FandomWire‘s latest video essay explores if Jurassic World Dominion is a misunderstood masterpiece.
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Jurassic World Dominion: Misunderstood Masterpiece?
The Shining, Heaven’s Gate, Showgirls. What do all of these films have in common?
They’re misunderstood masterpieces. Or at least, some think they are.
When these films were first released, they were initially panned by critics and largely disliked by audiences. Of the three, only The Shining managed to recoup its budget at the box office. The other two are considered some of the biggest box office bombs of all time.
Yet somehow, they each grew a cult following in their home video releases. They were subject to a critical reevaluation — there’s even a case for Sony’s Morbius, which has been reevaluated through memes. Today they’re hailed as films that were much better than they were initially perceived.
Heading into the summer of 2022, Jurassic World Dominion was expected to be one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. Initially forecasted to make as much as $205 million on its opening weekend, according to boxofficepro.com, projections were lowered to closer to $150 million as we neared the time the film opened in multiplexes. But what is the culprit?
One is tremendous goodwill from the summer’s surprise hit, Top Gun: Maverick. The Tom Cruise vehicle made a much bigger splash than expected thanks to positive reviews and stellar word of mouth, allowing it to achieve one of the best second-weekend holds ever for a movie that opened over $100 million. In other words, audiences were spoiled by one of the best Hollywood blockbusters to grace the screen in years.
That’s why when Jurassic World Dominion began to screen for critics, and almost everyone voiced their dismay for this conclusion of the trilogy, it began to spell doom for the film. With a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of the time of this video, it seems like not many people were all too enthusiastic about this legacy sequel.
However, as we watched the film, we began to realize some eerie similarities between the characters’ fight for justice against the evil tech company Biosyn and the writer-director’s own struggles with Hollywood megacorporations Disney and Lucasfilm. Was Jurassic World Dominion actually one of the most brilliant Hollywood satires we’ve seen in years under the guise of one of the dumbest blockbusters ever made?
To understand why Jurassic World Dominion is a misunderstood masterpiece, we must rewind all the way back to 2017.
In 2017, after the success of the first film in the Jurassic World trilogy, Colin Trevorrow made the… unorthodox… family thriller The Book of Henry. Sporting a 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Book of Henry is considered by many to be one of the worst mainstream movies of that decade.
Also in 2017, Trevorrow departed from his next high-profile directing gig: helming the third film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, which was to be entitled “Duel of the Fates.” Although officially, the reason he didn’t get the job was said to be the damning creative differences with producer Kathleen Kennedy, some fans have speculated that he really lost the job because of how colossal a misfire The Book of Henry was.
But Trevorrow need not fear! He was able to return to the series that brought him into blockbuster filmmaking in the first place: Jurassic World. In 2018, it was announced that Trevorrow would co-write and direct the third film in the trilogy based on a story by himself.
Fast forward to 2022, and it’s clear that Trevorrow’s anger over this situation has been reflected in the script for Jurassic World Dominion. The Jurassic Park series isn’t known for being too subtle with its subtext. Jurassic Park has always been anti-corporation, and the first Jurassic World took that a step further to target Hollywood and theme parks.
Well, it appears that, either in a fit of rage or an attempt to bring the rest of the ship sinking with him, Trevorrow has turned Jurassic World Dominion into one of the most blatantly anti-corporate, anti-Disney satires ever made. Like it or not, you have to respect it for its audacity because Trevorrow was not quiet about his anger towards Disney in his script.
There are major spoilers ahead, so you should probably stop watching now if you still haven’t seen this glorious trashterpiece.
Still with us? Good.
The first clue that Disney is clearly the target of Trevorrow’s attacks is that everyone in the film keeps referring to scientific discoveries as “IPs.” IPs, which stands for intellectual properties, is also common terminology in Hollywood for the series that are the cash cows for the studios. The MCU, Star Wars, Jurassic Park — all IPs, and valuable ones at that.
Within the world of Jurassic World Dominion, what is the most valuable IP? According to the villainous Biosyn founder, Lewis Dodgson, it’s Maisie Lockwood.
Maisie, introduced in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as the granddaughter of that film’s antagonist, is a clone of her mother, a brilliant scientist on the team working to bring dinosaurs back in the Jurassic Park project.
But her mother suffered from a terminal genetic disease, and to prevent her cloned daughter from suffering the same fate, she altered her daughter’s DNA with small pieces. In Jurassic World Dominion, Dr. Henry Wu attempts to do the same process — cloning with slight variations — to fix the locust plague he has unleashed.
This is eerily similar to what Trevorrow himself did with the film itself. If you sub out the “IP” that is Maisie’s DNA with the “IP” of Jurassic Park, you can see the parallels. Jurassic World Dominion is Trevorrow rehashing several beats of the original film’s story, sometimes shot-for-shot, with slight alterations in between.
In a way, Trevorrow seems to think of himself as Dr. Wu in this situation. He takes the DNA that he created — like Dr. Wu intends to do with the locusts — “fixing” it to release it into the world and save it from the danger he has created.
This is further accentuated by a line later in the film from Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Jurassic World, not a fan.”
It may seem like a cheeky one-off line alluding to the fact that the Jurassic World trilogy has been seen as inferior to the masterful original film, but there seems to be a deeper meaning.
Trevorrow is actually admitting to his fault in creating this trend of legacy sequels that has effectively doomed filmmaking in Hollywood. Jurassic World may not have been the first legacy sequel, but it was the first one to make an enormous splash. When that film opened in June 2015, it was the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time until it would be dethroned later that year by another legacy sequel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Trevorrow sees himself as having at least some part of the culpability for bringing about this derivative trend in Hollywood, and Jurassic World Dominion is his apology for it. He acknowledges that what he did was wrong. Still, he is doing everything in his power to remedy that wrong by releasing something so radical and unexpected that it will course-correct the industry forever.
On the other hand, the evil corporation Biosyn, clearly a stand-in for Disney, values these carbon copies of legacy properties more than anything else. They’re derivative and have slight changes but resemble their predecessor in more than enough ways that they are clearly a copy.
When The Last Jedi came out in 2017, it was met with a mixed reception from audiences. Trevorrow was already off the third film by the point that the second was released, but the script made after Rian Johnson’s film split fans that turned into The Rise of Skywalker was much safer.
Trevorrow’s “Duel of the Fates” script leaked online in early 2020 and was hailed by many as bold, dark, and significantly better than The Rise of Skywalker. Perhaps Kennedy and Disney were scared of what Trevorrow wanted to do with their precious film clones, so they gave him the boot.
Hell, Biosyn head Dodgson still has the Barbasol can be used by Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park in his attempt to smuggle the dino DNA out in the evacuation on his mantlepiece. While this was obviously meant to set up a death scene that mimics Nedry’s death in the original at the hands of a group of dilophosauruses, it also shows how much Disney idolizes their IPs.
At another point in the film, Dr. Ian Malcolm rants about Biosyn: “They lure you in with all these promotions in a short period of time, and of course, your loyalty to these,” and picks up an origami figure of a dinosaur.
Of course, in Jurassic World Dominion, DNA is equivalent to intellectual property, so dinosaurs are a stand-in for Star Wars in this case. He was lured in by Disney because of the promise of a great, high-paying gig and his fandom of the Star Wars universe, but hung out to dry the second he did anything even the slightest bit different.
Later in the film, the new character Ramsay, the main whistleblower against Biosyn, confronts Dodgson, who wants Ramsay to become the new figurehead of the company and says, “I’m not you.” This is Trevorrow standing up to Disney and Kennedy, refusing to play ball and sticking up for what he believes in, potentially at the cost of his own career.
But perhaps the most damning indictment of Disney and Kennedy in the film is when pilot Kayla Watts says, “We have no plan; that is the plan.” This mirrors the strategy with which Disney approached the Star Wars sequel trilogy. They had very little plan as to what they would do and ended up crashing as a result.
Like Watts and her passenger, Owen Grady, Disney managed to escape their lack of plan relatively unscathed, but not without crashing their precious plane — the Star Wars series — in the process. Maybe with a plan in place (perhaps by keeping Trevorrow on board), Kennedy could have saved the series.
Trevorrow is an egomaniac. We have known this since he reacted so violently to the negative press reaction to The Book of Henry. And now, he sees himself as the savior of Hollywood by putting out a legacy sequel that will fix all of the wrongs caused by the legacy sequel trend that he created.
Sure, Jurassic World Dominion is messy, and it definitely brings this Jurassic World trilogy and the Jurassic Park IP as a whole to a crash landing. But something is charming about a legacy sequel with such reckless disregard for everything that came before it.
Yes, the film contains the cheap nostalgia cash-grabs and all that, but Trevorrow does it in a way that is so overt that it becomes self-parody. And that is precisely what this film is meant to be. It is a legacy sequel created not just to poke fun at legacy sequels — Scream already did that earlier this year — it outright attacks them.
No one has ever made a film that is as anti-Disney as this, and no one probably ever will again. And Trevorrow needs to be applauded for pulling that off if nothing else.
What do you think? Is Jurassic World Dominion a misunderstood masterpiece, or just a stupid blockbuster that managed to uh… find a way? Tell us in the comment section below, and make sure to like and subscribe. Thanks for watching!