The Media Man Reviews: Jurassic World Dominion


Title card for my Jurassic World Dominion review

From one long overdue sequel to another, Jurassic World Dominion is yet another movie that's been a long time coming no thanks to COVID screwing up everything. Planned as early as 2014, the movie started filming in 2020...and then a big pandemic happened and, well you can guess what happened then. The film wouldn't see release until June this year with the pandemic delaying filming and necessitating a longer wait to finish the movie. What's funnier still is that they even made a movie based on Jurassic World Dominion's COVID delays with the Netflix exclusive movie The Bubble. No, this isn't a joke. I'm dead serious! See for yourself! Goes to show ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, doesn't it? Still, delays didn't stop the marketing team from hyping up this movie to hell and back with a short film and even a prologue all made to get people ready for this sequel.


Jurassic World Dominion is the third instalment in the Jurassic World trilogy and also the conclusion to the entire Jurassic Park saga...for the moment that is. XD Jurassic Park started off as a novel written by the late Michael Crichton and has since remained one of his biggest hits with legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg turning the novel into a movie that became one of HIS biggest hits. It remains as Spielberg's highest grossing movie of all time even to this day and has spawned one of the most successful movie franchises of all time with the latest instalments, Jurassic World and Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom both grossing over $1 billion each at the box office. Speaking of Jurassic World, the movie was the result of a long development hell that finally resulted in a new Jurassic Park movie being made with Colin Trevorrow being the new man in charge while Spielberg is there as an executive producer. Despite being big money makers, fans are divided on how good they are and critics only seem to like Jurassic World and hate Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. I personally like both Jurassic World movies and find them better than The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III. Jurassic Park of course remains the best but the Jurassic World movies are great in their own right.


So does Jurassic World Dominion end this new trilogy on a mighty T-Rex roar? Or should we let the T-Rex eat this movie so we can pretend it never existed? Let's find out as we dig up a fascinating new fossil with Jurassic World Dominion...


The Story


Set four years after the events of Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, the movie sees the world in a terrifying new status quo as now humans and dinosaurs have to co-exist together after dinosaurs made it to the mainland after the events of the previous movie. But the ecosystem maybe under bigger threat when our heroes discover the shifty company BioSyn is producing genetically modified locusts in a plot to control the world. Now they must gear up to stop BioSyn while avoiding becoming dinosaur chow for the sixty-five millionth time in the franchise.


The story of Jurassic World Dominion is...remarkably weak if I can be honest. I'm not saying it's a bad story, just that it's one of those "style-over-substance" kinds of movies. All that stuff about dinosaurs ending up on the mainland is merely window dressing for the story and in execution, feels more like a set-piece for the story when it should have BEEN the story itself. The marketing implied as much that the movie would be about dinosaurs on the mainland, yet we get an exposition scene that tells us all about this new status quo that mankind is in and then that's it. We don't get anything else from this concept. It feels less like they wanted to tell a story about mankind adapting to dinosaurs in everyday life and more like they used this premise as an excuse to have dinosaur action take place in everyday human locations. Now this isn't the story's fault, the blame goes to the marketing for misleading the audience by making us think we were getting this story only for it to just be set-up for all the action scenes that we get. Granted, we DO see some aspects of how life has changed now dinosaurs are around with mentions of incidents happening that people get caught up in and of course, the whole underground dinosaur smuggling ring that we see in Malta but again, it feels like background details when these are concepts that should be part of the story. Hell, this entire premise doesn't even really get any real conclusion! It's more just "That's the way it is now" and that's it! Like I said, weak.


So what is the story ACTUALLY about then? Instead of delivering what it promised, Jurassic World Dominion is pretty much your typical heist movie with some kind of commentary on genetic alterations and how they can be used to control the planet thrown in to give it some kind of message to give. Now as an action-packed heist film, it is a fun ride and delivers what you'd normally expect from a Jurassic Park/World movie, cool action scenes with dinosaurs added into the mix. It's just that the story doesn't give us the intriguing premise it set up last time and feels decidedly average as a result, and it's why the story feels like it could've been even greater. But for what we got, it is enjoyable to watch at least. The action scenes are the highlights of course with some really awesome stuff to watch from the raptor chase in Malta to the rescue mission at BioSyn. At the very least, this is a movie you won't be bored by.


The story is also a story of two halves. We have the A plot where Owen and Claire are trying to rescue Maisie Lockwood and Blue's child, Beta, from BioSyn and the B plot sees the return of Alan Grant and Ellie Settler as they try to deal with the genetically altered locust swarm that threatens to destroy the world's food supply. Eventually, the two plots coalesce together (as expected) and our heroes all come together to save the day in the end. The two plots feel well-paced enough and don't fight for screen-time in my opinion. It feels like enough time was devoted to each plot to give them enough time to breathe and show us what the characters are doing at the time. In fact, the movie feels like a big case of "Old Meets New" as the old cast (Alan, Ellie and Ian) get to meet the new cast (Owen, Claire and Maisie) and they end up teaming up to get through the climax in the end. This is WONDERFUL fan-service for the Jurassic Park fans that have been with this franchise since the novel's release and like Top Gun: Maverick, it's fan-service done right as nobody outshines the other here. The old cast are treated with respect, are written accurately to their previous portrayals and aren't there to make the new ones look any better, nor do they overshadow the new ones as they get as much time to shine too and aren't there to be compared to them. I know I enjoyed getting to see everyone together at the end and seeing the interactions between the old and new cast, even if it was all for the climax so you've got a long wait before you see it.


However, the story has one big problem that goes beyond its under-baked premise. It's the kind of sequel that has the potential to muddy previous sequels. How so? Well...they ret-con Maisie's backstory from Fallen Kingdom. All that stuff about her being a clone? It was all a lie and she's NOT a clone after all. I...really hate this. This feels like The Rise of Skywalker style damage control where they try to please people that hated the previous movie and thus try to fix problems they had with it. People (for some reason) though the "Maisie clone" twist was stupid (because yeah, cloned humans in a franchise about CLONING DINOSAURS BACK TO LIFE makes no sense, am I right?! (sarcasm)) and thus it feels like they changed it just to satisfy those people without realizing they just screwed up the previous instalment by "fixing" what was never an issue to begin with. All retconning Maisie's backstory does is cause Fallen Kingdom to make less sense now and raises questions that weren't there before. Why was it necessary to have it turn out she's NOT a clone after all? This didn't fix anything and it wasn't something that needed fixing to begin with.


Also, as great as the action is, I can't be the only person who feels like they used a lot of it up way too quickly, right? What I mean is that by the time we get to the climax, it feels like all the big epic stuff has gone down and there's nothing left to do except for a weak dinosaur battle that didn't feel as awesome as the final battle with Indominus Rex in Jurassic World. I mean when you have a climax that sees a Tyrannosaurus fighting a Giganotosaurus, it should be way more epic than what we actually got, if you catch my meaning.


The story has some fun and enjoyable moments and some great fan-service, but the underdeveloped premise and unnecessary retconning of Maisie's backstory hold it back from its true potential and it just feels like this conclusion needed more meat to it to make it a truly satisfying one.


The Characters


The one thing fans will enjoy about this movie is getting to see awesome action scenes with characters both old and new from the franchise getting their times to shine.


For the new ones, we have Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt), Claire Dearing (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and Maisie Lockwood (played by Isabella Sermon). Owen is his usual badass, smart-aleck self that we know from the previous movies with not really much new going for him here. It's just Owen being Owen as usual with no new development to his character but he still manages to be entertaining with his usual wit and gets some awesome action scenes that are fun to watch.


Claire is also pretty flat as a character. She's clearly changed a lot since the first two movies but here, she also has little if any character development at all though unlike Owen, she at least has a semblance of an arc with becoming more of a mother to Maisie but even at that I feel like I'm grasping at straws just trying to find something with her. I do like how she's more badass this time around and even gets to take on one of the bad guys in her own action scene and is definitely no load to anyone else.


Maisie is probably the character who has the most focus here as she's the goal of the plot and also the only one who really gets any new developments as she learns more of who she is and learns to bond more with her surrogate parents. I still don't like the retconning of her backstory but I do like how the story at least gives us more to her character. She was the most interesting character in Fallen Kingdom so it's nice to see more of her here at least.


We also have a new character for this movie who aids our heroes named Kayla Watts (played by DeWanda Wise). She was...alright but honestly was just a pointless new addition really. She literally only exists just to fly our heroes from point A to point B and is otherwise as flat and underdeveloped as everyone else is. At least she has a likeable personality and isn't annoying when she's onscreen but I just feel like this movie wouldn't be any different without her.


For the old characters, we have the return of the original stars themselves, Alan Grant (played again by Sam Neill), Ellie Settler (played again by Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm (played again by Jeff Goldblum). Alan and Ellie also have an arc, but no individual arcs between them. Their story is mostly about them getting together now Ellie's husband has divorced her while also teaming up to stop BioSyn's wicked locust scheme. Thankfully, their personalities are exactly as before and they feel like the characters we know and love from before and they also get their time to shine without overshadowing the new cast, nor being overshadowed by them in turn. Ian also gets to be a big help during the heist and hasn't lost his trademark wit in the slightest, making him the most entertaining character in the movie.


Henry Wu (played by B.D. Wong) is also back here and just like in the previous Jurassic World movies, his role is mostly just exposition and being used to create the new threat that we face here. It really does feel like throughout the trilogy, Henry's just being moved from one set and experiment to another and that the films don't know what else to do with him. I also end up resenting his presence here as it's him that reveals the big revelations that Maisie isn't a clone, unnecessarily retconning what we learned in the last movie and sullying it as a result. So yeah, thanks Henry! You've now ruined one of the most interesting parts of Fallen Kingdom! =P


And by far the most surprising return here is none other than Lewis Dodgson (played by Campbell Scott instead of Cameron Thor like in the first movie).

This was a long time coming for fans as this guy was in the first movie and was the one responsible for everything going wrong as he hired Dennis Nedry to sabotage the park so actually having him show up was a big deal. And...he's really lame to be honest. Not only is he a boring villain, but he's kinda pathetic as a lot of the time he just acts like a dorky, meek guy who really doesn't command that much authority and Campbell Scott's weak performance doesn't do the character any favours. I honestly felt his subbordinates, Rainn Delacourt and Soyona Santos were cooler villains than he was by a long shot and that THEY should've been the villains instead of him. What also didn't make his return all that great in the end was that the movie doesn't even bring up his part in the downfall of Jurassic Park or bring forth rivalry with InGen. He may as well have been an entirely new character rather than Lewis Dodgson. It literally feels like the only reason it's him specifically is because the fans demanded it and they did the bare minimum with him as a result. And this is what Dennis meant by "See, nobody cares!" all those years ago. XD


Speaking of the bare minimum, the Giganotosaurus that the marketing hyped up so much was another disappointment. It's an awesome looking dinosaur that's meant to be the new villainous predator for the movie...and it's barely even in it. It doesn't even get a good showing either as it doesn't get any major kills, gets fended off by the human cast and gets to fight the T-Rex at the end and lose to it in a way that felt completely nonsensical. Talk about a waste of a promising dinosaur...


Also, I dunno if I'm the only one who feels that way, but I feel it was a waste that Franklin and Zia from the previous movie are just cameos at best and don't get to be a part of this story. Yes, bringing them in could've made the story feel overcrowded so I can see why they were left out but it still feels a shame that they were big parts in Fallen Kingdom and don't get to take part in this one. They may as well not even have been here for the scant amount of screen time they were used for.


The characters are paper thin and don't have much going for them, but they can be enjoyable enough and the returning ones are done justice at least. Too bad about the mediocre villain...


The Cinematography


One thing everyone can agree on with the Jurassic World movies is that director Colin Trevorrow and his team direct some damn solid looking movies with some incredible CGI effects and practical effects to make the Jurassic Park franchise look bigger and better than ever. This movie continues that trend.


The visuals are just as lovely to look at as in the previous movies. I'll start off with the locations. We get to see a lot of different locations in this film such as the ocean in the opening scene, a snowy mountain woodland, Malta and BioSyn itself and every location looks great here. The most striking locations for me are the underground dinosaur smuggling ring we see in the underbelly of Malta and BioSyn. The dinosaur smuggling ring looks like this ugly, uninviting place where crime is welcomed and that one wrong move could end up getting you killed there while BioSyn is this beautiful blend of science and nature co-existing together with the hi-tech, clean looking interiors of BioSyn labs and the surrounding forest habitat its stationed in that is also home to some of the dinosaurs we see in the movie. The locations and sets are all used brilliantly here and look great on camera.


Also, the locations and sets pave the way for some awesome action scenes that I kid you not are some of the best action scenes in all of Jurassic Park. As dinosaurs are on the mainland now, we're not just watching people running from dinosaurs on an island anymore. We get to see dinosaur battles happening in the many different locations we see be it the raptors chasing Owen and Claire through Malta as they ride on a motorcycle and a pickup respectively, the Pyroraptor that dives underwater and chases Owen and Kayla while they're on ice, all hell breaking loose in the smuggling ring with dinosaurs getting lose and creating carnage and much more. The Malta chase I feel was the best action scene with all the crazy stunt work, high speed action and the intensity off the raptors chasing after our heroes, snapping at their heels all the way, and all capped off with an impressive piece as Owen rides a motorcycle after a plane that's taking off and manages to ride up the ramp to get inside to boot. I can't imagine that was easy to film and major congratulations go to the actors, the stuntmen, the cameramen and the director for giving us one awesome chase scene. What makes the scenes even better is that the action is clear and easy to see with little shaky camera to obscure what's happening.


As is, the climax is a bit of a let down compared to all the other action scenes we get here. We have the T-Rex vs. the Giganotosaurus battling each other while our heroes get to the helicopter to escape BioSyn...and for some reason the camera chooses to focus mostly on the humans fleeing for their lives instead of the battle itself. I hate it when movies do this as it shows very weird priorities on what to focus on like what we get with Optimus vs. Galvatron in Age of Extinction. If we're going to have a dinosaur fight, focus on the dinosaur fight, not what's going on around them! It doesn't help how the fight ends in a lacklustre way too, making it feel even more underwhelming as a result.


But we do get some great camerawork in other places at least, The opening scene especially was well done with it focusing on the fishing boat before the Mosasaur comes and pulls it over and we even get a camera shot of the ship being viewed as it tips over thanks to the Mosasaur. I also thought the first reveal of the genetically altered locust swarm was brilliant to. It starts off calm and innocently just focusing on a pair of kids farming and then slowly takes a darker, more frightening turn when the locust swarm takes flight and rushes towards them. It's almost like a scene in a horror movie, just minus the blood and gore, with the slow build-up and raising sense of dread that least up into it.


The effects work is also stellar just as it has been before. We have a mix of practical effects and CGI effects to bring the dinosaurs to life and its quite effective. While yes, it can be easy to tell when the dinosaurs are CGI, the practical effects make them look really convincing and like they're really there a lot of the time. Some animatronics might look a little more robotic than others, but the practical work is still really top notch, as is the CGI work. We get to see a variety of dinosaurs depicted here from the popular ones to the more obscure ones and the CGI and animatronics bring them to life so well while also being extremely detailed to the point it feels like you can touch them. The textures look as they should do from the scales and skin of the raptors to the spikes on the Giganotosaurus to skin on the Dimetrodon's sail to the feathers on the Pyroraptor and nothing looks fake about the textures at all. I especially like how we get a whole bunch of dinosaurs from all shapes and sizes with varying proportions that makes each of them stand out from the other. They promised us dinosaurs on the mainland and they gave it to us while giving us PLENTY of different species to spot and identify! I also imagine many palaeontologists were happy to see feathered dinosaurs depicted here at last. I'll admit it was cool to see them here.


The movie may not have delivered on its story, but it DOES deliver on its visuals and gives us the most gorgeous looking Jurassic movie we've seen yet.


Conclusion


Jurassic World Dominion is the definitive example of "decent, but could've been better". The plot is extremely underdeveloped in its concept and plays out as an average action movie, the retconning of Maisie's backstory was unnecessary, the characters are one-dimensional and lack any real arcs save for a couple, the villain is weak and it overall felt like it should've ended with a grander, more definitive conclusion. The movie is saved from being bad thanks to some decent fan-service, enjoyable character moments with the old and new cast, fantastic acting from the main leads and some incredible cinematography. It's certainly not the disaster that critics are making it out to be but it is rather average overall. For Jurassic Park fans, I'd say give it a watch and see what you think. For non-fans, you probably won't care much for it. It's a fossil that is worth preserving, but you know that there are better fossils that have been dug up before it...


And that's what I have for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you all to share your thoughts below. Did you like it? Did you not like it? Is it the best Jurassic World movie or do you think its the worst? Feel free to tell all about it.


Next time, we leave the prehistoric realm and go beyond the stars as we travel with a certain space ranger. Join me next time as we go to infinity and beyond!

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