In the first installment of the “Jurassic World” trilogy, Dr. Wu, the mad scientist behind the dinosaurs, explained one of his creations to the park’s then-owner, Simon Masrani. Masrani wanted to know why the fictional Indominus Rex was such a ruthless killing machine. Wu replied, “Nothing in Jurassic World is natural, we have always filled gaps in the genome with the DNA of other animals. And if the genetic code was pure, many of them would look quite different. But you didn’t ask for reality, you asked for more teeth.”
In that movie, more teeth were a bad thing, the reason that the Indominus Rex was wreaking havoc upon the park. With “Jurassic World: Dominion,” more teeth were apparently the guiding light, for while the final film in the “Jurassic” franchise boasts an impressive ensemble cast that unites “Park” with “World,” it abandons the philosophical underpinnings of the first and instead opts solely for an action movie about dinosaurs.
When the original “Jurassic Park” landed on screens in June of 1993, Steven Spielberg took Michael Crichton’s book of the same name and created an astounding blockbuster. Grossing over $1 billion worldwide, the movie, as did the book, focused more on suspense and the ethical questions arising from bringing extinct creatures back to life than raw action. The dinosaurs were only on-screen for roughly 15 minutes of the two-hour film.
“Jurassic World Dominion,” on the other hand, has dinosaurs in basically every scene. It’s got more varieties of dinosaurs than ever. They’re everywhere. They’re on streets, in playgrounds. They’re in seedy dives where people pit them against one another and bet on the outcome. Mysterious international arms dealers sell them as weapons. There are black market breeders, which is a ginormous stretch even by “Jurassic” standards given the amount of space necessary for secretly maintaining herds of dinosaurs.
They’re even in cold climates, which actually isn’t a stretch as newer research suggests they were warm-blooded and more akin to modern birds than reptiles. Blue, the raptor Chris Pratt trained in the first “Jurassic World,” is living near Owen (Pratt), Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), and Maisie (Isabelle Sermon) in their remote cabin in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Blue also has a daughter, Beta, which she teaches to hunt in a touching scene involving a baby rabbit and dinnertime.
How the dinosaurs arrived at all these locations in such numbers is never explained. All that matters is they’re there and they’re mostly angry and hungry. Also, they hate cars and airplanes.
Editor’s note: Light spoilers ahead.
In between riveting scene after riveting scene, we get the plot that unites the globetrotting characters. Monsanto, I mean Biosyn Corporation, is headed by evil madman Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). While Dodgson was mentioned in earlier movies, he was never on screen, presumably because he was busy trying to be a villain in the “Despicable Me” universe, where he was also not on-screen, presumably for being too much of a cartoon.
In “Dominion,” though, Dodgson is there and he’s acquired the rights to most dinosaurs in the world because he wants to study their genetics for covid vaccines or something. Instead, he uses them to create giant Jurassic locusts that devour all crops except those from Biosyn seeds.
The locusts are what bring back Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant and Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler. Reunited, the pair head to Biosyn’s campus in the Dolomite Mountains to try to find the source locusts. That Dodgson kidnaps Maisie, a clone, to study her genetic sequence is how Owen and Claire get involved and end up in the heart of Biosyn alongside Grant and Sattler.
Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm is Biosyn’s in-house philosopher, which means he was conveniently already there and ready to help his old pals Grant and Sattler get access to the locusts. There were also some new characters who I’m sure will never be involved in a future “Jurassic” film, claims that “Dominion” is the finale notwithstanding.
Mostly, though, it’s just teeth. Lots and lots of teeth. Watching the movie, I quickly realized that no main characters were going to be brutally killed, which softened the litany of riveting scene after riveting scene. Dodgson, of course, gets what’s coming to him, but everyone else survives despite the fact that they should’ve been caught and eaten at least a dozen times by the film’s end. The only real twist is that Dr. Wu has a change of heart and gets his redemption by killing the locusts, the ones he created.
Which is a shame, because the source material was so great, and many of the ensuing entries were thoroughly entertaining. But rather than reiterating man’s dominion over the animals of the planet and the dangers of playing God with those animals, we get a lecture about how man does not have dominion over animals. The last word in the film is literally “coexist.” I suppose a new bumper sticker is dropping soon.
The movie doesn’t end with that word, though. Instead, the last scenes before the credits roll are similar to the final moments in “Jurassic Park,” but with more, as you may have guessed, coexisting. Rather than seeing birds gliding over the ocean, it’s pterodactyls flying with ducks, whales checking out a mosasaurus that doesn’t eat them for some reason, triceratops and elephants walking the Savanna.
It’s all very circle of life, even if Blue doesn’t hold Beta above her head while the rest of the dinosaurs sing “Hakuna Matata.”
This was likely predictable, especially as Dr. Malcolm offered this warning in the first movie: “You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and, before you even knew what you had, you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox.”
The creators of “Jurassic World: Dominion” may have stood on the shoulders of geniuses, but the only thing they had to add to the creatures they found in their dominion was more teeth.