Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Jurassic World: Dominion is the series cranked up to full Resident Evil mode—post-apocalypse, dark secret laboratories, mutant monsters, and all. If Dominion lacks the dino-crunching bite and ferocious horror of previous entries, it makes up for it with propulsive action and a tidy bow of closure for our central characters. Ultimately, this is a finely-crafted, visually stimulating, and preposterously fun send-off for a brilliant series. It merges old with new nicely, in a way that remains respectful to both eras of Jurassic Park lore. Easter eggs are scattered everywhere from throughout the six film saga that is said to conclude with this entry, and I had a total blast trying to spot them all.

It has been “three decades since the Jurassic Park incident,” and Doctor Ian Malcolm’s worst fears have become reality. Humans and dinosaurs must now coexist. In case one needs refreshing, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ended with every species rescued from the huge volcanic eruption being set loose in the wild by de-facto human clone, Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). Dominion doubles down on this concept by framing its opening as a NowThis segment diving deep on dinosaur-related deaths, the global black market, and glimpsing the real-world repercussions of the hasty choice to save the dinosaurs. At the center of the drama this time is Biosyn Genetics, who have formed a sanctuary in Italy to study dinosaurs that have been rescued and brought there. The first hour of Dominion acts as an elaborate setup, as we pick up on each of our whopping six lead characters, and establish the stakes and story this time around.

Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, Rocketman, The Help), in the natural next evolution for her character, is still working with her old pals, Franklin (Justice Smith, Detective Pikachu, HBO Max’s Generation) and Zia (Daniella Pineda, What/If, The Vampire Diaries), at the Dinosaur Protection Group, now in the form of nabbing dinos from illegal breeding facilities. Owen (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, Onward) is still a voracious animal lover, rounding up animals on horseback for relocation. Owen and Claire live with Maisie (now fourteen years old) in a secluded spot deep within the woods, careful not to let her past the bridge lest she could be spotted. They have formed a sort of makeshift family, with Blue the raptor and her new baby existing just outside of their property, nested in a big abandoned school bus. When both Maisie and Blue’s baby Beta are napped by poachers, Owen and Claire turn toward Franklin for his new C.I.A. expertise in order to help track down the precious cargo.

Meanwhile, our core trio from the original Jurassic Park trilogy has their own involvement that becomes essential to the narrative. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern, Little Women, Big Little Lies), who we last saw in Jurassic Park III quietly writing a book and trying to raise her kids in peace, now has students working with her to investigate the impacts of industrial farming. A swarm of giant-sized locusts are taking the world by storm, multiplying and threatening to decimate the world’s food supply. After receiving an exclusive invite to Biosyn’s primary sanctum from her old friend, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, The Fly, Thor: Ragnarok), Ellie recruits paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill, Peaky Blinders, In the Mouth of Madness), who appears to have come a long way since hypothesizing that raptors would be the dominant species on our planet. Rest assured that Malcolm is still rattling off lines like “it’s always darkest just before eternal nothingness.” Together, the trio must attempt to solve the mystery of the mutant locusts in order to save humankind from permanently becoming extinct in a matter of weeks!

These two separate parts make a complete whole that may not always function seamlessly, yet certainly remains captivating throughout. The best parts are the dark and dangerous moments that embrace the series’ signature nastiness, and unexpected team-ups that utilize an easy chemistry amongst the cast. Additional characters, such as an annoying new white-haired villain named Lewis (Campbell Scott, Music and Lyrics, The Amazing Spider-Man), signature returning baddie Henry Wu (BD Wong, Mr. Robot, The Normal Heart), pilot-for-hire Kayla (DeWanda Wise, Precious, The Twilight Zone), and friendly Biosyn employee Ramsay (Mamoudou Athie), leave their mark on the narrative in fun ways. Great action scenes including a raptor/motorcycle chase in Malta, an ice-shattering showdown in a snowy landscape, and a soaring team-up against a new Dino, the Gigantosaurus, showcase stellar special effects work and capture the lightning-in-a-bottle suspense of the Jurassic films.

The main issue with the story in my opinion is that it is hard for the latter half especially to feel as surprising or intuitive as every species quite literally duking it out in the wild. For me personally, one of the most intriguing aspects of Fallen Kingdom was that ending. Promising a definite new future for our heroes and monsters, Dominion’s thrills and chills are solid in the first act. However, how is one supposed to top the wow-factor of all these animals coexisting with us? That Dominion seems to have the same take away as Fallen Kingdom—we must coexist with the dinosaurs!—feels like a bit of a misstep. The last movie went out of its way to establish widening the scope, only for Dominion to pare down to a single location again as the movie progresses? I loved the adrenaline-shot of nostalgia to this series, but I think announcing it as the final entry is to close the book on a sea of other possibilities.

Jurassic World: Dominion is a decidedly more family-friendly take on the series, which has only gone darker with every entry. 2018’s Fallen Kingdom saw horrifying, often gory violence and even dipped its toes in gothic horror. Dominion cranks us back to basics, evoking the early feelings of warmness and predictability the first movie brings during a rewatch. Comforting, if a bit repetitive in story structure, does not necessarily equate to a lesser Jurassic film. Bringing back Dern, Neil, and Goldblum was honestly a genius decision that I would love to see carry over into future sequels if they decide to make them. As a final ending, I wanted more, but as another Jurassic Park entry, Dominion reigns supreme over several lesser installments in the series.

Jurassic World: Dominion presents a literal world of dinos when it hits theatres Friday, June 10th.

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