It’s an awkward notion when easily invested in a film based on the goodwill it can generate. Only to remember what mistakes it’s made before reaching a point of satisfactory closure. What started with promise and potential at the hands of writer/director Colin Trevorrow, should consider itself lucky to escape without further setbacks. Returning to the captain’s chair in Jurassic World Dominion, both his voice and his knack for reeling in a story to keep its balance are sufficient to close out this generational hexalogy on the big screen. As for his three-ring circus, we leave on shakier ground, even when enthusiastically reveling in nostalgia-fueled worldbuilding.
And that may still be a constant to Trevorrow and co-writers Derek Connelly (Detective Pikachu) & Emily Carmichael (Pacific Rim: Uprising). That the lore stops once the entire planet becomes a park for these cretaceous carnivores, no longer confined to an individual location. And with humans now forced to co-exist. Four years had passed since Fallen Kingdom opened a door to a litany of consequences. Dinosaurs now roam among other wildlife, in an ecosystem that simply cannot support them. Those captured are used for medical study or inhumane breeding. The former is well emphasized as a means for good by biopharma figurehead Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). As both Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) have already witnessed, their caution with apex predators and unsafe practices remains warily alert. Particularly while continuing to protect now teenage clone kid Maisie (Isabella Sermon), who’s become overly curious about discovering the pieces of her mother’s legacy.
They’ve all stayed under cover in the Rockies, wrangling and rescuing under total discretion. Though, when their raptor ally Blue becomes a mother, the scientific bets are off. Poachers circle, capturing both the raptor and the kid and forcing the oddly matched parents on a globetrotting recovery mission. Following in a similar path are old friends Ellie (Laura Dern), Alan (Sam Neill), and Ian (Jeff Goldblum). The three of whom sense a major cover-up with those preds being used for research, and a link to evil locusts inciting a plague. Be it dinos, insects, or human clones, it does boil down to DNA. Namely readapting mere strands to remodel a genetic makeup, alter behavior, and even cure disease.
Does any of this seem fresh or exciting? Not entirely. Knowing the history of these six films, the story they’ve told harkening back to Michael Crichton’s novel, and the persistence to play God every time, Dominion is nothing different. Trevorrow knows that and still dares to foretell the familiar in an inventive and focused manner. The sort that J.A. Bayona embarrassingly fumbled on in 2018.
For one, the dinosaurs pull their weight as unsung heroes again, contributing legit chords of terror and elation. The giganotosaurus (a very real name) succeeded more than advertised to illustrate how minor change there’s been in their carnage across eons. The thread nostalgia is firmly justified, with old faces wreaking lightly comical havoc. Both Dern and Neill have not lost that spark, nor has BD Wong returning as Dr. Henry Wu. And that makes as much sense as our antagonist. A baddie whose purpose, and menace, are immediately clear, and not at all annoying. Sure, Scott’s portrayal is an unabashed imitation of Apple CEO Tim Cook. But it’s not at all unhinged or uncontrolled, compared to his formulaic counterparts in the trilogy. The part cuts through with enough dry wit to make him worthy of scorn.
Overall, the damage Fallen Kingdom had left behind may not be fully reversible, with Trevorrow doing essential cleanup work by answering back from leftover plot holes. Then punctuating with fresh bumps and wobbles. Such as the Indiana Jones-like world traveling, a late-game fight for biowarfare, or fleeting attempts at 007-like action to beef up Mr. Pratt’s strength quota. A motorcycle chase through the streets of Malta with raptors shoehorned in does not belong in this series. In the same way, his chemistry with Howard leaves little to be desired. It’s no less stilted as before, one of the few remaining distractions. As is the sudden, convenient appearance of one of Claire’s old friends, rogue pilot Kayla (DeWanda Wise), moving the pace forward, but offering little else.
Even at his most convoluted or predictable, Trevorrow still knows how to keep a consistent, unwavering center on the matter at hand. And even with this being the longest of the franchise, occupying 2.5 hours, I didn’t feel anything drag. Every moving piece, character, or CG fabrication appeared purposeful, despite their warranty or lack thereof. The deeper conflict alone carries consequential weight. And at points throughout, the idea of humans interacting with carnivores from a different time infuses itself with candid joy. That could and will be mistaken for recapturing that same lightning Spielberg once conjured. That legacy sensation remains evergreen in Trevorrow’s hands, and certainly those of his editor Mark Sanger (Joe Bell), and musical associate Michael Giacchino (The Batman). If not also heavily encouraged, by fanservice standards. The number of shameless callbacks in play could fill up a diary of notes.
The right personnel came back to excel in the name of closure. Evidence will show how much of a mess Jurassic World Dominion looks like before its residual loose ends are rapidly tied up in ribbon. Trevorrow throws in a full kitchen sink, knowing it’s the end, and the rulebook is extinct. It will be difficult not to shake one’s head, questioning decisions made, or roads taken to bring its large ensemble together. It’d be trickier not to experience twinges of satisfaction at its foregone, unsurprising conclusion, one that would require the right motivation to revisit. Be it for the entire franchise, or this very flawed trilogy riding on multiple coattails, how it ends will be on par with how it began: with genetics running amok. (B-; 3/5 Horns Up!)
Jurassic World Dominion opens in theaters June 10; rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, some violence and language; 146 minutes.