'Jurassic World Dominion' review: a nostalgic joy that doesn't live in the past

Original characters reunite to bring the trilogy to a close — with an important message for today's audience

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Almost 30 years since the T-rex stomped its way into movie history, Hollywood’s premium dinosaur saga comes full circle.

Jurassic World Dominion not only brings the recent trilogy of films to a close, but also reunites us with the so-called legacy characters not seen together since Steven Spielberg’s game-changing 1993 sci-fi thriller Jurassic Park. Yes, Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum return, older and wiser.

It feels good to have them back.

'Jurassic World Dominion'

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt

Rating: 4/5

Colin Trevorrow, who co-wrote and directed 2015’s Jurassic World and has since become a major custodian of the franchise, returns to Dominion’s hot seat, after 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was led by J A Bayona.

That film finally had the dinosaurs escape into the world and now, four years on, they walk among us. With governments struggling to contain these creatures, Biosyn Genetics has been awarded the sole containment rights.

Run by a slick visionary, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott), his corporation is clearly up to no good.

Dern’s Dr Ellie Sattler is investigating a plague of giant locusts, which are hoovering up crops and threatening a catastrophic famine.

She recruits Neill’s palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant, and they head to Biosyn in the hope of gathering evidence, after a tip-off from the company’s “in-house philosopher”, their old friend Dr Ian Malcolm (Goldblum).

Meanwhile, living in the Sierra Nevada mountains is former velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and dinosaur activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who have hidden away Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the cloned girl they encountered in Fallen Kingdom.

However, when Maisie is kidnapped, it sparks a search that initially takes them to Malta, where they run into Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), a former US Air Force pilot now shipping dinosaurs for a living.

Written by Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael, the story brings the film back to its roots — this hi-tech tale is exactly the sort of plotline Michael Crichton, who wrote the 1990 novel on which Spielberg’s movie was based, might have dreamt up.

With the power of genetics central to the story, it recalls the seed for Crichton’s own original book, when DNA is extracted from mosquitos frozen in amber to begin the process of recreating these prehistoric predators.

“We not only lack dominion over nature … we’re subordinate to it,” lectures Malcolm, and Dominion does a fine job of exploring real-world ecological issues that we all face.

It’s also enormous, packing a lot into its two hours and 26 minutes run time. Once Claire, Owen and Kayla arrive at Biosyn’s spectacular preserve in the Dolomite Mountains, Italy, in search of Maisie, the film ups the ante.

Danger lurks at every corner in the valley where the dinosaurs roam freely.

There are encounters with familiar creatures, though the best moments come with dinosaurs new to the franchise: Owen and Kayla on an icy lake facing off with a Pyroraptor; Claire submerged in the water hiding from the Therizinosaurus; and Alan and Ellie menaced underground by sharp-toothed dimetrodons.

The film’s latest apex predator, the Giganotosaurus, has its moments, too — though, perhaps it’s not quite as thrilling as, say, the Spinosaurus from 2001’s Jurassic Park III, that last time Neill and Dern played their roles.

Newcomers such as DeWanda Wise and Mamoudou Athie, who plays Dodgson’s protege Ramsay Cole, are worthy additions to the franchise, while Isabella Sermon is surprisingly effective as Maisie, a girl still trying to figure out her place in the world.

As for nods to the original movie, they are plentiful — right from when Dern arrives in West Texas, taking her sunglasses off in a blatant reminder of her look of amazement when she first sets eyes on grazing brachiosaurs. Yet Trevorrow wisely doesn’t overplay the fan service or nostalgia.

Dominion is too urgent a story for that.

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Updated: June 14, 2022, 6:00 AM
'Jurassic World Dominion'

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt

Rating: 4/5