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Friday, April 19, 2024

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JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION review – The Return of The Magic Hand

Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, BD Wong, and Omar Sy
Movie Length: 2 hours 26 minutes

What it is: The 6th movie in the Jurassic Park franchise, this time the leads have to save the world…but not necessarily from dinosaurs. The events in the movie take place 4 years after Fallen Kingdom and sees humans and dinosaurs living in peace…mostly.

What Dan thought:

Unlike Alanah (below), I didn’t rewatch all the other movies in the franchise…if I had I may have been more disappointed. While the movie is a good escape from reality, it was barely that.

The score from Michael Giacchino was great, but it overused parts of John Williams’ iconic theme from the first movie. The cinematography from veteran John Schwartzman was great (but looking at his filmography, one would expect that) with the highlight being terrific (and simultaneous) chase scenes involving dinosaurs and 2 of the leads down very crowded streets.

While seeing the original trio of Dern, Goldblum, and Neill on the screen together again was great, it wasn’t enough to save a movie that had a few noticeable plot holes and dragged out at times over the course of it’s nearly 2 and a half hour runtime.

The movie did had a few fan service moments including a scene in which the Jurassic Park logo plays out, and the return of the Barbasol can from the first movie. But those also felt like they were just inserted as a nod to the original movie, and didn’t have any bearing on the movie itself.

What Alanah thought:

In preparation for Jurassic World: Dominion (JW:D), this reviewer re-watched every movie in the saga – from Jurassic Park to Fallen Kingdom – in one day. Every single dinosaur was cool, both the familiar and the new. In every film, tremendous special effects and worthy performances abound. In JP1 and JP3, there is sophisticated thematic quality and logical plots without holes. Life consistently finds a way, in these films – both for the dinosaurs and for the humans fighting to survive. Still, we all know that JP2 is a hot mess, and JW1 is stunningly absent of any plot logic. However, JW: Fallen Kingdom provided me with some hope for the future of the franchise, even with its holey plot. Despite itself, it remains an interesting story about cloning, identity, ecological ethics, and grief. Depending on your point of view on the previous films, JW:D either has a lot to live up to, or a lot to make up for. I would submit that it fails at both.

Let me be clear about something – dinosaurs are cool.

Dinosaurs are and have always been cool. They will remain cool forever. Nothing could make dinosaurs uncool – or so I thought, until the first Jurassic World introduced us to the Magic Hand of Chris Pratt. Friends, I cannot express how deeply over it I am when it comes to Chris Pratt’s magic dinosaur-controlling hand. It may have made some sense when Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, was working with a select group of trained-from-birth raptors. Sure. Fine. In Fallen Kingdom, and then in Dominion, The Magic Hand remains effective on Blue, and her self-cloned baby. Alright. Okay. But then came untamed dinos, somehow controlled by the Magic Hand. Next, other characters adopted the Magic Hand, without reason. This inexplicably spread to other characters within JW:FK, and again to Dominion. Suddenly, many characters are using The Magic Hand, not only with raptors, but across the board. In JW:D, several characters repeatedly prevent untamed dinosaurs (not just Blue, the veloci-doggy) from moving or trying to kill-and-or-eat them, simply by putting up their hand, and my God is it ridiculous.

Photo by John Wilson/Universal Pictures © 2022 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

Dominion follows Grady and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) on an action-packed race to rescue Blue’s baby, Beta, and Maisie after they’re kidnapped from an evil corporation masquerading as a natural preserve. There are fun car/dino chases, about a thousand close calls, and plenty of people somehow out-running velociraptors. In truth, the film has a great deal of plot, but very little logic. This absence is felt in the small details – wrapping a dry bandana on a bone and using it as a torch doesn’t actually work without an accelerant. Owen falls through ice into a lake, and when he gets out has zero shivers, and no imminent hypothermia, despite the falling snow around him. Characters sure get to where they need to go, but often without reason or consistency – this is especially apparent with Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), who stays behind in an empty lab when every other company employee has evacuated, and then spontaneously makes his way to the facility control room to provide a macguffin to the assembled cast there at a dire moment. 

Dr. Wu himself is a disappointment in that he has no arc, despite being one of the most present characters in the franchise. This has long been an issue in the series, not just limited to this film. Instead of us seeing what changes Wu, we are only ever presented with discrete interactions where he is wholly rewritten. In JP1, he’s a pure-hearted, though prideful, scientist. In JW1, he’s a sinister and unapologetic creator of a deliberate monster. In JW:FK, he’s a power-drunk creator of weaponized dinos for profit. Now, in JW:D, he is suddenly a defeated and quiet servant who saves the world at the last second.

I believe that this franchise is largely a story about the untamable power of Nature, the fallible hubris of the rich, and the human necessity of banding together in the face of danger. In Jurassic Park, this is evident. I think that the Jurassic World films have never understood this – instead, corruptible people in charge of easily breakable zoos are one-dimensionally evil for evil’s sake. Our protagonists are constantly at odds with each other, rarely working together. Young characters have no agency or meaningful arcs. Female leads scream and wait for Owen Grady to come save them.

Reader, I needed more than stellar effects and a few fan-serviced Easter eggs from this movie. I needed more than top notch VFX and fresh dinosaur designs. Nearly every sequel entry in this franchise has been trying and failing to live up to the first film because their makers fail to understand that Jurassic Park isn’t merely an exercise in spectacle – it’s a deeply frightening, cautionary tale about the dangers of greed, the risks of holding undue power, the unpredictability of living things, and the sovereignty of Nature. It has everything to say about letting unchecked wonder pull you into danger. Jurassic Park is about letting spectacle lure you toward a swift doom, and I would submit that the spectacle-drunk Jurassic World: Dominion is only self-aware when it allows Ian Malcom’s sardonic admission that he has been warning and warning of a grisly, ignorant end, but no one has ever listened to him.  

Dan’s Grade: C. The movie is a good escape from the real world…but barely. A few plot holes that take one out of the movie, plus the overuse of the “Magic Hand” make this movie one that is worth seeing in the theater…but only on an IMAX (or equivalent) screen.

Alanah’s Grade: C-. Dinosaurs are cool for many reasons. They’re extinct, so our fascination with them is inherent. They had a scale and power that we imagine makes them at once imposing and tempting to approach, to study, to understand. Their bones contain mysteries about which we are still discovering and learning, but walking into Dominion, I told my editor that what I needed most from this film was substance. More than anything, I needed this picture to have something worthwhile to say, something more than Dinosaurs Are Cool.

Check out Darren Shulman along with Tracey in their latest episode of Through the Lens: https://anchor.fm/darren-shulman/episodes/Jurassic-World-Dominion-e1joloi

Jurassic World Dominion is now playing in theaters in the US.

Are you going watch the movie? Have you already? Feel free to leave a comment below or chat with us on Twitter at @TheConCollectve!

We’re always looking for new writers that are truly passionate about stuff – we give you the review materials, the platform and the support to say what you feel from the heart. If you’d like to write opinion pieces about pop culture topics or reviews, reach out to us using the contact us form.

Dan Berry
Dan Berry
Dan Berry is a man of mystery, an enigma that flits from convention to convention like a spectre, like a spirit. His interests range far and wide: he cannot be determined, he cannot be defined, he cannot be contained. He's like the wind. He also is a Sagittarius and enjoys a nice Italian.

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