Movie Review: Jurassic World Dominion
Almost 30 years after Steven Spielberg first thrilled audiences with Jurassic Park, the franchise’s new generation realised the way back to recapturing the magic was to, well, go back.
Jurassic World Dominion, the final instalment in the revival trilogy, goes all-in on nostalgia, regrouping original stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum while evoking the tone, aesthetic and beats of the 1993 classic. Was it effective?
It worked, to an extent. Jurassic World Dominion is an aggressively fine and mostly enjoyable romp that does some things well and others things less so. It’s the epitome of just OK. If you’re an existing fan, it’ll serve you well – and there is a lot of fan service, including little callbacks and nods. You know exactly what the filmmakers, including director Colin Trevorrow, are doing when Neill’s Alan Grant is reintroduced on a dig site, surrounded by dirt and palaeontology accoutrements, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you have Neill on board, use him, and milk that nostalgia for all it’s worth. By this point in the franchise, six entries in, it’s well out of fresh ideas, so it may as well lean in on what it knows is going to work.
What works are the big set pieces with roaring dinos, sharp teeth and humans in peril, the gleeful comeuppance that awaits every villain and, of course, very cute baby dinosaurs – especially when they’re animatronic and not hollow, deadening CGI. There is a greater reliance on puppetry and animatronics in general here than in the previous two entries. A forgettable motorcycle and dinosaur chase in Malta is offset by the pageantry of the third act, during which the two parallel storylines converge, even though it takes too long to get there. Storyline one involves Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Grady and Claire on a rescue mission for their kidnapped adoptive daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) and another in which Neill’s Alan and Dern’s Ellie Sattler are gathering evidence of the deliberate ecological disaster being committed by a genetics company’s moustache-twirling boss Dodgson (Campbell Scott).
A caper through the wilds of the dinosaur sanctuary nakedly apes Spielberg’s movie. We’re talking upturned Jeeps, torchlight beams swinging about in the dark and the tension of remaining very still while a ferocious beast is an inch from your face.
However, there’s not that much tension because there aren’t that many stakes – none you would believe anyway because you know they’re not going to bring back Neill, Dern and Goldblum just to kill them off, and they’re not going to dispatch Pratt and Howard either, it’s not that kind of movie.
So what kind of movie is it? It’s an inoffensive, low-commitment action flick. It may dress itself up in ideas about the ethics of genetic manipulation or the hubris and folly of man’s ambitions to control nature, but in the end, it’s about a few jump scares and the clash of apex predators. It’s like going on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios theme park. You board the ride excited for a few safe knocks and shocks, and your breath will momentarily catch before the plunge.
But you also know exactly what to expect. There are no surprises, no stakes, and you walk away content enough, but within a few minutes, as you line up for the next attraction, you’ve already forgotten what just happened.