Jurassic World Dominion review: Sacrifices plot for VFX, ruins beloved franchise

First things first, I know that no review can ever affect a juggernaut like Jurassic World Dominion, No matter what the critics of the world write about this film, it will end up a blockbuster, earning over half a billion dollars worldwide and further cementing Chris Pratt‘s status as a bankable leading man. But that would not change the fact that Jurassic World Dominion is a tired, half-hearted attempt at creating nostalgia. It is a shallow, predictable film packaged as a visually-spectacular tentpole blockbuster. It masks the shortcomings of its narrative with tons of VFX and manages to make a film that is watchable, but only barely. Also read: Jurassic World Dominion first reviews out: Critics advise ‘smoke a joint, go drunk’ to theater for ‘the stupidest movie’

I could say the film’s story is all over the place and that’s not metaphorical either. In the first half hour of the film, the plot jumps between eight different locations, and each time the shift accompanies the place’s name, neatly written in text at the bottom of the screen. As we jump between Texas, Nevada, and Italy, it begins to feel less Jurassic World and more like a Nat Geo travel documentary.

Jurassic World Dominion introduces us to a world where dinosaurs are now everywhere. Pterodactyls are nesting on top of New York skyscrapers, raptors attacking people on Europe’s beaches, and triceratops are roaming around with elephants in Africa. This proliferation has led to governments and people struggling to coexist with these out-of-time creatures as corporations and criminals attempt to make the most of it. It’s an interesting premise, which the movie throws away after ten minutes, in favor of a more predictable and done-to-death story about corporate greed and ethics.

We see Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) attempt to rescue their adoptive daughter, who has been kidnapped by traffickers as she has connections to the original Jurassic Park. We also see the reunion of the original trio (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum) as they try to gather evidence against a global corporation trying to make profits in this calamity through unethical means. Naturally, they join forces and work together, giving fans some fun moments in a VFX-laden ride.

The plot is wafer thin, with characters’ motivations and arcs barely explored. Everyone seems to be just along for the ride. I didn’t go in expecting a Nolanesque complex storyline but is it too much to ask for all the t’s to be crossed and the i’s to be dotted. The film does not even give the bare minimum to the actors. Situations unravel themselves and our heroes find themselves being propelled by chance. Things happen to them conveniently and smoothly without any of it making any sense. They want to fly to an island in the middle of nowhere. So, they bump into a pilot at a black market, who inexplicably agrees to put her life at risk for these folks she has known barely ten seconds. The story seems to not want to waste any time in convincing us why these characters–beyond the protagonists–want to put their lives and reputations at risk.

Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Laura Dern reunite in Jurassic World Dominion.

I figured just how eminently forgettable the Jurassic World series is when I realized I remember plot points and details from the original films, which I watched 20-25 years ago. But I hardly remembered much from the newer films, released in 2015 and 2018. Perhaps, the makers realised it too, which is why they decided to bring back the original Jurassic Park actors.

The film tries to be clever but all it manages to do is get some chuckles. It’s clearly a fan service. Bringing back the original trio from the 1993 film makes it pretty clear. But what it ends up becoming is a massive fan disservice. If it is trying to appeal to original fans, it fails because frankly the characters seem tired, the tropes are lazy, and it’s all too predictable. It is a failed nostalgia trip that is probably good for a one-time watch but only if you are truly desperate and love dinosaurs way too much.

There are meta homages and references to the franchise itself. When Sam Neill’s Alan Grant is introduced, he is in the middle of a paleontology dig and someone tells him, “You’re gonna wanna see this.” This is a direct recreation of his character’s introduction in the 1993 Jurassic Park. And when someone asks Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady if he was in Jurassic World, Jeff Goldblum’s character quips, “Jurassic World! Not a fan.” Not many are, Jeff.

Jurassic World Dominion tries to evoke nostalgia with shots like these mimicking moments and elements from the original 1993 film.
Jurassic World Dominion tries to evoke nostalgia with shots like these mimicking moments and elements from the original 1993 film.

Jurassic World Dominion forgets why the original Jurassic Park was successful. It was because the film was not about the trio of actors or even the VFX (ok maybe it was a bit about that). But it was about the wonder of dinosaurs in our times and these creatures were integral to the plot. In Dominion, the dinosaurs almost feel incidental in places. Also, despite the VFX technology growing so much in the three decades since Steven Spielberg made his classic, the film remains the gold standard in how to show the sheer terror these creatures should evoke. Dominion fails to capture the awe, the wonder, and the fright. It’s all very jaded. Also read: Exclusive | Sam Neill: I still get anxious thinking about hurtling down Indian roads

But the special effects do mask these shortcomings to an extent. The dinosaurs are grand, and more believable. The franchise has caught up with new recent findings about these reptiles and we see feathered dinosaurs, just as how they would have been millions of years ago. We see newer species and old friends and foes too. It is delightful visually but still lacks the depth of this story could have had. The film does indicate that the studio is trying to set up a larger Jurassic World universe that we may see in subsequent films or shows. I just hope they are done better than this. Because this franchise needs a better conclusion.

Film: Jurassic World Dominion

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, DeWanda Wise, and Isabella Sermon

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