Supposedly the franchise that began with the groundbreaking cultural touchstone Jurassic Park (1993) has reached its conclusion with Jurassic World Dominion (2022). In this final chapter the leads of the first three films team with the leads of the latest pictures to bid a fond farewell to a lucrative intellectual property. The property has proved so lucrative that Universal Pictures has decided that this “final” film should be a “greatest hits” mixed tape; a jumble of all the moments, key events, and one liners that made the films fan favorites for twenty-nine years.
It’s this approach to Jurassic World Dominion that, like Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), proves to be its greatest weakness. Jurassic World Dominion may have broadened the list of dinosaurs that have been brought back to life (mostly for the toy line) but the degree to which every scene is somehow derivative of what preceded it proves how limited the filmmakers are willing to be with regards to narrative scope. The dinosaurs may be all new, but the plot and characters are not.
This is fan service filmmaking at its most base and indulgent form. Jurassic World Dominion prioritizes repackaging material already present in the franchise to give audiences what the studio presumes they want. It is a tactic meant to protect a financial investment as much as it is to avoid the rancor of fans on various social media platforms. By the end of Jurassic World Dominion all of the “bad guys” are dead, all of the heroes’ arcs are resolved, and humanity has been redeemed.
The impulse to repackage and essentially re-play memorable scenes and characters hurts the film even more with regards to its cast. In a blockbuster where only fifty percent of what is on screen really exists it is essential that the actors fill those dramatic spaces with their charisma, chemistry, and emotional authenticity. The original stars of the franchise (Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum) are able to do this with what looks like relative ease. By contrast the stars of the previous two films (Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt) are remarkably un-compelling. No one cares more about the fate of Pratt’s “dino-whisperer” navy seal than they do Neill’s cantankerous Dr. Grant, a “digger”. This discrepancy of on-screen chemistry between the new and the old unhinges every dramatic stake. About half of Jurassic World Dominion is boring and it’s never the half with Dern, Neill and Goldblum.
In a perfect world a major studio will step in to fill the dinosaur sized void left by this franchise with a film adaptation of Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales comic book series. Xenozoic Tales deals in all of the same themes as Jurassic World Dominion while improving on the spectacle of dinosaurs walking amongst human civilization. Though that isn’t likely to actually happen, any move away from formula in the dinosaur disaster genre would be most welcome.