It’s that time of the year folks!
On February 10th, the trailer for the newest installment of the Jurassic World franchise was released. Entitled Jurassic World: Dominion (not loving that title…), the movie follows the fallout of dinosaurs being released into the wild at the end of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Though I am generally a critic of the franchise, there were some moments I found encouraging within the trailer. Having said that, this is still a Jurassic World movie; where there is good, there is also plenty of bad from the perspective of someone who loves dinosaurs (looking at you, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard). To “celebrate” its release, I will look at the good, the bad, and the ugly for both lovers and skeptics of the franchise.
I’ll confess that I was pleasantly surprised by this trailer. To start, the opening scene of dinosaurs running across a forest in winter was such a departure from the palm trees of Jurassic Park that it almost melted my heart (no pun intended). Dinosaurs thriving in frigid climates isn’t a work of fiction, so to see a change of scenery that reflects actual science was something I found interesting.
The more fascinating – and in many ways more satisfying – aspect of the trailer was the appearance of three new dinosaurs. I suppose I should say two dinosaurs and a pterosaur, but the point remains the same: their designs are awesome.
Let’s start with everyone’s favourite dinosaur slasher, Therizinosaurus. After being teased in the initial promotional imagery for the film, the trailer gives us a brief glimpse at one of the strangest known dinosaurs. Equipped with meter-long claws, vertical posture, and an elongated and slender neck, their Therizinosaurus sure looks the part. Though there is one major issue to discuss, its overall appearance is great! They even got one thing correct that had never been done in these films before: feathers.
One of the major criticisms of the Jurassic World franchise was the absence of feathers. Well, not anymore. It’s almost like they heard the internet comments and decided to change because of it… funny how that works! Having said this, I believe this choice works to their advantage. Take for example the feathered raptor Pyroraptor. In its brief appearance, it looks simultaneously deadly and beautiful, proving once and for all that a dinosaur with feathers can be scary after all. Now if only they had done it sooner…
The last notable addition is the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus. Its appearance is a welcome sight, with proto-feathers and an accurate head crest giving it a stunning design. Though the bright yellow beak is very Daffy Duck-like, the design is still beautiful. The presence of feathers once again proves that they have no impact on how scary these animals can be. If anything, they help add a layer of complexity to make the movie a more vibrant and exciting experience.
Lastly: Jeff Goldblum. Need I say more?
The most common mistake in dinosaur movies is the alignment of their wrists. While humans have “pronated” wrists that face forwards, dinosaur wrists face to the side. If dinosaur hand were to face forwards, then their wrists would break – so not exactly the best proposition. Yet dinosaur movies continue to make this mistake, as evidenced by the hands of Therizinosaurus. You would think that the animators would try to get the wrists correct for a dinosaur whose most prominent feature is a set of terrifying claws, but apparently not. How unfortunate…
The other major problem has to do with Quetzalcoatlus’ size and abilities. While Quetzalcoatlus was a carnivore, it certainly wouldn’t have been able to stage an all-out attack on an airplane. Despite its massive size, Quetzalcoatlus only weighed a few hundred pounds due to hollow bones. In other words, I doubt that the beanpole pterosaur could tear apart an aircraft.
Speaking of massive size, the Jurassic World films love to exaggerate animal size. First, it was the mosasaur in Jurassic World, whose size may be over 5x larger than its extinct counterparts. Now it is Quetzalcoatlus whose size is far from what it was. By comparing it to the plane it assaults, we can estimate that the Jurassic World: Dominion Quetzalcoatlus has a wingspan somewhere between 23 and 30 meters long. This exceeds the actual wingspan of Quetzalcoatlus – estimated to be about 10-12 meters – by almost double, thus highlighting the overindulgence of size within these movies.
In the trailers closing moments, the human protagonists are brought face-to-face with the franchises last new dinosaur: Giganotosaurus. As it approaches, Dr. Alan Grant poses a poignant question: “Bigger, why do they always have to be bigger?” While he may be referring to the Giganotosaurus, this is a question we can ask of the whole franchise.
At every opportunity since the reboot of Jurassic World, the franchise has attempted to go bigger than necessary. For Giganotosaurus, this means that spines along its back and exaggerated horns are apparently necessary to make it scary. Do these features really add anything to its appearance? Does going out of the way to defy accuracy justify a slight intimidation factor? I certainly don’t think so, and while I am happy to see Giganotosaurus on the big screen, it certainly isn’t perfect.
All in all, I believe there is hope for Jurassic World: Dominion. The hybrid dinosaurs are gone, feathered dinosaurs are in, and it has the mythos of nostalgia behind it as well. If the new and (hopefully) accurate dinosaurs are depicted correctly, then an enjoyable and authentic dinosaur movie may be on the horizon.
I do not take credit for any images found in this article.
All images courtesy to Universal Pictures
Brown, Matthew A., and Kevin Padian. “Preface.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol. 41, no. sup1, 2021, pp. 1–1., https://doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2020.1853560.