The Jurassic films – that is, the three Jurassic Parks and the three Jurassic Worlds – are all about people knitting together DNA from different species, and the makers of Jurassic World Dominion have done some gene-splicing of their own. They have taken the heroes from the current trilogy, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), and mixed in our old friends from the original trilogy, Alan (Sam Neill), Ellie (Laura Dern) and Ian (Jeff Goldblum). They have also taken all the usual scenes of dinosaurs sneaking around jungles, and combined them with shoot-outs, plane crashes, motorbike chases through exotic cities, and undercover missions in high-tech secret bases.
In other words, the sixth and supposedly final Jurassic film has been souped up with the genes of James Bond, Jason Bourne and other such globe-trotting adventurers. Indiana Jones’s DNA is particularly dominant. In one scene, Alan is in a rocky tunnel, brandishing a flaming torch, and he risks being eaten by a dinosaur because he wants to retrieve his trusty hat. I wouldn’t be surprised if 50 pages of the screenplay were ripped straight from a dusty unused script called “Indiana Jones and the Land that Time Forgot”.
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This isn’t a bad thing. Too many of the Jurassic films have taken us on trips to tropical islands where everything seems fine until suddenly it doesn’t seem fine, and none of them has matched the 1993 original, directed by Steven Spielberg. Jurassic World Dominion is the first of the sequels to have its own strong, separate identity. For that reason alone, it’s a T-Rex-sized step up from the previous instalment, 2018’s Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom.
But that’s not all it has to recommend it. Colin Trevorrow, who rebooted the franchise in 2015 with Jurassic World, hasn’t made the most profound or ground-breaking work, but Jurassic World Dominion is a deft, proudly excessive piece of old-fashioned big-screen entertainment. To make the obvious comparisons, it rounds off a sequel trilogy more satisfyingly than Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and it brings together old and new characters more satisfyingly than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And I’m not just talking about human characters. Trevorrow welcomes back all of your favourite scaly fiends, but he also introduces various feathery newcomers who manage to be endearingly goofy and menacing at the same time.
One of the film’s key achievements is that it can be nerveracking when the dinosaurs are breathing down people’s trembling necks, but it is never so horrifying as to be unsuitable for all the family. Still, it’s slightly disappointing that it doesn’t have prehistoric monsters rampaging all over the globe, clambering up the Empire State Building and swimming along the Thames. (You’ll have to look up 1925’s The Lost World for the latter treat.) Trevorrow hasn’t delivered the “World War D” that the franchise has always promised, and the amusing sight of pterodactyls spoiling holidays and disrupting weddings is consigned to a montage at the start. There are a few dinosaurs in the wild, we’re told, but most of them are stomping around a valley in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, under the protection of a genetic-engineering company called Biosyn. The company’s Bezos-Musk-Jobs-alike boss (Campbell Scott) claims that he’s tending to these dinosaurs for the good of humanity, and even though he has the distracted and entitled air of the equivalent tech-tycoon played by Mark Rylance in Don’t Look Up, we can all agree that he is a 100-per-cent trustworthy fellow.