Earlier this summer, the release of Top Gun Maverick proved that it is possible to make a good sequel to a classic movie. Maverick’s secret sauce included strong writing and a steady, believable story, two things that sequels often lack. When it comes to sequels, it’s easy for filmmakers to get lazy with the writing and rely too heavily on star power and the success of the first movie. The result is usually an unhinged plot that cheapens beloved characters and ruins their stories. A prime example is Colin Trevorrow‘s Jurassic World Dominion, another summer 2022 release. Granted, the issues in Dominion started with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), which introduced some pretty bizarre elements into the Jurassic Park universe. Dominion isn’t exactly the most satisfying ending to the beloved franchise, and it’s not as nostalgic as the trailers promised. Oddly enough, the behind-the-scenes documentary that’s included on the Jurassic World Dominion Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD home release is a much better tribute to the original Jurassic Park than the movie itself.
In case you missed the theatrical release of Dominion, here’s a spoiler-free rundown: The movie picks up four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom. Isla Nublar, the site of both the original Jurassic Park and the new Jurassic World, has been destroyed. The genetically engineered dinosaurs have been set free to roam the Earth and walk among humans. While ordinary people are trying to figure out how to live their lives with dinosaurs walking around, others have jumped on the opportunity to turn a profit. A dinosaur black market has emerged, and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are working to save as many dinos as possible from the criminal underworld. They’ve set up camp in a remote mountain cabin where they can protect Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the first human clone, from the clutches of sinister scientists and money-hungry opportunists. Meanwhile, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) has begun collecting dinos to study at his biotech company, Biosyn. But that’s not all Biosyn is up to. Their latest attempts to disrupt the agricultural industry have attracted the attention of one Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), who turns to her old pals Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) for help. The paths of the original and new characters eventually collide, bringing everyone together for one last face-off against the ferocious and bloodthirsty dinosaurs.
The first half-hour of the theatrical version of Dominion is the weakest part of the movie, and it sets a shallow tone that cheapens everything else to come. The movie switches genres several times within the first 30 minutes, going from dystopian sci-fi to espionage to Hallmark/ family/western. Dominion doesn’t blend these genres together into a cool cinematic hybrid, but instead shifts awkwardly from one genre to the next during each new scene. As a result, the opening of Dominion is unbalanced, corny, and difficult to believe, coming across as a cheaply made dinosaur movie rather than a sequel to one of the greatest flicks of all time. The dialogue between Claire, Owen, and Maisie is particularly grating. After Claire and Owen make the commitment to protect Maisie from the outside world, they essentially become her adoptive parents. The relational dynamics among these three characters and the parent/child conflicts that they experience are shoved into the plot via cheap dialogue, and the forced conflict sets a sour tone for the entire movie. While the alternate opening that’s included on the home release doesn’t erase or fix the unstable genre shifts and cringe-worthy dialogue, it does help to set a better tone for the movie as a whole. It pays tribute to the original film by referencing the genetic engineering process that was used to create the dinosaurs, effectively tying the entire franchise together. Whether you caught Dominion in theaters or not, it’s worth checking out the extended version on the home release just for the alternate opening (to watch the extended version, select “Play” on the disc’s main menu. You’ll then be promoted to choose the theatrical or extended version).
The extended version of Dominion includes 14 minutes of additional footage. The extra action shots don’t hurt, especially since the action and effects are the best parts of the movie. However, no amount of additional footage can fix the lackluster dialogue and story, which are the weakest parts of the film. While the trailers promised a nostalgic reunion of the original Jurassic Park cast, the three original characters (Sattler, Malcolm, and Grant) are thrown haphazardly back into the Jurassic Park universe only to make unbearably corny self-referential jokes. If you’re looking for a more satisfying and nostalgic celebration of the franchise, you’ll want to check out the behind-the-scenes documentary, “Dinosaurs Among Us: Inside Jurassic World Dominion.” This featurette is divided into five short parts and can be watched easily in one sitting. It includes several great interview clips in which the original and new cast members share fun facts about the franchise. It’s much more interesting to see the original cast sharing their experiences directly rather than trudging their way through corny dialogue. “Dinosaurs Among Us” is much closer to the Jurassic Park reunion that fans were expecting from Dominion, and it does a much better job of illustrating how the franchise has come full circle.
Aside from the fun cast interviews, “Dinosaurs Among Us” primarily focuses on the set design and effects of Dominion. There’s also a separate featurette included with the home release, “A New Breed of VFX,” that offers even more insights into the special effects of the movie. Audiences will be able to appreciate Dominion a little more once they understand the creativity and artistry that went into its design. In fact, we’ve become so accustomed to CGI effects in action and sci-fi movies that some viewers might not realize that several of the dinos in Dominion are animatronic. If you haven’t seen Dominion yet, it might be better to start with the special features so you can go into the movie knowing which practical and special effects to look out for. It’s a lot more fun to watch the movie’s key scenes knowing that some of the dinosaurs are real and not digital.
The final bonus feature on the Blu-ray and 4K discs is Trevorrow’s eight-minute short movie, Battle at Big Rock. The short illustrates the return of dinosaurs through the eyes of an ordinary group of people on an innocent family camping trip. Battle at Big Rock is fun, pleasantly surprising, and a great intro to Jurassic World Dominion. While the short movie and the other bonus features can’t fix the underlying issues with Dominion, the bonus material does make Jurassic World Dominion a much more enjoyable experience overall. And watching through the special features isn’t a bad way to spend an evening.
Jurassic World Dominion 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital (at participating digital retailers):
- Extended version, including 14 minutes of additional footage and an alternate opening
- Battle at Big Rock, short film directed by Colin Trevorrow (included on all formats including DVD)
- A New Breed of VFX
- Dinosaurs Among Us: Inside Jurassic World Dominion
Available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and digital August 16th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Universal Picture Jurassic Park Dominion website.