Jurassic World: Dominion Falters on Heavy-Handed Eco-Disaster Message
A moment existed in the Jurassic World franchise when businessmen were human, like the rest of us. That moment has passed.
Unlike the 2018 movie Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (see my Independent Institute review here), and even the first movie in the trilogy, Jurassic World: Dominion‘s filmmakers threw away any pretense of nuance or layering. Instead, they crafted a heavy-handed, apocalyptic tale of man-made environmental disaster, all in the pursuit of profit and world domination.
The 2022 movie, which is otherwise a satisfying dinosaur romp, suffers as a result.
Transparent Plot Weakens Story
In Dominion, the evil doer is Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott, House of Cards, The Amazing Spider-Man franchise), CEO of Biosyn Genetics (or perhaps bio “sin” genetics?). While Biosyn is managing a dinosaur sanctuary amidst the peaks of Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, audiences know within the first few minutes that this is a sham. After all, they had just seen dinosaur preservationist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, As You Like It, The Help) rescue a suffering baby dinosaur from an illegal breeder. Then, a swarm of genetically engineered, gigantic locusts devoured acres of non-genetically modified crops.
Such transparency in the plot does not serve the movie, or the story well. Eschewing nuance or complexity, Jurassic Park: Dominion plays out more like a conventional James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie. It never really grapples with serious global concerns. As a result, the action and suspense focus more on dinosaur chases, heartless mercenaries, and humans trying to avoid being eaten.
Jurassic World Dominion Works as a Simple Action Film
As a simple action film, Jurassic World: Dominion largely works, even if it’s not providing much to the franchise, to understanding of environmental problems, or to the long-arc of the trilogy.
To the naive outside world, Biosyn is a socially responsible company; it’s assisting in preserving dinosaurs and relocating dangerous ones. But dinosaur preservationist Claire Dearing, paleontologist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern, Marriage Story, Little Women), and their colleagues are not convinced.
Dearing and her partner, dinosaur behaviorist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, Passengers, Guardians of the Galaxy series) live in a secluded area of the Sierra Nevada mountains. When they are not busting illegal breeding facilities (Dearing), or wrangling dinosaurs (Pratt), they are struggling to raise a teenage Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). Maisie is the cloned daughter of Charlotte Lockwood, the daughter of Sir Benjamin Lockwood, who unwittingly created the carnage in Fallen Kingdom.
Now, Dodgson wants to study Maisie’s DNA and genetic code for, as Wikipedia accurately says, “various nefarious schemes.” His cronies kidnap her along with the offspring of the Velociraptor Blue, who was trained by Owen in Fallen Kingdom.
In short, Biosyn is a fully developed weapons trader and manufacturer with a psychopath at the helm. Dodgson wants to control the world, and he’s going to use dinosaurs, rather than nuclear weapons, to do it.
All this makes Jurassic World Dominion less interesting, probing, and surprising. It’s an unfortunate break from the previous films which at least preserved the humanity of some of its villains. (See also Chapter 3 in my book Contemporary Film and Economics for more on how entrepreneurs and business owners are treated in Jurassic World and other major movies.)
Still a Satisfying Dinosaur Romp
For those who enjoyed the previous Jurassic World movies, Dominion will still be a satisfying dinosaur romp. The digital imagery is even more realistic, the production more lavish, and the action sequences are heart stopping. Unlike James Bond and Mission: Impossible films, the principal protagonists remain in remarkably human form, relying on grit, cunning, and courage to overcome extraordinary odds. They don’t have super powers. This makes Jurassic World: Dominion a worthwhile PG-13 family film. (Hint: don’t take the little ones).