Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion) — ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
This time around I’ll be examining the Jurassic Franchise! The sixth installment in the series, Jurassic World: Dominion (2022) is in the out now. How does it impact the rest of the franchise? Read on to find out!
Thanks to COVID-19, it’s been a minute since we’ve been treated to a trip to the Jurassic era. Well, at least on the big screen. Since the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 2018, life found a way to keep this franchise alive in other mediums aimed more at kids as opposed to the entire family. The most recent is the video game series Jurassic World: Evolution (2018-), whose second installment, Jurassic World: Evolution 2 (2021), was released just last Fall on every major gaming platform. Beyond that, Netflix has its own piece of the Park (in association with Universal Pictures, of course) with the ongoing computer-animated series Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous (2020-). Despite my best efforts, these franchise offshoots weren’t my bag as I’m not overly fond of their respective mediums. So, despite my issues with Fallen Kingdom, I eagerly awaited the recent release of Jurassic World: Dominion.
Jurassic World: Dominion — the sixth and supposed final installment in the Jurassic franchise sees the return of Colin Trevorrow (The Book of Henry) as both director and co-writer to wrap up what he rebooted with Jurassic World (2015). Via a disconcerting opening done in the style of a NowThis News video, we find ourselves four years from the previous film’s conclusion with the dinosaurs once contained in a massive theme park now roaming the earth. As Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) declared in Jurassic Park (1993), “life finds a way.” The titular dominion of the dinos finds Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) settled down as a couple, living together and serving as the surrogate parents of Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). A teenager who is most certainly experiencing teenage rebellion, but also needs to connect to her mysterious past. In Masie’s effort to do just that, her life is in danger, as is the life of the raptor Blue’s offspring.
On their quest to save Maise, Claire and Owen find themselves quickly entangled in a plot involving Biosyn. For those (like myself) who could not initially recall, Biosyn is the premiere biogenetics company run by Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) that essentially succeeded inGen. More specifically, Dodgson’s company spawned an abundance of genetically modified giant locusts that destroyed crops across middle America. As fate would have it, doctors Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm have reunited and are trying to get to the bottom of the latest bastardization of nature engineered by none other than Henry Wu (BD Wong). Soon enough, the protagonists of the old and new film series band together to undo this dastardly scheme, all while surviving the Biosyn-created nature reserve of dinosaurs!
As you most likely discerned from the plot synopsis above, Jurassic World: Dominion is a film that attempts to meld two storylines together. One is a continuation of what came before in the World films’ soft reboot. The other is the legacy sequel to Jurassic Park. The problem is that only one of those storylines truly works. For me, the first third of Dominion proves to be a boated slog. This movie takes too much time to establish the literal Jurassic World that this franchise has now become by showing us dinosaurs that — while still incredibly impressive — look more evidently computer-generated than ever before. Worse yet, the characters established in the previous two World entries seem a bit bored of it all.
At least Pratt and Howard seem un-enthused (or even tired) of playing these parts. On the other hand, Sermon gives her best go at making Maise an interesting protagonist. Alas, I simply didn’t care that much about her. If anything, I found Maise had gone from an empathetic child to an irritating teen with a flat British accent. My feelings on the current state of these characters certainly didn’t help the first third of this picture move as it primarily focuses on them. The setup would have worked better if it had been abbreviated, especially if it had not sidetracked into an extended Indiana Jones-esque action set piece.
Running parallel to the surrogate family plot line, we have the legacy sequel, which is also introduced during Dominion‘s first act. Despite centering around a conspiracy involving ginormous locusts that feels like the conceit of a SyFy Original, every scene featuring the characters from Park is a joy to watch — particularly scenes featuring the reunited Alan and Ellie as the chemistry between Neill and Dern is palpable. Meanwhile, Goldblum is entertaining as ever. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching the actor play the persona he has become playing Ian. Whereas in Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), we see an actual character as opposed to a performance that feels somewhat like a strange imitation. Even still, the trio light it up when the they are on-screen together!
The charisma of this original cast seems to spark the World‘s characters to life when their respective paths collide in the second act of the picture. Unfortunately, the movie also takes until the second act to get going. Thankfully, from this point onward, Dominion is a blast that moves as briskly as an installment in this franchise should; it showcases set-piece after set-piece as the cast banters between the peril. In the end, Trevorrow and company made a film that is a fun ride (after its first third), precisely what a Jurassic flick needs to be … even it means enduring the freshly introduced characters of Dodgson and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), both of whom I found grating. Having said all that, one thing is obvious: Jurassic World: Dominion is a Franchise Expansion. But only because it goes as far as I believe this franchise can while maintaining any sense of balance and fun. In my estimation, Dominion is as far as it should go as the movie was almost a bridge too far.
Jurassic World Dominion is currently playing in theaters & available for rental or purchase on your preferred digital platform.
Explore other Jurassic eras:
Jurassic Park (1993):
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997):
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Jurassic World (2015)