When the predecessor to Jurassic World: Dominion was unveiled in the summer of 2018, it proved the franchise had indeed fallen to a new level of mediocrity. Fallen Kingdom was a huge disappointment. As much as I wanted to give it credit for trying some new things, the execution failed. Despite a couple of cool set pieces and the dinosaurs still looking cool, I found Kingdom to be the worst of the five in the series.
Dominion challenges that status. Colin Trevorrow made 2015’s Jurassic World. While many of the complaints about it were valid, I still found it to be satisfactory even if did lean hard on the nostalgia angle. After J.A. Bayona handled directorial duties for #2, Trevorrow is back behind the camera here and the nostalgic leanings are in full force. So much so that the three stars of 1993’s iconic Jurassic Park – Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm – are mixing it up with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and their sort of daughter who may or may not be a clone.
In case you forgot (and I wouldn’t blame you if you did), Fallen Kingdom thrust human cloning upon us as a plot point. Isabella Sermon’s Maisie was revealed to be the recipient of such experimentation and now she’s a young teen living with Pratt’s Owen and Howard’s Claire deep in the woods. She’s not allowed to go anywhere because many would like to continue experimenting on her. Her isolation is wearing on her as she seeks to break out of her small radius. As you may also recall, dinosaurs are now roaming freely across parts of the world (including Maisie’s backyard).
There’s one corporation who’d like to snatch Maisie and her Dino friends. Biosyn Genetics is run by Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). Located in the Italian mountains, the futuristic company has its greedy hands in all kinds of pots. The main one involves locusts. Yes, a significant portion of Dominion‘s plot involves these crop eating creatures and Biosyn’s plans to control the world’s food supply. If that seems like an out of nowhere storyline that has little to do with dinosaurs, you’d be correct.
However, these CG locusts do give an excuse to bring back Neill and Dern’s characters when they travel to Italy to investigate (Goldblum is already working for the company). When Maisie is snatched up, Owen and Claire find themselves trekking overseas as well for what we know will eventually be a melding of the stars of both trilogies.
There’s some new characters including DeWanda Wise’s cocky Air Force pilot and Mamoudou Athie as Dodgson’s morally conflicted right hand man. The real thrill is meant to be the return of the OG players from three decades ago. Here’s the rub – despite Jurassic Park being amazing, its one minor flaw was its human characters (with the exception of Goldblum) being a bit dull. Seeing Neill and Dern reignite their unrequited passion isn’t exactly Han showing up on the Millennium Falcon with Chewie after 30 years. I’ve already discussed the lack of passion between Owen and Claire in my review of the predecessor.
Where Dominion manages to be a very slight improvement over Kingdom is a couple of expertly constructed action sequences. A car chase involving the prehistoric creatures in Malta is legitimately thrilling. These brief moments of excitement are too often interrupted by humdrum fan service, cloning, and attacks of the locusts. In other words, there’s a couple of cool set pieces and the dinosaurs still look cool. It’s not enough. The Jurassic series veered off course with Kingdom and it doesn’t regain much footing in Dominion.
** (out of four)