Five sequels and almost 30 years after Steven Spielberg’s magnificent original Jurassic Park in 1993, the rate of return on what should be a surefire premise – humans vs dinosaurs in a variety of exotic and familiar locales – has been bafflingly poor, even Spielberg himself struggling to recapture the magic in 1997’s The Lost World. Even with these standards in mind, though, there was little way to predict just how purely dismal the latest franchise entry, Jurassic World Dominion, would be. Easily the nadir of the series, it’s also the worst blockbuster of 2022 so far, and may well go on to be the year’s most awful film, regardless of genre.
Picking up a few years after the events of Fallen Kingdom, Dominion opens with its best sequence as it explains how the release of dinosaurs into the wild has tested both humanity and the earth’s ecosystem as a whole – it says a huge amount that the only energetic and enjoyable set-piece is the first scene of the movie and features no named characters. It’s a relatively fresh and exciting premise, but one which is immediately cratered by returning director Colin Trevorrow and co-writer Emily Carmichael, as they ignore the wild dinos idea in favour of an excruciatingly boring and over-complicated conspiracy plot.
Evil corporation BioSyn (come on now) is using genetically engineered Cretaceous-era locusts to destroy farms that won’t buy their crop seeds, threatening the planet’s food chain, all while hunting for velociraptor Blue and the clone kid Maisie that you probably don’t remember from the last film. Maisie is under the protection of charisma-vacuum leads Owen (Chris Pratt) and Clare (Bryce Dallas Howard), so they’re soon engaged in the conspiracy, which has also caught the attention of original Jurassic Park heroes Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Alan Grant (Sam Neill).
This ‘legacy sequel’ meetup between the new and old protagonists – also including Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) – is Dominion’s big selling point, but by bringing in the old guard (who all look profoundly bored), Trevorrow only serves to remind us just how bland and lifeless this new Jurassic era is. Pratt and Howard have no charm or chemistry and the recreating of iconic moments lands with a dull thud, devoid of the awe and wonder of the original.
The first Jurassic Park wanted us to be amazed with the world it built and the long-extinct creatures it brought back to life with still-astonishing special effects. Dominion never seems to care about the dinosaurs, instead delivering us a knockoff Bourne plot that occasionally features some velociraptors for flavouring. There’s never any reason to care about the story, never any real peril or tension, and the whole thing makes so little sense that you’ll check out well before the ending.
The end result of these failings is one of the most staggeringly boring films I’ve seen in recent years, every minute of the interminable two-and-a-half hour runtime seeming to drag on forever. Action scenes are derivative and abysmally shot (there aren’t even any fun dinosaur kills, which should be the most basic ingredient), while most of the dialogue borders on the actively painful, not even Dern or Goldblum able to make a dent. The new cast members, from DeWanda Wise as gung-ho pilot Kayla to Mamadou Athie as BioSyn exec Ramsay, fare particularly poorly, reduced to mere plot devices whose motivations are neither clear nor logical.
If there is a saving grace to be found, it’s in the creature designs; the baby dinosaurs are adorable, while a long-clawed and feathery beasty is legitimately creepy, all brought to life by great effects work by both the animatronic and CG teams. But this isn’t anywhere near enough to redeem such a sloppy and lazy piece of franchise filmmaking, doing far less than the bare minimum to deserve your time or money.