mildly thrilling sequences, there’s truckloads of exposition and dead-in-the-water dialogue. I had to keep remind myself that I’m watching a Jurassic World movie and not a tiresome thriller for these many sequences.
The second half of the film, however, is pretty much the Jurassic Park formula by the numbers. All our heroes end up at BioSym’s dino laboratory and zoo, led by the egotistical CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Dodgson attempts to cover up his dirty dabbling in genetics and this brings about chaos with dinosaurs being let loose. Power goes out, security is compromised, and giant beasts threaten our protagonists as they try to find an exit. Most fans know the drill by now. Daring escapes, figuing out exits, getting around dinosaurs, the works.
It’s astonishing how this film brings together so many accomplished actors and finds little to do with them. Owen and Claire barely have any sexual chemistry and even the more will-they-won’t-they relationship between Alan and Ellie feels woefully underdeveloped, making their big kiss feel more obligatory than built up. Kudos to Goldblum struggling to make a meal out of his few lines, requiring him to be the bitter voice of stammering reason but with few scenes to play up his absurdity. All of these actors feel so strictly locked into their parts of this needlessly complex adventure flick, where I imagine the majority of the fun comes from the audience recognizing these actors than expecting them to do anything new with their old roles.
Jurassic World: Dominion is more of a reunion special than a greater continuation of the Jurassic Park saga, finding little to explore than the familiar. It’s an extended retread that more characters, dinosaurs, and callbacks then ever taking off with genuine charisma. Consider that a punchline for a number of the scenes between the oldest Jurassic Park actors is to merely pause at weird moments of comedy and remark “What?” It’s an embarassment that’s easy to share considering how much Dominion throws at the screen and how little of it actually sticks.