The biggest problem with the first two Jurassic World movies was the lack of a compelling, coherent narrative. The first never bothered to explain how they went from the cataclysmic events of the original trilogy to a full-blown dinosaur theme park, and the second was two different movies that never coalesced into one. So now comes Jurassic World Dominion, which once again plays on nostalgia for the original Jurassic Park while attempting to bring something new to the table.
After their escape at the end of Fallen Kingdom, dinosaurs now populate every continent on Earth, bringing with them the expected good and bad actors. On the good side are Owen (Chris Pratt), who wrangles them for scientific purposes, and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), still hellbent on saving every dinosaur she can. The two are now an actual couple, shacked up in the wilderness, taking care of Maisie (Isabelle Sermon), who was left an orphan in the previous film.
On the bad side is Biosyn, led by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), a company that promises to use genetic advances to help feed the world, but which also unleashes monster locusts onto any crops not grown by them. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is employed by the company, and he invites his old friends Ellie Satler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to come tour Biosyn’s headquarters, and if they find anything nefarious, then so be it.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow and written by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael, the film is packed full of ideas and subplots, some of them more well thought-out than others. Unlike the previous two films, they actually explain what transpired in the four years between the two films, grounding the audience before the chaos that follows. And the reintroduction of Ellie and Alan isn’t overdone, allowing the characters to reintegrate back into the story with little fuss.
The main roadblock of the film is how overcomplicated it gets. The Owen/Claire duo and Ellie/Alan duo are separated for most of the film, and they hop around to multiple different countries in service of subplots that only make a little bit of sense. Much of it feels like the filmmakers trying to justify the continued separation of the two groups, and so they give them a lot to do at different stops, even if what transpires there is ridiculous.
Amid the absurdity, however, the film does have the requisite exciting action scenes. One sequence that introduces a new character, pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), takes on a James Bond feeling with chases through buildings and tight streets. And naturally there are lots of encounters with and fights among dinosaurs. They attempt to introduce yet another apex predator into the film, but its fearsomeness never really connects.
The film gets fast and loose toward the end, often making jumps in time that elide certain tense moments. It’s strange how they can make a movie that’s two-and-a-half hours long and still cut narrative corners in order to shoehorn in even more story. Still, most of them are forgivable, especially when they include callbacks to the original Jurassic Park that will have fans cheering.
No one goes to see a Jurassic World movie for the acting, but it’s still nice to see each of the main actors reprise their roles in believable and fun ways. Wise is a great addition, not only for her calm-under-pressure demeanor but also for her hypnotic eyes. Also scoring points is Mamoudou Athie, who plays Dodgson’s right-hand man, Ramsay Cole. You believe every word that he says even when it’s clear he’s lying, a smoothness that’s rare among actors.
It may be damning with faint praise to say that Jurassic World Dominion is the best of the Jurassic World trilogy, but at least it seems like they put in the extra effort toward telling a comprehensible story. They don’t always succeed, mind you, but at least the end result doesn’t make you wish for your time and money back.
Jurassic World Dominion opened in theaters on June 10.