Four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now live and hunt alongside humans all over the world.
If there’s one thing we learnt from Jurassic Park, surely it’s don’t mix living things from different eras. Yet here we are, in the third Jurassic World instalment, with Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm from the Park adventures, meeting up with Owen Grady, Claire Dearing and young clone Maisie Lockwood from Jurassic World.
Jurassic World: Dominion shares a sensibility with Top Gun: Maverick (and a rather tired joke about faked communications failures in a plane). Maverick worked much better though, because it kept its running time to a couple of hours and because it trod that line between nostalgia and repetition with more finesse and more joy.
Watching Dominion I found myself thinking fondly of Ghostbusters (Claire Dearing’s “I know who to call!” at a moment of need), Indiana Jones (mines! And a hat), but mainly lots of Jurassic Park.
Alan (Sam Neill), meeting up with Ellie (Laura Dern) for the first time in years, turns around and his famous red bandana is peeking out of his jeans back pocket. Ian Malcolm distracts a massive dinosaur from killing his friends by waving a flaming torch, just as he and Alan waved flares in the first film. There’s that shaving foam canister for smuggling dinosaur embryos. Safety features that keep dinosaurs from humans are over-confidently explained. Butterflies, used by Malcolm to explain chaos theory in the first film, pop up in footage of late scientist Charlotte Lockwood. Ellie and Alan gasp in wonder hearing about a T-rex, yet again. (No one gets eaten on the toilet, at least.)
I adore dinostalgia but even for me the references and call-backs start to look like they’re mocking their actual audience for watching this, rather than the better original movie. At one point Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) lectures employees of dodgy firm Biosyn Genetics that they don’t think critically and are being exploited because of their fascination with dinosaurs. And the grandmummy of them all, the T-rex from the first film, takes on a new apex predator, playing dead before emerging victorious.
Dominion is set four years after Fallen Kingdom, with escaped dinosaurs now living and breeding in the wild. Billionaire Biosyn CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) has established a sanctuary for the animals in the Italian Dolomites, while supposedly using their genetic material to drive health breakthroughs for humans. Not all is well though. Dinosaur attacks harden public opinion. Illegal breeding facilities sell the creatures on the black market. Actual research into the original dinosaurs is floundering, with funding for digging up old bones drying up; why painstakingly dust off a fossil when there’s a living example galloping across the American plains right in front of you?
In non-dino news, a swarm of giant locusts destroys Texas crops while leaving untouched the fields of farmers who use Biosyn grain.
Ellie, convinced Biosyn is behind it, persuades Alan to come with her to the Dolomites to steal some locust DNA so she can match it to that of the swarm. Her way in is an invitation from the firm’s new in-house philosopher: Dr Ian Malcolm. Meanwhile Owen and Claire are trying to bring up teenage Maisie in secret, while she chafes at her lack of freedom. When she is kidnapped along with Blue the velociraptor’s baby, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), Owen (Chris Pratt), Alan, Ian and Ellie all converge on the Biosyn HQ, along with pilot-for-hire Kayla Watts (a very welcome DeWanda Sykes).
Biosyn’s CEO Lewis Dodgson is a cuddly, modern villain, softly spoken and prone to saying Namaste. It’s nice to think his name is a reference to author Lewis Carroll, real name Charles Dodgson. While he first appeared in a minor role in Jurassic Park buying dinosaur embryos off Dennis Nedry, which makes it a stretch to award it any significance now, it fits with this movie’s focus on altered clones (more Alice Through The Looking Glass than Wonderland, though a white rabbit does become dino-dinner at one point).
The best thing about the film is the return of a changed Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong), and an unchanged Dr Ian Malcolm. The contrasts and similarities between the two are starker, now both occupy the same positions in the story: nearer the centre but not in it, wise voices no one listens to until it’s too late, both also afflicted with the hubris they call out in others. Both, of course, are paid by big business.
Wu now has long hair and a chunky knit, his face etched with the worries of 30 years playing God’s scientist, trying to justify it then trying to fix it and making it worse. He was always an interesting character — pushing the boundaries of science, always thinking more DNA alterations will make up for the innumerable dinosaur-related disasters that have gone before — and a fascinating juxtaposition to Malcolm, whose doomy pronouncements about the human race are starting to sound lazy.
Thanks to my son’s clamouring I’ve now seen this twice. We understood more the second time, though no one should have to sit through five hours for a story to vaguely make sense. And at 2.5 hours Jurassic World: Dominion is way too long.
Much doesn’t add up. How likely is it that Blue would pitch up nesting right near Owen Grady’s home, four years on? Why is Blue’s virgin birth still essential to Dr Henry Wu’s research when dinosaurs began breeding without males years ago? Why does Dodgson want to take control of the food chain when it would be so destabilising and kill millions — it surely can’t just be to position Biosyn as the ultimate apex predator? Maybe I missed these explanations, or maybe, like Malcolm’s accusations of those Biosyn employees, our fascination with dinosaurs is dazzling us to the gaps everywhere else.
Truly, some are dazzling. I loved the Pyroraptor that looked like a giant, red-feathered turkey, extremely vicious while resembling a puppet out of a children’s TV show; and the long clawed Therizinosaurus, holding its nails out like me after an expensive and still-drying manicure. If only they appeared more often; the creatures often seem like extras in a potboiler thriller.
There are some stunning visuals too: Claire slithering along the forest floor into a dank pond to escape a dinosaur, lush green foliage a backdrop to her red hair; and herds of the creatures slowly making their way to sanctuary as fire rains down.
This is the final film of the Jurassic World trilogy, and generally I have a lot of affection for maligned third movies: Jurassic Park III, the one everyone hates; Alien 3 which everyone hates; and Jaws 3D, which everyone also hates. I even like Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, the one where Santa has to stop bad boy Jack Frost taking over Christmas. Maybe it’s because I’m also an under-appreciated third child?
Whatever, Jurassic World: Dominion is not joining that hallowed list. Not when Jurassic World had one of the series’ most ridiculous memes, Claire Dearing fighting off dinosaurs in a white suit and heels; and Fallen Kingdom the saddest, that poor Brachiosaurus wailing mournfully for help from the shore of Isla Nublar, before succumbing to acrid smoke and lava.
Watch the Jurassic World: Dominion trailer now: