Mike at the Movies: Jurassic World Dominion: The Extinction of the Jurassic Franchise?


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Jurassic World Dominion (PG-13) concludes the trilogy of the 2015 reboot of the original Jurassic Park trilogy that began in 1993 and ended in 2001. Got that? (There might be a quiz later.) It also purports to be the capstone to a franchise that has raked in nearly $6 billion (and counting) at the box office.

No more Jurassic excursions? Yeah, sure. I’ll believe this is really the end of the Hollywood dino-train when pterosaurs stop flying.

Taking a page from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dominion unites two of the iconic cast members of the first trilogy (Drs. Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler, played by Sam Neill and Laura Dern, respectively) with the mainstays of the reboots (dinosaur wrangler Owen Grady and park-executive-turned-dino-advocate Claire Dearing, played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, respectively). 

Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who’s floated through both trilogies as a sort of one-man Greek chorus, is back, too, offering an “I told you so” every time things go disastrously wrong. And “disastrously wrong” is baked into the DNA of these attempts by corporate scientists to tamper with the forces of nature.

The latest high-tech conglomerate that schemes to make a hefty profit from exploiting dinosaurs for nefarious purposes is Biosyn, headed by its mysteriously reclusive CEO, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), who gives off definite Bond-villain vibes from inside his fortified mountain lair in the Dolomites of northern Italy. 

Ellie Sattler is convinced Biosyn is responsible for a plague of dino locusts the size of crows threatening the world’s food supply. She coaxes an invite from Biosyn’s in-house celebrity philosopher Ian Malcolm – who abashedly admits to having sold out for the money – to visit the laboratories to prove her suspicions that the company is up to no good. She takes along a skeptical Alan Grant for support.

Reaching the same conclusion from a different direction are Owen and Claire. They’ve been living “off grid,” fostering Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the cute but precocious cloned daughter of super-genius Margaret Lockwood of Fallen Kingdom fame; and tending to Blue, Owen’s simpatico raptor. This makes them targets of corporate assassins working for Dodgson. They kidnap the girl and Blue’s baby dino, whom Dodgson considers key to Biosyn’s plans for world domination.

After surviving a harrowing encounter with a team of raptors programmed to kill them, Owen and Claire become all the more determined to gain entry to the Biosyn compound to rescue Maisie. They’re aided by ace pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who once worked for Dodgson before discovering she had principles. Eventually, this intrepid trio joins forces with Ellie, Alan and Ian to form a super team of dino avengers.

Co-writer and director Colin Trevorrow, maker of the original Jurassic World, pays lip service to topical themes of climate destruction and corporate profiteering, but this is really nothing more than a big, dumb, glorious reprise of the franchise’s greatest hits, with some of the series’ most unforgettable moments restaged to exciting (if familiar) effect. Ellie and Alan get to look astonished beholding a new generation of dinos; Owen gets to rescue Claire with his surefire “talk to the hand” method for subduing angry meat-eaters; and Ian gets to say, “I told you so” again and again as catastrophe threatens to swallow them whole.

I’m not sure what’s next for this money-making behemoth (Jurassic Universe, with dinosaurs in space?), but I can’t believe Dominion ends things when there’s still cash to be had. This is one apex predator of a movie franchise that’s guaranteed to devour summer box-office dollars, and that’s an idea that will never go extinct in Hollywood.

Jurassic World Dominion is currently in theaters, but look for it to stream on Peacock sometime later in August.