Jurassic World Dominion Squander’s Biggest Opportunity

The Jurassic World trilogy is officially over. With Jurassic World Dominion now in theaters, this historic franchise which began with Jurassic Park has now come to a conclusion, at least for now. It took us 29 years and six movies to get here, and we’ve looked back at all of the previous movies in this series recently on IGN. So after all that, how does director Colin Trevorrow’s latest installment wrap up the story that was started by Steven Spielberg’s original film all the way back in 1993?

Well, that’s the new film’s biggest problem: It doesn’t. Not only does Dominion not really feel like much of a conclusion at all, it also doesn’t take advantage of the setup from the end of the previous film, Fallen Kingdom: the promise of a world where dinosaurs live among us. How did this happen? Let’s take a look.

Join us for the sixth and final part of our retrospective on the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films!

Dinosaurs, Please Come Home!

If you want the primary reason why Dominion doesn’t feel like a satisfying wrap-up for the Jurassic franchise, you have to look no further than the fact that the dinosaurs feel like little more than an afterthought. Oh, they’re in the movie, don’t get me wrong, but for the first time in this series they feel like a largely incidental part of the plot. After the initial setup and newsreel footage that shows that dinosaurs are now getting up to hijinks like blocking traffic and interrupting weddings, the movie jumps into two different plotlines: The Jurassic World characters needing to run around the globe to rescue Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) after she’s kidnapped, and the Jurassic Park characters investigating crop destruction caused by genetically engineered locusts.

The problem is that neither of these stories require dinosaurs to function (yes, we know the locusts are technically extinct giants, blah blah blah, but come on, they’re not dinosaurs). Instead of naturally following up on seeing how the world would be fundamentally altered by numerous invasive species, the introduction of new apex predators into the environment, and the presumed widespread panic and chaos this would cause, Dominion indicates that the arrival of dinosaurs hasn’t really done much at all to change the global status quo. There is no immediacy to the presence of dinosaurs in the human world because neither of the two main storylines involve them in any significant capacity. They’ve become set dressing, something to throw in to spice up the action scenes and put our heroes in danger every 20 minutes or so, but never really as the driving force of the narrative.

It’s a bizarre choice, not just because this franchise is supposed to be about dinosaurs, but because the rare moments where the dinosaurs actually are center stage are the best parts of the movie. The opening newsreel shows the dinos in plenty of fascinating and hilarious situations, Maisie helping the construction workers move the confused brontosaurus out of their work site is one of the only scenes that has an emotional touch to it, and the chase sequence where a pack of atrociraptors and two carnotaurus are unleashed on Malta is the best such action beat in the movie because it actually feels like what Fallen Kingdom’s ending promised: dinosaurs terrorizing human-populated areas. When Dominion remembers that the dinosaurs are supposed to be its star players, it does come alive. Sadly, it gets distracted by other matters far too often.

Night of the Locust

Perhaps the weirdest of these distractions is the genetically engineered locust plot, which takes up far too much real estate for something that adds so little to the experience. While “evil locusts that target the world’s food supply” sounds exactly like the sort of thing that a Crichton novel would be about, it doesn’t at all feel like something a Jurassic Park movie should be about. To be fair, technically it does continue the angle from the last movie of using genetic engineering in ways other than creating dinosaurs (in that instance, cloning humans). But that doesn’t change that the locusts aren’t an interesting threat, don’t actually do much of anything that affects the story beyond generating an excuse for Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to get involved, and take up valuable screen time that could have gone to the dinosaurs that everybody actually came to see.

In the same way that JA Bayona incorporated gothic horror conventions into Fallen Kingdom as a way to give his installation its own identity, Trevorrow does the same here by leaning far heavier into the Michael Crichton techno-thriller angle than any previous Jurassic movie. While the first two entries were both based on Crichton novels, Spielberg tended to omit or downplay the techno-thriller elements for a more broad adventure tone. It made sense for the approach Spielberg wanted, but it means that elements like Campbell Scott’s Lewis Dodgson (the primary villain of both novels), Biosyn, and the shady corporate espionage that were big parts of the novels were either reduced to cameos or removed entirely . Dominion reworks that material back in, and while it seems like a fine idea in theory, it’s far different in execution.

Fallen Kingdom wrote a check that Dominion refuses to cash.


Dodgson and his company are indeed a major part of the story here, but Dodgson himself is reduced to an ineffectual antagonist lacking in menace or charisma, and Biosyn’s role in the world isn’t fleshed out beyond “evil tech company that makes a dinosaur preserve in the Italian Alps.” While the wildlife preserve makes in-universe sense as a way to recapture the escaped dinosaurs and provide subjects for Biosyn’s research, it’s an uninspired addition narratively because it once again contains the dinosaurs into a specific area instead of allowing them free range to show up in new and exciting locations. We’ve done “humans trapped with dinos in a contained jungle environment” in every previous Jurassic movie, but the last one blew up the island so the next installation could finally do something different. Fallen Kingdom wrote a check that Dominion refuses to cash.

Reboot, Reuse, Recycle

In both of the previous installations in the Jurassic World trilogy, there is a palpable change by the end of the film that clarifies why what has occurred in those films matters. By the end of the first Jurassic World, the park had been completely demolished, and you could probably never get away with building a dinosaur zoo again. By the end of Fallen Kingdom, Isla Nublar is destroyed and the dinosaurs have been released into the wild, meaning they could never again be wholly contained. But what meaningful change has occurred by the end of Dominion? The honest answer is not very much, because the ending is sort of a repeat of Fallen Kingdom’s, but a far less dramatic one. “We must learn to coexist,” says a reporter over footage of dinosaurs living among other wild animals, but we already got that message from the shot in the last movie of the T-Rex and the lion roaring at each other.

The trouble is that the movie spends so much time on nostalgic callbacks, references, and recreations of scenes from the original film that it forgets to create new imagery of its own. In fact, Dominion is so committed to recycling that it undercuts its few new elements in order to do so. The pre-release marketing made a big deal about the Giganotosaurus, the largest carnivore to ever live on Earth, being the new “villain” creature this time around. Yet in the finished film, not only is it contained to only a couple of short action scenes, it doesn’t kill a single character. It doesn’t even chomp on any redshirts to establish itself as a major threat, like the Indominus Rex did in the first Jurassic World. Meanwhile, a pack of dilophosaurus are the ones that kill Dodgson, purely so it can be a callback to the death of Wayne Knight’s Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park. Additionally, the handful of new characters like DeWanda Wise’s Kayla Watts and Mamoudou Athie’s Ramsay Cole have some charisma, but feel underserved by a screenplay that’s more interested in having the JP and JW characters point at each other and say “I know who you are and what you do” dialogue.

All of these creative decisions result in a movie that shoves off dealing with the ramifications of a “Jurassic World” to another hypothetical sequel. The world of dinosaurs that the last film promised? Maybe you’ll get it next time. But given that Dominion was positioned in marketing not just as the conclusion of the Jurassic World trilogy but also the “end of the Jurassic era,” the lack of meaningful change turns this movie into not much more than an exercise in wheel-spinning. Of course, given how much money these movies tend to make, it was always unlikely that this would have been the last one ever. Still, that isn’t an excuse to make this one feel so inconsequential.

Carlos Morales writes novels, articles and Mass Effect essays. You can follow his fixations on Twitter.

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