Courtesy Universal Pictures
Fan service is great if it is executed properly. With more franchises leaving heavily into that to put butts in seats, it was no surprise when it was announced the legacy characters from Jurassic Park would be returning for JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION. Would their inclusion provide a much-needed breath of fresh air to an otherwise meh series? Unfortunately, no.

There’s a fanfic vibe to JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION that doesn’t work in its favor. The plot loses its way by trying to do too much with all the characters at its disposal. Even with the legacy characters, the direction provided eradicates the charm this nostalgic addition should bring. As a result, much-needed humanity gets sacrificed in this film that both tries too hard yet reads as lazy and uninspired. This despite the fun new Dino additions.

DOMINION takes place four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom, and opens in a way that reminds of cheesy Syfy-style shows. Dinosaurs currently co-exist alongside human beings with mixed results (though, these moments produce the most laughs). As is an all too predictable scenario, there are those who work alongside these dinosaurs with no problems. And there are bad people who aim to exploit these creatures. It’s the exploitation and lack of ethics that trigger the action in DOMINION. The question is, outside of dinosaurs, the band of humans we see onscreen fails to connect offscreen.

There’s a lot going on in JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION. It’s as if Colin Trevorrow (who also directs albeit poorly considering performances) and screenwriter Emily Carmichael decided to throw things at a wall to see what would stick. A lot must have stuck to produce this convoluted, bloated final product viewers get to witness. You’ve got kidnappings. Genetically engineered locusts. Baby Raptors. Underground dino trafficking rings. There’s a lot going on, which results in a film that feels long and loses its focus from its main point – the livelihood of both dinosaurs and the human race.

A baby Nasutoceratops, Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill)

While it’s taken two films to build up the relationship between Bryce Dallas Howard‘s Claire Dearing and Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady, you wouldn’t know it watching DOMINION. Their romantic chemistry is the equivalent of paint drying. There is more believability in Howard’s Claire wanting to protect Isabella Sermon’s Maisie Lockwood. Sermon’s performance as Lockwood fits the bill for what’s needed for the character’s journey. So, from that standpoint, it’s okay.

The return of Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and BD Wong is welcome. In fact, their separate plot points before everything converges together prove more interesting than watching what’s going on with Claire and Owen. That said, there’s something off about their performances onscreen. There’s an unnaturalness in execution at times. BD Wong’s Dr. Henry Wu, in particular, is over-the-top and non-subtle. Knowing how his character has been in previous iterations, it’s clear this is more of a directing issue than an acting issue. It is in this that it can be said the inclusion of the legacy characters highlights the overall deficiency of JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION.

As if there wasn’t a whole bunch going on already, there are new characters to the Jurassic World universe dropped in here. And, unfortunately, they prove to be more interesting than Claire and Owen. DeWanda Wise’s Kayla is fun and may become an audience favorite. Her delivery and characterization are positively memorable. Mamoudou Athie’s performance as Ramsay Cole is more subtle, but it’s in his silent moments that you can see the character’s internal work spinning. Overall, enjoyed them both.

Now, we can’t finish talking about DOMINION without addressing the dinosaurs. While the film could have certainly used more dinosaurs (locusts take centerstage here), there’s plenty for dino lovers to enjoy. We have the inclusion of new species and, for those who have been waiting for dinos with feathers, we finally get it here. A mixture of animatronics and VFX is used to bring these dinosaurs to life and, for the most part, it works. There are a few moments where the VFX isn’t as smooth as it could have been, but it’s easily dismissable. And, in certain dinosaur moments, there are much-needed scare moments that will make the audience jump, even though we know something is coming.

At the end of the day, regardless of what’s said, people are going to see JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION. Is it the weakest of the Jurassic World trilogy? It’ll depend on who you ask. There are tongue-in-cheek moments written into the script that makes it seem like Trevorrow is in on the joke that the premise facilitates. But, overall, DOMINION reminds us of how lacking this franchise has become since the originating Jurassic Park film. The addition of the legacy characters is a last-ditch effort to breathe some semblance of life in an altogether soulless series that has long-lost what made Jurassic Park special – heart and – ultimately – humanity.

JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION hits theaters on June 10, 2022.

Sarah Musnicky
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