The age of the dinosaurs has come to an end. And there are many who are celebrating its demise.
Although the franchise has seen tremendous financial success over the past three decates, few of the entries have been a hit with critics. Other than the (still) brilliant original, many have felt (rightly) that the sequels have been somewhat of a mixed bag, either relying too heavily on nostalgia or just plain ridiculous. But its latest instalment,?Jurassic World: Dominion, has found itself utterly blasted by poor reviews across the board.
Spoiler alert: this won?t be one of them. (Well, not entirely.)
Directed by Colin Trevorrow,?Jurassic World: Dominion?takes place four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar. Since that fateful day, the once-secluded dinosaurs have spread across the globe, living and hunting alongside the human race. However, when a new species threatens the global food industry, Dr. Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern), Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) reunite to prevent global catastrophe. Meanwhile, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are also working hard to discover what mega-corporation BioSyn wants with their daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) as she may hold the key to solving the mystery herself.
Every longstanding franchise comes to a point where they have to change the formula in order to survive. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Admittedly, the Jurassic world wrote itself into a corner with the ending of the previous installment,?Fallen Kingdom. By unleashing dinosaurs to rule the earth, the franchise opened a Pandora?s Box without any way to close it. All of a sudden, a series that found its greatest success telling stories about a group of people fighting for survival an enclosed environment completely reversed their formula.?
The series that began as a Lost World had transformed into Land of the Lost.
Now, as the beasts of history were trampling wide-open spaces around the world, the franchise was forced to pivot. Given the impossible task of attempting to re-create the magic of a classic film, Dominion has had all of its rules changed. How do you attempt to wrap up an iconic franchise when the previous installment threw away the things that made it work? (In fact, one could argue that, like the characters in the film itself, the screenwriters are clearly trying to make the best of a bad situation.)
In a lot of ways, one has to respect the franchise for trying to make the old feel fresh. After all, they had been using similar formulas for the last 30 years with varying degrees of success. Ambitious and wild, Dominion is an attempt to bring an aging franchise into a whole new (Jurassic) world. As a result, the film is chaotic, silly and often non-sensical.
But, dang it, I enjoyed myself.
Over the years, there?s been much debate as to whether certain films are ?cinema? or nothing more than ?theme park rides?, as though there is some definitive line between the two sides.?Dominion?may be the film that hits both targets. Broad in its scope, this film feels as though the viewer has paid their ticket, gotten into the boat and takes a trip through a world of wild and possibilities. Whereas early films in the franchise attempted to delve into the moral high ground of scientific achievement,?Dominion?has no such sensibilities. (I believe it Shakespeare would say that it’s fueled by ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing’.) Instead, it simply wants to play with the toys they?ve created and unleash them in their new environment. Gone is much of the social commentary that marked Spielberg?s original, now replaced by scene after scene of monster-mayhem.
But it?s having fun doing it.
As (supposedly) the last film in the franchise, a clear effort has been made to bring the past and present together. By reuniting original characters with legacy cast, Dominion is very interested in bringing generations together. Wisely, the older characters are far more than cameos. Similar to the returnees in Spider-Man: No Way Home, beloved characters like Ellie Sadler, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm are allowed to affect the plot. Although the film is drenched in nostalgia, there remains a certain level of satisfaction in seeing them back together onscreen.
As with previous entries, there is an admiration of the natural world that pervades the film as well. At every opportunity, Dominion wants you to know that the filmmakers still care about the dinosaurs, even if the beasts almost feel as though they are the background as opposed to in it. With nature now lording over the ?civilized? world, these monsters are simply looking for a way to make their home among us. No longer are they for our amusement, yet they still carry the Spielberg-ian sense of wonder. (For example, an Apatosaurus slowly wandering through a lumber site is only one moment of many where humanity pauses to admire their new dino-roommates.)
As such, there is a deeper level of humility for nature in this than any of the other films. Whereas previous entries were about attempting to gain control of the nature world, Dominion recognizes that humanity is no longer the top of the food chain. (?Humanity has no more right to be top of the food chain than any other species,? pines Ian Malcolm.) The damage has been done and we must accept the reality that we?ve created. The past cannot be changed? so what does it mean to live in the moment that is here?
Right now, there are many who feel like Jurassic World: Dominion is an extinction-level event. But this reviewer simply doesn?t agree. Although there are moments that are laughable, Dominion?s insanity is wrapped in gleeful silliness. Is it the best of the franchise? Not at all. But, despite what some may say, it isn?t the worst either.
Admittedly, one needs to lower their expectations for Dominion if they believe it will achieve the heights of the original. But, if you?re willing to hop onboard for a journey into dino-chaos, there?s no reason that you won?t enjoy the ride.
Jurassic World: Dominion roars into theatres on Friday, June 10th, 2022.