I want to promise you, once again, that I am not going out of my way to have unpopular movie opinions.
I know it might come across that way sometimes, and I get it, I do – but please believe me when I say that what I’m sharing here with you is just how I feel, no matter how absurdly and seemingly pointedly unpopular it might be.
And what movie might have brought about this most recent urge to defend my opinions, you may ask? Jurassic World: Dominion, in the grand routine of Me Having a Strangely Soft Spot for These Films, Apparently. Yes, I’m well-aware that this final part of the JW trilogy has been getting some spectacularly bad reviews since its release a few weeks ago, and honestly, at a hefty two-and-a-half-hour runtime, I really wasn’t that keen on sitting down to watch it if it was truly meant to be that terrible.
But, honestly…I liked it. Not an I liked it but – just an “I liked it”. And, since I finally got around to seeing it, I’ve been trying to work out just what it is that gave me such a different experience compared to so many other reviewers and audiences who seemed to hate the damn thing.
Because I feel like it’s a pretty solid blockbuster, in all the ways a blockbuster should be. It’s got a sense of humour that doesn’t get in the way of the plot, two broad, sweeping stories that come together in the third act to reasonably satisfying effect, a charismatic and watchable cast, good action, good monsters, high stakes – as someone who is firmly Done with the endless superhero blockbuster rotation, this was a genuinely nice change, so maybe that was it.
Or maybe it was the returning cast – Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum all featured prominently in Dominion, and it’s an undeniable delight having them back on screen. Neill and Goldblum are fun, of course, but it’s Laura Dern who brings this undeniable effervescence to her presence in this character, and it’s impossible not to have a half-mile wide grin on every time she’s on screen. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt (doing a good job pretending he cares about animals, actually) have always formed a strong leading pairing for this franchise, and the additions of Mamoudou Athie and especially Dewanda Wise as part of the main cast really up the charisma stakes. Campbell Scott, as the villainous money-man antagonist, is a particular delight, bringing a calculated nastiness to his traditional hubristic bad-guy arc, and Dichmen Lachman is an absurd amount of fun as the one-off sub-villain dinosaur smuggler, sweeping around Malta in designer garb and perfect hair while she sets her pet raptors on people who annoy her.
Not to mention the fact that, when I walked out of Fallen Kingdom, I was already imagining how a modern world full of dinosaurs would look on screen – and I got it. Dominion seems to trade in on the surreal but memorable sight of ancient beasts wandering around our modern cities and countrysides, using a mix of real effects and CGI to bring this new world to life, and I’ve got to say – I really loved it. It’s something the franchise hasn’t done before, and it feels like Dominion was interested in exploring more than just “T-rex invades a big city, oh no!”, looking at the ecological and political turmoil around the new additions to the ecosystem. The action feels big enough to match this, exploring a variety of different approaches to the adrenalin-pumping scenes with various different dino-threats to keep it fresh.
But truly, above all else, I enjoyed Dominion as much as I did because of the dinosaurs. Because I will always, on some level, be the five-year-old leafing through my big book of ancient creatures for the hundredth time, looking at the pictures, reading the facts, marvelling at the scale that compared how big each one was compared to a person. Because dinosaurs (including the one I recently adopted into my own home) are cool – because seeing them interact with the modern world excites me. I can argue for Dominion on a critical level, but I have to concede that what pushes it over the edge for me is my sheer, childish glee at seeing this great big creatures running about and causing chaos. It’s just cool to me, in a way that no other franchise has been able to capture, and Dominion – while it has surely turned out not to reach that mark for plenty of people – does enough to delight that version of me.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, consider supporting us on Ko-Fi and check out the rest of this retrospective or our Marvel Cinematic Universe retrospective! You can also find more of my TV-related work and personal writings on my blog, The Cutprice Guignol.
By Lou MacGregor
(header image via Screen Rant)