JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION
Starring Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Isabella Sermon, Campbell Scott, BD Wong, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie
Written by Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow
Story by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow
Based on characters created by Michael Chrichton
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Produced by Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley
Executive producers, Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow
Director of photography, John Schwartzman
Edited by Mark Sanger
Music by Michael Giacchino
Production design by Kevin Jenkins
By Matt Neufeld
“Jurassic World Dominion,” the sixth film in the durable “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” film series that stretches all the way back to the debut film’s initial release twenty-nine years ago in 1993, is–it is so happy to report–a fun, funny, rousing, dazzling and thoroughly thrilling and entertaining good ol’ fashioned popcorn sci-fi monster-movie summer blockbuster that instantly restores faith in moviegoing, seeing movies in real movie theaters and the tradition and idea of the classic summer blockbuster, and, to boot, the movie is also a welcome, enjoyable and positive addition to the entire “Jurassic” franchise.
“Jurassic World Dominion” is the thrill-ride movie to see this summer, and the movie should be seen only up on the big screen–in actual, real, brick-and-mortar movie theaters. Bring your friends, bring your acquaintances, bring the kids–there is nothing really objectionable in the movie–and, yes, even bring the folks who you know who are not diehard sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural fans. This is all noted because, to its credit, and very much like 2021’s equally excellent “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Jurassic World Dominion” is indeed the type of summer (or other season) blockbuster that everyone, no matter your particular taste in entertainment genres, can just sit back, watch and enjoy–and it’s the type of easily-accessible movie where moviegoers can easily let their minds and thoughts and imagination go wandering to other, more interesting worlds in a consistently fun, thrills-and-chills, rollercoaster manner.
You know, like many sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural movies used to be on a more consistent basis–before the maddeningly over-done, over-produced and overly-repetitive and unimaginative superhero comic book conglomerate assembly line machinery production of cookie-cutter movies unfortunately took over the movies. Instead of succumbing to the many flaws of those over-indulgent, over-produced and over-exposed films, “Jurassic World Dominion” instead is happy to revel in its own, individual little big world, which is, in a nutshell, a pretty simple world: cloned dinosaurs run amuck on Earth amid various nefarious corporate conspiracies, threatening the very existence of mankind and the world’s already-fragile ecosystems.
Although, essentially, all six films in the “Jurassic Park/World” series play off this basic theme, the films succeed because of the varied ways this basic theme is presented, dissected, analyzed and explored in differing story lines. Of course, not all of these films were great, and the argument could be made that all six are just repetitive variations on a theme themselves, but the argument could also be made that most of these films in the series are ultimately wildly entertaining on a purely popcorn, monster-movie level, and, as much as they could, the filmmakers at least tried to keep things entertaining, no matter the apparent storytelling shortcomings.
In other words, if you suspend your disbelief and your brain cells enough, and if you just sit back and enjoy the always-fascinating, terrifying and suspenseful spectacle of monstrous prehistoric dinosaurs roaring, stomping, clomping, marauding and destroying most of everything in their frightening path, these movies can succeed at entertaining moviegoers on several basic, instant-gratification filmic levels.
However, “Dominion” rises above the occasional sameness of some of its predecessors and succeeds not just because of its amazing array of domineering dinosaurs–and there are plenty–but because it’s a damn good movie, succeeding in all major filmic areas–production, direction, writing and acting. And, the movie also succeeds because of several other major distinctive aspects: there is, amid the abundant action, adventure and suspense, an underlying sense of humor and welcome nostalgia, which lends a nice sense of warmth to the story; along with those qualities, the movie is also wonderfully–yes, wonderfully–hopeful, positive and optimistic, even amid all the chaos and mayhem, and, lawdy mamma, can the world use some hope, positivity and optimism right now; there are numerous well-choreographed and designed action, chase and stunt sequences, and all of them are genuinely thrilling to watch; and, if you’re ready for this statement, “Dominion” actually tends to recall–in nothing but a good way–nothing less than a classic, good James Bond film. That’s right, this sci-fi, action adventure, marauding dinosaur movie is indeed very much like a good Bond film. And if there’s a high compliment to be paid to any sci-fi action adventure movie, that’s it.
The “Dominion” story centers on a quite crazy mad scientist and corporate mogul, Lewis Dodgson, bizarrely, uniquely and strangely (in a good way), played by Campbell Scott, who wants to use genetically-engineered dinosaur insects and other diabolical cloning measures to dominate and control the world’s food supply, ensuring that his high-tech scientific research corporation, Biosyn Genetics, reaps the subsequent rich rewards and power. Bondian, very Bondian.
The roguish, rebellious and dashing band of heroes–all likable in their, well, roguish, rebellious and dashing ways–set out to infiltrate, uncover and destroy Hodgdon’s plans. This mission, of course, involves the assistance of various spies, agents, double agents, operatives, field informants, inside men, turned inside men, military and ex-military soldiers of fortune with various skills that they know how to use very well, and other spycraft sources. Bondian, very Bondian.
Along the way, there’s an appropriate array of car and motorcycle chases, fights, guns, exotic locales, elaborate sets, beautiful women, scary and secluded mad scientist labs and research facilities conducting all manners of evil cloning and genetic research, and some basic good-versus-evil life lessons and messages. Bondian, very Bondian.
There are some action and stunt sequences that rival some of the better action and stunt sequences in some Bond films, including a thrill-ride, gripping motorcycle chase through the exotic streets and alleys of Malta, and a foot chase over rooftops–all just happening to also involve ravenous roaring scary dinosaurs joining in the chases. Still Bondian, very Bondian.
The “Dominion” story picks up after the events of 2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” in which, essentially, dinosaurs escaped from captivity and started to freely roam the world that they used to roam about, oh, 65 million years ago in the Pre-Cloning Age.
Now, with dinosaurs threatening everything alongside Dodgson concurrently threatening everything, it’s up to the heroes of the “Jurassic World” films–ethologist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, a still captivating, strong and confident leading-man-hero presence), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (a still beautiful and confident Bryce Dallas Howard) and Maisie Lockwood (a plucky, independent and confident Isabella Sermon)–to join forces with the still-strong and confident heroes of the three “Park”-era films and stop Dodgson, destroy his dangerous, threatening labs, destiny the genetically-altered creatures he has created, prevent Maisie–who is a clone herself–from being kidnapped by Dodgson and his thugs, somehow introduce some science fiction mumbo-jumbo thingamajig to help prevent the free roaming dinosaurs from eating everyone and everything, and, along the way, help save the world.
Those three original characters are, of course, the always-lovable, reassuring, brave and quite- brilliant paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (a now-silver-fox-style, dashing, Indiana Jones-style, but still down-to-earth Sam Neill); the also quite-brilliant paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (a still quirky and down-home Laura Dern); and.yes, the also-quite-brilliant mathematician and chaos theory expert Dr. Ian Malcolm (thankfully and most welcome, a still uniquely, originally and distinctively quirky Jeff Goldblum). It’s simply a joy and a pleasure to see Neill, Dern and Goldblum just having a blast onscreen, re-establishing their great chemistry, having a great time in general and bringing everything full circle for this 29-year-old film series.
And it’s equally satisfying to see Neill, Dern and Goldblum effortlessly mesh and bond with Pratt, Howard and Sermon. Add to this strong and talented mix, original 1993 “Jurassic Park” actor BD Wong, reprising his role as the, yes, also quite- brilliant geneticist Dr. Henry Wu, and the band is fully back together. All of these talented actors shine in “Dominion,” and they all seem to be just enjoying the chance to act together and concurrently bring together the “Park” and “World” worlds.
Director, co-writer and co-executive producer Colin Trevorrow keeps the movie tightly-paced and tightly-edited; he makes sure to maintain that great chemistry, positivity and bonding among his actors; he provides plenty of those aforementioned action and stunt sequences; he keeps that humor and warmth going throughout the movie; and, naturally, the visual, computer and special effects are consistently excellent. Filmic technology has improved and changed in 29 years, of course, but, to the movie’s credit, the dinosaurs in “Dominion” remain just as thrilling, chilling, scary, suspenseful and frightening as they were in all of the series’ previous movies.
Plenty of credit, of course, needs to be directed to the hundreds of special effects artists who worked on this film. Kudos, too, for the members of the production design, art and set design, and action and stunt crews for their excellent work on the film. The production, set and art design shine. Additionally, composer Michael Giacchino’s stirring, sweeping musical score and John Schwartzman’s cinematography provide additional excellence to the film.
It’s so nice to hear a real, musical score in a movie again–with real, memorable melodies, harmonies and rhythms that actually accompany the story and characters, and actually help to tell the story.
And, finally, overseeing everything still, happily and fortunately and assuredly, are the stalwart veterans Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall. Marshall co-produced and Spielberg co-executive-produced with Trevorrow. The Spielberg-Marshall imprint and influence still reigns over this film series, as prominently and confidently and loudly as the monstrous footprints left in the dirt and dust of history by those marauding dinosaurs. And that’s another good thing, too.
“Jurassic World Dominion,” again, to its endearing and enduring credit–and this is decidedly not a spoiler on any level, please be assured–ends on a positive, optimistic and hopeful note. The heroes save the day, the end of mankind and the world’s biological and ecological balance are averted, our heroes live to fight and research for the betterment of the world and the future, and, yes, our new world dominion counterparts, the dinosaurs, eventually learn to live and thrive peacefully alongside the rest of the world’s creatures. There’s a reassuring message of hope in “Jurassic World Dominion,” and if we can leave the movie theater entertained, happy that good can yet again triumph over evil, and hopeful that perhaps one day, even dinosaurs, these ancient, regal residents of this equally-ancient planet, can live and fight for yet another day or million years, then, for a nice, shining moment, all is right with the world.