‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ resurrects nostalgia while story stays extinct

From left, the “Jurassic Park” veterans Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern with Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Isabella Sermon and DeWanda Wise in “Jurassic World Dominion.”

Some people were lucky enough to see "Jurassic Park" in theaters in 1993 and have their minds blown by what was the most successful film of all time in between "E.T." and "Titanic." Even as a little kid, some of my earliest movie memories are watching the old VHS copy we had. Why my parents let me watch it at 6 years old, I do not know.

Regardless, the Jurassic Park series has been a monumental and influential piece of Hollywood ever since, but no sequel has been able to live up to the original. I am an unapologetic fan of every installment even though I know from a critical standpoint they aren't great because dinosaurs running amok and eating people is a fun time.

But now, with "Jurassic World: Dominion," the sixth overall film and third in the new trilogy, it's getting harder and harder to defend them. On the one hand, trying to cash in on the nostalgia yet again comes across as cheap and impassioned. However, with the grand special effects, the suspenseful atmosphere and the John Williams music, it's still a fun time.

This is supposedly the last film in the series for a whole, and it's unfortunate to see what began as a promising sequel trilogy end on such a blah note. It'd almost be better if it was outright terrible, but being solidly mediocre is an awkward way for a story 65 million years in the making to end.

Four years after the destruction of Isla Nublar, dinosaurs now are now living and hunting alongside humans and the rest of the animal kingdom all over the world. Former Jurassic World park employees Owen Grady (played by Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are trying to protect their adoptive daughter, Maisie Lockwood, and what dinosaurs they can from those that mean them harm.

Meanwhile, Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Ian Malcolm attempt to find the connection between a deadly new species of giant insects destroying the world’s food supply. Unfortunately, the familiar faces from the original Jurassic Park and the newer team from Jurassic World need to infiltrate the same evil corporation in a secret base where dinosaurs roam free.

Now, the future of our world is dependent on keeping the fragile balance between mankind and the apex predators adapting to life outside the park for the first time.

At the end of the previous installment, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the dinosaurs are set free on the mainland United States and the audience is treated to glimpses of what this sequel should have been — a mosasaur underneath surfers, a T-rex roaring at an African lion at a zoo, pteranodons flying with pelicans and a raptor standing over a cliff looking at a suburban housing complex full of potential prey.

But outside of a few short scenes of humans, modern animals and the dinosaurs living somewhat in peace, nothing about “Jurassic World: Dominion” pays off what was set up. Instead, Maisie and a baby raptor are kidnapped and Owen and Claire need to find them and bring them home — essentially the Liam Neeson film “Taken” but with dinosaurs. And the grand return of the original trilogy’s trio doesn’t see them going up against dangerous dinos in the real world until the final act. Instead, they’re trying to take down a corporation because of bugs.

So while the story is unquestionably the worst of the saga, what I and many people wanted to see is cool action scenes with dinosaurs eating people, and there is thankfully plenty of that to make it worth it. There are even a number of dinos never featured in the previous films finally making their debut and terrorizing the heroes in all kinds of exciting ways.

Nostalgia bait is a kind way of explaining how many references, throwbacks and Easter eggs there are sprinkled throughout the runtime, but if this is one continuous story then it makes sense. And quite frankly, it’s still a joy to see the old and the new together at last, even if that’s about all this movie has going for it.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)

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