Their enormous box-office footprint aside, Jurassic Park’s sequels are pale imitators of the 1993 original, a film that, in all fairness, continues to set an unrivaled standard for narrative economy and special effects. In the wake of four films filled with the same bad decisions, Jurassic World: Dominion could have rested on its nostalgic laurels by bringing the original trio of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Laura Dern back to interact with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard amid a slew of new CGI dinos. Although his take on 2015’s Jurassic World never went beyond a watered-down pseudo remake of the first entry, director Colin Trevorrow surprisingly opts to explode convention and defy expectations in his return to the franchise after tapping out of 2018’s Fallen Kingdom. The result is a vision unique enough to earn Dominion the distinction as the series’s only sequel in the same orbit as the original.
Dominion’s most radical break from its predecessors is that the dinosaurs take a backseat to giant GMO bugs. When Malcolm (Goldblum) tips off Sattler (Dern) that his employer, Biosyn, has unleashed a swarm of dinosaur-DNA doped locusts as part of a plan to monopolize global agriculture, she enlists the help of Grant (Neill) to expose the corporate giant. Meanwhile, Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Howard) make their own trek to the multinational’s headquarters with a rogue pilot (DeWanda Wise) after mercenaries on the company’s payroll kidnap their adopted daughter (Isabella Sermon), who happens to be a clone– an inherited plot point the film manages to not only rescue from its ridiculousness but also repurpose as a poignant emotional core.
Rather than orchestrate yet another visit to the islands off the coast of Costa Rica, the movie engages in impressive world building rooted in the aftermath of the previous film’s global dinosaur migration. In the process, Trevorrow revels in some clever genre play, which often makes Dominion feel like it owes as much of a debt to Taken, Craig-era Bond, Indiana Jones, and John Ford westerns as it does to JP’s IP. Thanks to its keen attention to detail, Dominion develops its own voice while uniting these disparate elements (the dino Black Market in Malta featuring an illicit array of vices from roast Triceratops to Baryonyx fighting is the most inspired sequence in a film full of them).
Likewise, Trevorrow’s knack for reinvention keeps Dominion awash in tense sequences on par with the original and prevents it from regressing into formula. Not content merely serving up catnip for fanboys, the reunion of the franchise’s original stars comes off as more of a serious character study worthy of the actors’ talents than a publicity stunt intending to revive interest in a long-in-the-tooth property.
Over the last 25 years, the series’s most pervasive problem is that its sequels haven’t been about much. The original probes scientific ethics while, at its core, remaining a story about learning to become a parent–a far cry from its successors’ focus on elaborate dino attacks and thin family melodrama. Yet, despite franchise bloat necessitating it juggle multiple storylines from previous films, Dominion also manages its own cogent commentary on scientific abuses. Thus, the unfair critical drubbing it has suffered could be the result of its brutal depiction of a global elite genetically engineering an organism to initiate a Great Reset and threaten individual autonomy. Campbell Scott plays Biosyn head Lewis Dodgson (the original JP’s financier of corporate espionage by way of Barbasol can) as the lovechild of Steve Jobs and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a villain much more terrifying than the film’s latest apex predator, the Giganotosaurus. In sporadic previous appearances, Drs. Malcolm, Grant, and Sattler have spent the franchise dealing with the repercussions of speaking the truth about their harrowing theme park experience in a world of corporate shills and exploitative experts. As Jurassic Park’s grand finale, Dominion finally vindicates them, a choice that is at once immensely satisfying and even more unbelievable than Chris Pratt’s ability to Velociraptor whisper by raising his palm.
Jurassic World: Dominion is now playing in theatres.