“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
I’m not the first reviewer to use that quote in the context of filmmaking and certainly will not be the last. Universal Studios has been chasing the dragon for decades when it comes to replicating the success of the original Jurassic Park, based on the best-selling novel by Michael Crichton. No one has been able to capture the wonder Steven Spielberg did with the iconic 1993 film. The visual effects still hold up, the score by John Williams is instantly recognizable, and so many quotes have entered into the pop culture lexicon (“Hold onto your butts!”).
The new Jurassic World series feels like a redux of the original trilogy. Everything that could go wrong at the dino theme park does go wrong in the original picture. In The Lost World, InGen makes the mistake of trying to bring the dinosaurs to the people resulting in a T-Rex rampage through the streets of San Diego. Jurassic Park III followed the protagonists mounting the rescue of a young boy stranded on another island populated by prehistoric creatures.
Jurassic World saw the new and improved version fail spectacularly while dinosaurs are brought to the mainland to be auctioned to be rich and powerful in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. While there is an attempted rescue in Jurassic World Dominion, the final (for now) film in the franchise is more of a mishmash of everything we’ve seen before. The hook this time around is the return of the big three – Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum as Drs. Alan Grant, Ellie Satler, and Ian Malcolm. Goldblum previously popped in for a cameo in Fallen Kingdom while Neill and Dern make their first appearances in the new films.
It’s been several years since the events of Fallen Kingdom and dinosaurs have integrated themselves into the world’s ecosystems. Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) live in an isolated cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, alongside Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the clone created from the DNA of the daughter of Benjamin Lockwood, John Hammond’s former silent partner. Maisie is snatched up by a gang of poachers who also grab a baby velociraptor birthed by Owen’s pet Blue. The poachers are secretly working for BioSyn, a conglomerate seeking to unlock their genetic secrets. BioSyn also happens to be run by Lewis Dodgson (now played by Campbell Scott). Yes, we got Dodgson, the same Dodgson that inadvertently started the chain of events that destroyed Jurassic Park.
Kidnapping and illegal genetic experiments aren’t the only schemes Dodgson has concocted. Dr. Satler is investigating swarms of locusts that are gobbling up crops, except the ones that have been bioengineered by BioSyn. She enlists the help of her old pals Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm, who is already working on the inside for Dodgson. All our heroes finally meet as they try to escape BioSyn’s dino reserve in Italy.
Dominion muddies the waters of the dino-centric franchise by introducing human clones and locusts the size of cats. While old favorites like Blue and the original T-Rex have returned, none of the new dinos leave much of an impression. The villainous creature this time around is the Gigantosaurus, billed as one of the largest carnivores on land. It really just looks like a tyrannosaurus with some fins on its back.
As always, the true villains are human beings. Campbell Scott’s Dodgson is a cross between an elderly Zuckerberg and an evil Steve Jobs. He’s a seemingly hip and benign billionaire whose unchecked greed leads to his own downfall. BD Wong also returns as a recalcitrant Dr. Henry Wu who finally realizes the Pandora’s Box he helped unleash. While it’s nice to see the old gang again, the returning OG cast members just feel perfunctory. Their arrival should have been an “Avengers Assemble” moment, instead of a last ditch attempt to wring out whatever nostalgia is left over.
Dominion does start off strong as Colin Trevorrow builds out a new world order where modern mankind must deal with the presence of dinosaurs. The extended edition included on the home release opens with a T-Rex interrupting a drive-in movie. In a true example of “Deadliest Catch,” the Mosasaurus from Jurassic World capsizes a fishing vessel. We also get a serene sequence as Maisie assists a crew of loggers to herd an apatosaurus from their work site. There’s also a darker side to the proliferation of dinos, which goes back to the greed and cruelty of man. Dinos are snatched by poachers and black market smugglers to be used in breeding pens or carved up for phony holistic meds. During Owen and Claire’s search for Maisie, they visit an underground bazaar selling grilled dinosaur meat and dino fighting. This builds to a wild chase through the streets of Malta as Owen tries to escape a pack of Atrociraptors on motorcycle. It’s the first half of the film comes off as inventive only for the story to once again revolve around running away from dinosaurs inside a park.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.00:1. Picture quality is exquisite with eye popping colors and rich details, right down to every nook and cranny in the scales of every dinosaur. This is the high level of quality you expect from a major blockbuster.
The audio is presented in DTS:X. Sound is pitch perfect with every roar and booming footstep of each dino as well as the buzzing swarms of locusts.
Battle at Big Rock (10:17) is the well received short film focusing on a camping trip gone wrong as a family battles dinosaurs.
A New Breed of VFX (6:16) is a featurette about the special effects created by ILM.
Dinosaurs Among Us: Inside Jurassic World Dominion is a lengthy behind-the-scenes journey broken up into five sections – Together for the First Time (5:26), Underground Dino Market (4:59), Mayhem in Malta (4:32), Scary Real Animatronics (which is also split into multiple segments), and Final Night (6:52).
The Blu-ray does include an extended edition of the movie with an additional fourteen minutes of footage.
Film Value: 6
Jurassic World Dominion delivers a promising start as it deals with the aftermath of propagating throughout the world. However, it quickly derails once we’re introduced to human clones. The action is all too familiar and the return of Neill, Dern, and Goldblum is just enough to keep the over bloated ship afloat.