It’s hard to believe that almost three decades have gone by since the release of Jurassic Park (1993). Six Jurassic movies followed. The series evolved from Jurassic Park to Jurassic World with cast members and creatures being replaced.
The latest installment is Jurassic World Dominion (2022) in which the writers have gone the way of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) combining old and new cast members in an effort to take the series to another level.
It’s the cinematic equivalent of The Doobie Brothers touring with both Tom Johnston and Michael McDonald. Fans get the best of both worlds.
On one hand, it looks like a fan fantasy dream movie. On the other hand, it raises the possibility that the writers are perhaps just running out of ideas.
Whatever the case, it’s guaranteed to sell tickets this summer.
I can recall going to the screening of the original Jurassic Park. It had the intensity of the second coming. Michael Crichton’s book was a best seller, Steven Spielberg had come aboard to direct, and it was going to feature some never-before-seen digital effects.
To its credit, it lived up to all the hype, and then some. To this day, I still marvel at the technical achievement that Jurassic Park represented. As I always told my History of American Cinema students, when taken into context of movie making back in the Nineties, Jurassic Park was a giant leap for the movie industry, in the way of Hollywood special effects. It was remarkably good back in the days when digital effects were just making their debut in feature films. Those pioneering effects have stood the test of time.
They still make audiences jump out of their seats.
The early attempts at creature rendering worked. The mix of digital effects and animatronics was nothing short of brilliant. It was, and is, a masterpiece. And it was going to be a hard act to follow.
Special effects have improved over the years, as evidenced in Top Gun Maverick (2022). It’s that rare sequel that blows away the beloved original, in every way.
But there is only so much you can do with the dinosaur effects in the Jurassic movies, particularly when they pretty much got it right the first time around.
Likewise, there is not a lot you can do beyond the basic story premise. There are living, breathing, reconstituted dinosaurs who want to eat you. You run for your life until you can figure out a solution. In the end, the humans must win and survive, and of course they always do.
Jurassic World Dominion changes the game a little. In the Jurassic World movies, the dinosaurs are capable of some degree of training and domestication. In that world, there are both good and bad dinosaurs, the ones that want to have you for lunch and the ones that might be capable of being your pet, if you’re careful not to piss them off.
In this installment, the movie opens in an alternate reality in which dinosaurs are everywhere, living amongst us. Mankind is living in an age that demands peaceful coexistence. What you can’t eradicate and make extinct again, you must embrace.
But that only goes so far. Human greed always seems to factor in. Here, it’s a brilliant megalomaniac akin to the supervillain in every James Bond movie who wants to use gene splicing biotechnology to rule the world. It’s what evil supervillains do.
In order to stop him, the heroes of both Jurassic franchises must combine their brains and bravery. And so, Sam Neill (doing his best Indiana Jones), Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park, join with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard from Jurassic World. Other new characters are sprinkled in, including a clone of an earlier character. If you can regenerate long extinct reptiles, it would only seem logical that you can recreate a deceased human being from extracted DNA.
The characters aren’t the problem with Jurassic World Dominion, it’s the writing. As expected, there are two parallel romantic story lines, one involving Sam Neill and Laura Dern’s characters, and one involving Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard’s characters.
It’s a no-brainer. Both couples are meant to be together, despite all the obstacles.
Jeff Goldblum’s character is tossed in for comic relief. It’s a part he was born to play.
The great disappointment is the total improbability of the storyline in which characters just magically show up at exactly the right moment to save everyone’s lives and propel the plot forward. No spoilers, but it happens. A lot.
Yes, there are a few first-rate action sequences in the movie, and some close, face-to-face encounters with some huge menacing lizards, but you know that no one is going to die in a movie like this--at least none of the good guys, or cute, cuddly baby dinosaurs who will be popping up on toy store shelves everywhere this summer.
Be on the lookout.
Jurassic World Dominion is in theaters now.