The theme park horror of Jurassic Park has become a globetrotting James Bond style adventure in Jurassic World Dominion, the final entry in director Colin Trevorrow’s trilogy of Jurassic World movies.
Packed with plentiful dinosaur action (in the second half, at least) and nostalgic nods to the earlier Jurassic Park movies including returning primary cast members, Jurassic World Dominion is the best film in the new series, though the half hour of theme park rampage in the first Jurassic World remains a high point.
Jurassic World: Dominion picks up a few years after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, with protagonists Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) raising surrogate daughter Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) in the wilds of British Columbia. Maisie is the human clone they rescued in the earlier film, and the target of multinational corporations who want to exploit her DNA. Somehow.
In a world overrun by dinosaurs, meanwhile, Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is tracking the real threat to humanity: swarms of genetically-modified locusts that are eating up all the crops in Texas. All the crops, coincidentally, that haven’t been planted with BioSyn Genetics seed.
Luckily, Ellie has an invite to get into BioSyn’s top-secret lab in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains thanks to old pal and new corporate hire Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldbum). And just for fun, she re-connects with archeologist and fellow Jurassic Park survivor Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and brings him along for the ride to investigate BioSyn and gather proof of wrongdoings.
Only drawback: the BioSyn lab also happens to be in the middle of the world’s largest dinosaur sanctuary.
Jurassic World Dominion takes a good hour to set up all of the narrative’s moving parts, but kicks into high-gear about halfway through and never lets up. Early scenes are particularly light on dinosaur action, but once the film gets to Malta things take off with a spectacular chase across the streets and rooftops of historic Valletta.
The Valletta scenes are a clear highlight, with dinosaurs escaping from black-market captivity and chomping down on scooter-riding tourists. Dichen Lachman makes a strong impression as early villain Santos, who marks Owen and Claire as prey for a pack of raptors that relentlessly chase them across the city.
Less compelling, meanwhile, is Jurassic World Dominion‘s central villain played by Campbell Scott. BioSyn CEO Lewis Dodgson is a blank slate with little backstory or motivation, and if he has a motive beyond profit we never really understand it.
And yet there should have been something to work with here: Dodgson was the character from the first movie who paid Nedry to steal InGen’s genetic secrets. Even diehard fans might struggle to make the connection, despite the appearance of a Barbasol canister (Scott replaces convicted sex offender Cameron Thor in the role). Newcomers played by Mamoudou Athie and DeWanda Wise are also given little to work with, other than assisting the heroes early and often.
Dern, Neill, and Goldblum, who had a brief cameo in the previous Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, aren’t just nostalgic throw-ins to pad Jurassic World Dominion‘s fan appeal. They’re given half of the narrative to work with, and effortlessly steal the show from leads Pratt and Howard, whose awkward romance is even addressed on-screen.
There’s leftover stuff from the previous films that doesn’t work here, including some “woah girl” raptor-wrangling and Owen’s ongoing relationship with Blue, a CGI carnivore with whom Pratt shares more chemistry than his co-star.
But thanks to the old pros, and also to final third of the film set in the deadly forests and caverns below the Dolemites, Jurassic World Dominion rises to heights that the previous two films did not. By the end of the movie, the dinosaurs feel both awe-inspiring and threatening once again, and a world overrun by them feels like a prime setup for the Jurassic franchise to take a new direction.