Tuesday, 28 Jun 2022

Jurassic World Dominion Review – Better As A Goodbye Than A Movie

Jurassic World Dominion is a goodbye to the Jurassic series, and it’s a fond farewell, if not always a successful one. It uses its characters well enough, but wastes an interesting premise by retreading old ground, building set pieces that go nowhere, and weaving together two different yet connected stories that I don’t think a single person in the audience will care about.

First, the fan service. There’s one moment with a circle that goes a little too far (you will know it when you see it), but most of them are earned and the callbacks feel witty and precise, not just a scattergun of generic Jurassic Park references pandering to our collective nostalgia However, at times I think it overestimates what the fans care about. As well as the return of Alan, Ellie, and Ian (plus Owen and Claire), Dominion also brings back Maisie, Henry, Sophie, Blue, Zia, Franklin, and Barry, while Lowrey was cut from the script because of pandemic difficulties. And I know you don’t remember all of those because I bet you don’t even know which one I made up.

If you guessed Maisie was the fake one, you were very decidedly wrong. She is in fact the main character of Jurassic World Dominion, reprising her role as ‘weird clone girl’ from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Her story is retconned here, which makes centring on her even stranger, and she is given a thematic link to Blue (Blue guessers, you were wrong too), a character you just can’t make me care about even after three movies of effort.

There’s also a subplot concerning a plague of locusts who will soon destroy all food on Earth, the importance of which seems to rise and fall as the plot dictates, despite it clearly being a big deal. As a result of these two connected plots, we spend a lot of time at a generic scientific lab called BioSyn. By ‘a lot’, I mean about an hour of the two and a half hour runtime. Literally nothing interesting happens there.

There are thankfully some spectacular set pieces elsewhere. Claire and Owen (and new character Kayla, a great late addition) have a mini adventure in Malta, wherein dinosaur chases through the streets are the order of the day. It’s basically James Bond with dinosaurs, which is just a phenomenal pitch for Jurassic World 3 after how the previous entry ended. Instead it’s a movie about the clone girl none of us care about.

We also see classic adventure movie escapades in dimly lit caves, and the typical Jurassic fare of dinosaurs in the forest. There are some interesting symbolic images throughout the final act, but it still feels like we don’t spend enough time with this movie’s unique premise – dinos in the real world. Malta is also where we meet a supporting villain who might be the single most stylish woman I have ever seen. Supporting Villain From The Third Jurassic World Movie will be my aesthetic forever more.

While the opening sequences are a little overstuffed with characters coming back for their five minutes, the characters we’re all here to see shine. Owen is just Owen, you can take him or leave him. Meanwhile, I’ve always defended Claire, and thought her to have had the best character arc certainly of the World gang, but also a dark horse for most growth in the whole series, even if she’s never had a movie like Jurassic Park at her back. Dominion finally gives her her due, and while it feels too little too late, at least she’s going out on a high.

Despite this, the gulf between the World characters and Park characters is vast. While Owen is solid, Claire is better than she’s ever been, and Blue exists, they are blown out of the water by Alan Grant, Ellie Satler, and Ian Malcolm. Jurassic World Dominion’s greatest gift is reminding us what an all-timer of a movie Jurassic Park is.

Every moment the original threesome are on screen is golden, especially as it mixes and matches the pairings in interesting and less predictable ways. Ramsay and the aforementioned Kayla are good additions too, Kayla especially, but aside from Stylish Lady none of the villains really land. The dinosaurs are as cruel and cynical as ever, with some brutal deaths on offer.

Much like the returning cameos, the dinosaurs themselves feel like overkill too. I realise that’s a strange complaint for a Jurassic movie, but there are a lot of set pieces with new dinos that don’t feel all that interesting, especially with the trailer giving the game away on a lot of them. There is one new huge creature who stalks Claire in a very tense sequence, one with a more eccentric design than we’re used to, and I think that will be the one we remember from this movie. Certainly, it’s better than the Indominus Rex. Remember that guy? No, you don’t.

There’s some heart here, but the mess of plots focused in the wrong direction undermines it, and it feels like the same heart could have been conjured up without the drawn out sections with predictable beats in evil science lab BioSyn. They’re sinning… biologically!

Jurassic World Dominion is a good time and respects each of its characters enough to offer them a real goodbye, but tells a story so wayward and fruitless that you almost resent how well it writes its cast, Claire and Alan especially. It’s a bit of a mess at times, but a glorious adventure at others. Mostly I just wish the whole thing was in Malta.

Score: 3/5. TheGamer was invited to a press screening for this review.

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