Jurassic World: Dominion scratches itch for nostalgia and adventure

The final entry in the trilogy, Jurassic World: Dominion brings together Jurassic World and Jurassic Park casts for more dangerous dino-ventures. The plot holes may be Brontosaurus-sized as the film races from set piece to set piece, says Adam Fresco, but there’s plenty to enjoy – not least of all the nostalgic trio of Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum.

Three Jurassic Park and now three Jurassic World movies later and the plot can still be summarised in seven words: “Dinosaurs run rampant. Heroes evade and escape.” The difference in this sixth instalment in a series famously advertised as “65 Million Years in the Making”, is that dinosaurs are now free to roam the world, and the original cast are all back.

In a world of reboots, reimaginings, sequels and prequels, the nostalgic trick of bringing back old faces for the fans never fails to thrill—from Tom Cruise returning as Maverick to reuniting the Ghostbusters, there’s an undeniable appeal in seeing the original stars resurrected along with the array of formerly extinct prehistoric beasts.

The chemistry between Sam Neill (back as Dr. Alan Grant), Laura Dern (as Dr. Ellie Sattler), and Jeff Goldblum (as Dr Ian Malcolm), still pops and fizzes—it may not be quite as thrilling to re-join them as it was to catch up with Han and Chewie on the Millennium Falcon in The Force Awakens, but it certainly scratches the nostalgia itch for anyone old enough to remember Spielberg’s franchise-launching take on Michael Crichton’s sci-fi novel, way back last century in 1993.

Sam Neill and Laura Dern get the most to do as they set off on an adventure investigating giant, genetically altered locusts that seem set on devastating the world’s food chain. Jeff Goldblum, meanwhile, gets to pop in, pop on his famous shades, undo a few shirt buttons, take off his sunglasses dramatically, and deliver the best line in the movie: “Jurassic World? Not a fan.”

If you are a fan of the two previous Jurassic World pics, and can remember the last movie’s introduction of Charlotte Lockwood (teen actor Isabella Sermon), the young girl who is a genetic clone of a billionaire’s daughter, who knew original Jurassic Park architect John Hammond, then you’ll have no problem catching up. For those with Stone Age memories like me, there’s an efficient, if clunky, opening online-newsreel-style montage to bring you up to speed.

Since the last film, dinosaurs are everywhere, and humanity needs to learn to live with (and not get eaten by) the resurrected reptiles. Cue factory farming, illegal animal testing, hunting, and unnecessary cruelty by humans exploiting prehistoric beasts, and a scary (but brief) scene of two kids on a farm being chased by a swarm of giant locusts, and the adventure kicks off before you can say “Wait”, “What?” or “Why?”

The Jurassic Park originals join the Jurassic World newbies, with Chris Pratt’s dinosaur whisperer Owen Grady back for a third round alongside Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing, BD Wong as Dr Henry Wu, and French star Omar Sy as Barry. Pratt is no Harrison Ford and, despite his engaging characterisation of Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy, outside of the MCU he remains rather bland, with little to flesh him out as anything other than the generic hero with a sense of humour, and a knack for making dinosaurs heel.

The new cast didn’t have that much to do in their first two outings, and while this third does at least try to develop them somewhat, their characters are thrown into shade by the returning original cast members, who seem like fuller, more fun characters. Sure, that may just be nostalgia talking or several decades of audience familiarity, but there’s no denying the screen lights up a little brighter every time the camera catches Neill, Dern or Goldblum doing their “Oh no, not again” thing.

I could complain about the squishing together of old and new franchise characters, the bloated plotting, the convoluted narrative, and the film’s desire to rush, rush, rush to the next set piece action scene, the next new dinosaur species, and the next unlikely twist, but that would be to miss the point. A point encapsulated in those seven words of the franchise’s essential elevator pitch: “Dinosaurs run rampant. Heroes evade and escape.” Which they do. And with new species running rampant, in new locations, there’s lots to enjoy as our protagonists run, evade, and escape in a string of set piece action scenes that are staged with mounting excitement, nonsensical logic, and sheer cinematic glee.

Hats off to some fantastic special effects and editing, which grip the attention, and hurl the spectator through the action at such a rip-roaring pace you might almost forget that the pieces don’t add up to much of a whole. But those pieces are such well-staged action scenes that, as with the previous sequels, the fact that the narrative is a bit of a mess hardly matters, because prehistoric nit-picking would be disingenuous. This is a family franchise built as a thrill-ride, based on setting up that there are real, live dinosaurs loose in the modern world (because, um, Science), that those with a taste for meat and mayhem are relentless predators, and we make for weak and tasty prey.

The big bad here is a bio-tech firm, run by Campbell Scott playing a blonde Steve Jobs, with the moral scruples of a billionaire velociraptor. The morality is basically Frankenstein, with science playing God, and interfering in genetics with monstrous results, and the modern twist is the environmental message that bringing back an extinct species evokes. But that should never get in the way of good, old fashioned, chase-and-escape adventure. At its best, that’s what Dominion delivers and it delivers it by the dinosaur bucket-load. From the Therizinosaurus, Atrociraptors, and huge Giganotosaurus, there are new beasts aplenty, lumbering across city roads, through snowy peaks, swimming in oceans, flying through the sky and ripping holes in airplanes.

Talking of holes, those in the plot are gigantic, with far too many scenes relying on unlikely coincidence. Characters crash land, and just so happen to meet up with others amidst giant jungle landscapes, or arrive just in the nick of time to save someone from being just so much dino-snack. Improbable plotting aside, it’s the CGI and animatronic dinosaurs that steal the show, although the real, puppeteered creatures look pretty rubbery on the big screen compared to their digital counterparts. But despite the plot holes, incredible coincidences, narrative bloat, and character overload, if you’re after a Jurassic World sequel that also thinks it’s a James Bond and Indiana Jones hybrid then you can’t go far wrong with this big screen adventure.

Dominion proves a diverting if uneven adventure, with plot holes big enough for a Brontosaurus to burst through. But if cinema is all about escaping reality, then director Colin Trevorrow’s sequel delivers on the promise of uniting old and new cast members in a seat-shaking family adventure that’s big, dumb and, above all, fun.