Now six films deep, the Jurassic Park series has for over thirty years highlighted the dangers of meddling with mother nature (a long-held theme in sci-fi storytelling). This act of overstepping the mark is emblematic of the series itself, with each edition following the beloved 1992 adventure classic floating further away from the Spielbergian sense of wonder and adventure.
This has aggressively intensified in the Jurassic World series (2015-), with Dominion further upping the baffling ante.
Since the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), engineered dinosaurs – from the menacing to the cute – are no longer contained to the islands of Costa Rica. While not hitting Flintstones-level of harmonious co-existence, you’d be just as likely to be stopped on the road by a wandering dino as you would a cow in the countryside. While these imposing figures roam free, they remain exposed to the cruelty of humans; their presence functions as a clearly drawn metaphor for the short-sightedness of humanity. It is a message returning director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World, 2015) delivers with the subtlety of a raptor walking through a glass shop.
Facing the biggest challenge of the series, coming in the form of engineered giant locusts, familiar faces – something old (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum), something new (Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt), something… Blue – reunite to prevent an extinction-level famine. This sets our heroes on a time-sensitive globe-trotting escapade that reads more superficial actioner than a spirited family adventure.
While Jurassic World scraped through as an inoffensive and enjoyable attempt to reinvigorate the series, Fallen Kingdom struggled under the weight of its ambition to balance multiple genres. Its attempt to land joyful and dark textures, a staple of the series, reeked of a studio rushing a project through to hit a deadline, transforming what should have been moments of joy and triumph into bleak longueurs. It struggled to spark in the way its predecessors had, failing to – at the very least – deliver a film light on character, engrossing adventure and striking visuals. Overall, it’s another step down here.
While Dominion offers greater levity, it continues to exist as a film dominated by peril, operating via multiple stories that coalesce in a convoluted fashion. Dern, Neill and Goldblum do their darndest to spark joy, but unfortunately, they set off on an uninspired trek to extract DNA from a lab belonging to a nefarious mega-corporation that promises good (surprise, they aren’t). In their wake, they come into contact with the most preposterous element of the series: the clone of Benjamin Lockwood’s daughter, Maisie (Isabella Sermon). While no fault of Sermon, her inclusion remains as incongruous now as it had in Fallen Kingdom, with screenwriters Emily Carmichael and Trevorrow incorrectly placing the character front and centre.
Dallas Howard and Pratt take a backseat in their own series. The decision to have them operate on their own missions (and further sub-stories, becoming the narrative equivalent of a matryoshka doll) further complicates the plot and detracts from their importance within their own franchise. It is clear that many of the cast members do not appear on screen together, leaving us to question whether a less compartmentalised vision of the film exists. And the dinosaurs, obviously a key ingredient, aren’t integrated enough into the story. Their presence merely serves the need to provide action sequences that, as impressively animated as they are – particularly the welcomed use of practical effects – don’t so much progress the plot as they do stall it.
However troubled by execution the Jurassic World films have been, there is no denying that promising ideas continue to exist. Unfortunately, the desire to place nostalgia at the forefront, ironic given the film’s message of not interfering with the past, renders the joy extinct.