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Film Review: Is Jurassic Park: Dominion truly the final chapter of a 29-year film odyssey?

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In 1993, the world wasn’t quite prepared when the film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s bestselling novel Jurassic Park was turned into a film. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it came with terror, thrills, a beautiful score from the great John Williams, and provided iconic images that will live in cinematic history. Of course, it had a lot of dinosaurs too, which became the blueprint that every succeeding film in the series has followed. Now, 29 years later, this series is finally ready to close this chapter.

Jurassic World: Dominion finds the pair of Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) hiding in the Sierra Nevada mountains. They’ve been raising Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon) on their own because she is being hunted for her DNA.

While Claire has been trying to help free dinosaurs that are being abused in captivity, a new breed of locust has been developed by BioSyn Genetics and its CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). BioSyn’s experiments have given the locusts DNA from the Cretaceous Era and threatening the world’s food supply. 

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This raises the interest of paleobotanist Ellie Sadler (Laura Dern) as the locusts are avoiding all BioSyn crops. She contacts old flame and paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) to help find out what BioSyn is doing with the locusts.

Chafing under Claire and Owen’s overprotection, Maisie is aching to get out of their cabin and meet people. The velociraptor that Owen trained, Blue, unexpectedly arrives with an offspring that she produced asexually. 

Maisie and Blue’s offspring (who Maisie dubbed Beta) are then kidnapped by BioSyn mercenaries because Dodgson believes there’s something valuable about Maisie and Beta’s DNA. 

Over in BioSyn’s headquarters in Italy’s Dolomites Mountains, Ellie and Alan’s old colleague and Ellie to visit because he’s learned something disturbing about BioSyn’s practices.

In their attempts to rescue Maisie, Owen and Claire travel to Malta to infiltrate a dinosaur black market. Crossing paths with BioSyn employees and dinosaur smugglers, the duo also meet cargo plane pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), who agrees to help them find Maisie. Kayla takes them to the previously mentioned BioSyn headquarters, where all the action comes to a head.

Director Colin Trevorrow previously directed 2015’s Jurassic World and co-wrote 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom so he is as familiar with this “universe” as Pratt and Howard are. While it can be said that the 2015 film breathed new life into the franchise, the 2018 follow-up was largely forgettable.

Since 1993, every succeeding film has tried to recapture the magic that Spielberg and Williams brought to the dinosaur franchise. Perhaps that’s never been as obvious as it is now with the return of fan favorites Neill, Dern, and Goldblum to their roles.

The interactions between the three “originals” with each other and the newer actors like Pratt, Howard, and Sermon provide both nostalgia and entertaining dialogue. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite provide the same spark that Spielberg was able to capture years ago.

It’s still great to see the dinosaurs (with more and more species being added thanks to advances in technology and paleontology) on bigger HD screens. They will always be the main draw for any Jurassic Park movie. Credit to Trevorrow and the crew for introducing more feathered dinosaurs as the world’s knowledge on the ancient beasts have shown this in recent decades.

With the addition of Giganotosaurus as the largest carnivore in world history, it follows a pattern of trying to push the Tyrannosaurus aside like the genetically-enhanced Indominus rex and Indoraptor of the most recent films in the franchise. However, this sixth and supposedly final film focuses more on actual dinosaurs in the fossil record rather than made-up ones from Hollywood.

Like Goldblum, Dern, and Neill, BD Wong also returns from the original film as geneticist Henry Wu. This time around though, his character isn’t quite the morally questionable one we first met nearly three decades ago.

For all of these things, Jurassic World: Dominion is the culmination of a story first told in 1993 with characters that the late Michael Crichton created. Crichton passed away in 2008 so it’s safe to say he didn’t envision so many movies being made off his work. 

That’s where this film’s main problem lies. There’s so much history that Trevorrow is trying to wrap up, he even introduces new characters and new dinosaurs, that it feels bloated. Trying to bring the disparate stories and characters together for the film’s climax takes a while, and story exposition prolongs it even further.

For those of us lucky enough to view the first Jurassic Park in cinemas back in the day, perhaps nothing can recapture those moments when we first beheld dinosaurs as “real.” Hollywood being what it is, Universal Pictures and Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment kept going back to the well as the public’s appetite for dinosaurs still hasn’t seemed to be sated. 

Yet this film is being touted as the conclusion of the series and the end of what was begun in 1993. If the producers choose to renege on that that promise, maybe it’s time for something completely new and detached from Crichton’s novel. Maybe it’s time for the Jurassic Park films to follow the dinosaurs into extinction at last.

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