Sooner or later all franchises grow stale. Jurassic, I’m sorry to say your time has come. Jurassic World: Dominion, the sixth film in the franchise, brings back director and cowriter Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) and unites the cast of the original Jurassic Park with the new stars of Jurassic World. It’s also the first film in the franchise to take place outside the park — that’s right, dinosaurs finally rule the world and live right alongside humans. Dominion comes with the promise of epic action and adventure on a grander scale than ever before, but struggles mightily to make good on that promise.
The film begins with news footage reminding us of all the ways dinosaurs live among us — nesting in skyscrapers, capsizing ships, and interrupting all variety of outdoor gatherings. After this opening sequence, there’s one major action set piece featuring dinosaurs let loose in Malta, and then that’s it for global dinosaur mayhem. The rest of the movie takes place… in a park. Another park. So much for the epic scale.
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters are re-introduced living a rustic life in the Sierra Nevadas, taking care of the genetically engineered girl (Isabella Sermon) from the previous film. Blue the velociraptor is back, too, sticking close to Pratt’s cabin and raising a new child of her own, nicknamed Beta. When bounty hunters kidnap the girl and the baby dino, Pratt and Howard begin their journey to rescue them. Meanwhile, Laura Dern’s character discovers prehistoric locust are decimating entire fields and fears an ecological collapse may be imminent. She reteams with Sam Neill and the two head to the remote, isolated laboratories of Biosyn, where Jeff Goldblum now works. As Goldblum reveals a corporate conspiracy involving the locust, Pratt and Howard discover Biosyn is behind the abduction of their loved ones. The characters are finally united about halfway through the movie at Biosyn’s dinosaur sanctuary, where — of course — good old fashioned dinosaur shenanigans ensue.
First, the good. You want to see dinosaurs? You get to see dinosaurs. Many favorites are back, and there are some new ones as well. The feathered ones are particularly ferocious. The film’s single scariest scene is one in which a huge feathered dinosaur with Wolverine-like claws stalks Bryce Dallas Howard into a lake. It’s also great to see Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum back in action. Goldblum is magical in everything he does these days. While he gets a fair amount of screen time, you’ll wish there were more of him. Sam Neill, on the other hand, doesn’t seem at all happy to be back in the saddle. The script rekindles his relationship with Dern, but otherwise just doesn’t know what to do with him. DeWanda Wise makes the most of her new supporting character, a pilot-for-hire who ends up throwing in with Pratt and Howard.
Now, the bad. In addition to not really taking place in the ordinary world, Dominion has trouble balancing its many heroes. No character really gets to shine, and a certain point, you just wish the dinosaurs would eat half of them — as long as Goldblum survived. It’s probably the least humorous of all the Jurassic movies, which only further accentuates how desperately the movie needs more of Goldblum’s darkly comic gifts. It’s also the loudest Jurassic movie. The action is often non-stop and exhausting, with composer Michael Giacchino working overtime to convince us that what we’re watching is an excruciating life-and-death affair. There’s an air of desperation to it. In the end, there’s not one action scene in Dominion that matches any in the previous films. Finally, well… it’s stupid. How can dinosaurs be everywhere, and the world not be imploding in every single possible way?
The Jurassic Park movies were always at their best when they balanced wonder and fear. Maybe taking the dinosaurs out of the park skews the ratio too much in favor of fear. Maybe Dominion simply bites off more than it can chew. I love monster movies so much that I still enjoyed parts of this one. But for a series so loved and ripe with potential, Dominion is disappointing at best, my least favorite of all six movies.
With BD Wong, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott, and Omar Sy.