Jurassic World Dominion is at least better than the franchise’s last entry, but its reliance on legacy callbacks and a miscalculated primary plot thread leaves too much of the runtime lacking in VFX dino spectacle.
Jurassic Park Dominion marks the sixth installment in the franchise, and while it doesn’t plumb new depths of boredom like the last one, Fallen Kingdom, it still fails to rise above a barely coherent slog. These movies basically only have one job: put some people on an island and have a bunch of dinosaurs chase and eat them. The simple economy of the premise combined with the promise of a convincing VFX illusion is the sole engine. So it’s distressing that as this franchise lumbers on like a triceratops with a stomach bug, it continues to gather new characters, spam the audience with empty callbacks and legacy sequel shenanigans, and ladle on superfluous subplots, all at the expense of the dang dinosaurs.
After the fiasco of the last movie, in Dominion the beasts are loose all over the world, barely coexisting with mankind, as we learn in a cheeky news report populated with social media clips of dinos wreaking havoc (any one of those individual gags is more fun than anything else in the film). Meanwhile Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are fugitives, apparently, from some nefarious bad guy scientists who will apparently stop at nothing to recover young Maisie Lockwood, who is a clone of the daughter of a guy who co-founded Jurassic Park or something and has dino DNA. Also, there are massive swarms of basketball-sized locusts destroying crops and threatening the global food supply. Of those three plot lines, which one do you think a Jurassic Park sequel will be about? That’s right — the bugs. This dinosaur franchise flick is ultimately about stopping a plague of bugs. It’s all very facepalm.
It’s those bugs that bring us back to the original film’s Dr. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern), who suspects that a shady corporation might have genetically engineered them to bring about said crop crisis. In order to prove that, though, she needs… a paleontologist? Whatever. She goes to see old flame and fellow legacy co-star Alan Grant (Sam Neill), and they in turn get in touch with the final side of the JP triumvirate, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who very conveniently is lecturing on the remote and secret research campus of the aforementioned shady corporation.
Are you asleep yet? We’re only an hour in, and somehow there’s barely even been a big dinosaur set piece to clock. That does eventually get remedied during an admittedly rousing but absolutely absurd motorcycle chase that, believe it or not, goes so far as to crib the famous jumping-through-the-window shot from The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s probably the snazziest bit of direction in the whole film; returning helmer Colin Trevorrow fills the affair with snappy compositions, but the editing and camerawork as a whole are functional at best, and frequently just crib from the earlier, better movies in hopes that a little twinge of nostalgia will cover all manner of sins. The same goes for the legacy characters: It’s nice to see them, but they have literally nothing to do and no reason to be here. It’s nobody’s fault, and Goldblum is at least particularly welcome as the only successfully humorous element in the film. It also means that when they’re on screen, we don’t have to bear witness to Pratt and Howard’s almost triumphant lack of chemistry and charisma.
But this big mess of people and plots, saturated with oodles of fan service, only do one thing successfully: get in the way of monster fights, an issue thrown into stark relief when the climax arrives and turns out to just be all of the characters standing around watching two big dinosaurs duke it out. It’s reflective of the film as a whole: completely empty spectacle with no stakes that blunders gracelessly into its minor, occasional thrills.