Review and photos by Faelrin, edited by Suspsy
In 2022, the last of the Jurassic World films was released, ending the trilogy that started back in 2015, for better or worse. While I didn’t enjoy the film overall, I did enjoy some aspects of it, one of those being the batch of new creatures. Among the roster included the first two non-dinosaur, non-reptilian synapsids to join the franchise. The first of which was the ever famous Dimetrodon and the other was the lesser known Lystrosaurus. Both lived during the Permian period, Early for Dimetrodon and Late for Lystrosaurus. Long before the film was released, we were in fact introduced to the Lystrosaurus through a sneak peek of the animatronic.
JW: Dominion had actually been delayed by a year because of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. Yet it was one of the first Hollywood films that resumed production despite it, and put into place some rigorous safety procedures. In October 2020, both director Colin Trevorrow, and the JW Twitter account shared a post about some staff previously testing positive for the virus, and to keep everyone safe, they would be quarantined and things would be on pause. Alongside it was our first look at the Lystrosaurus animatronic, covered in a mask, which took me by complete surprise. If one knows me, then they would know that I most definitely wanted a figure of this little guy from Mattel the moment I first laid eyes on it. And indeed they did oblige, and even made two in fact. The first, a mini-figure, was released in a set alongside the Therizinosaurus, among numerous other sets, and later on in the year, a full mainline release in a set with Maisie and Beta. That particular set is the subject of this review here, of course.
As Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by none other than Jeff Goldblum) puts it in Jurassic Park, “Life, uh, finds a way.” So it is no surprise it is the best represented dicynodont in both pop culture (featuring in BBC’s Walking with Monsters, Ark: Survival Evolved, and the soon-to-be-released Netflix series Life on our Planet), and perhaps now the toy market as well, as it has at least four figures now (three of those being tied to Jurassic World: Dominion, however, with the first and only other being the mid 2000s Kaiyodo Dinotales one). Sure, it pales in comparison to the dinosaurs that dominated the Mesozoic after them, but hey, at least they should and do get a little acknowledgement that they sort of did it first.
The figure’s sculpt has a great likeness to the film design of Leonard (as lovingly named by actress Dewanda Wise, who played character Kayla Watts that owned this creature in the film), including the weirdly shrink-wrapped skull. There isn’t much on paint detail, but it gets the job done, as there’s paint on the tusks and beak, a bit of a darker shading on the back, and, of course, the eyes are painted yellow with black pupils. The only things that really deviate from the design are that the digits have claws (although the real animal did have claws which it used for digging) and the limbs are not as sprawled out as they should be. Perhaps the posture complicated the articulation, or it was merely overlooked. The skin detail is mostly wrinkly with some bumpiness to it here and there. Remarkably, there was a mummified specimen of Lystrosaurus reported in 2022, a few months after Dominion itself was released. The reconstruction in the paper shows a similar sort of wrinkling and bumpiness to it. A great deal of luck, as both the film design and toy design were long into production before that finding. That said, had they been radically different, I’m not sure I would hold it against the figure or the film design, as science marches on, and so does our perception of these things, at least as far as this particular aspect goes.
It’s hard to say which of the four species of Lystrosaurus the film animal was intended to represent, as the strange shrink-wrapped skull doesn’t quite match up with any of them. It seems to be much more like that of Placerias or perhaps another one of its relatives, the Kannemeyeriiformes, a clade of dicynodonts more closely related to Kannemeyeria than Lystrosaurus. Aside from the shrink-wrapping, the back of the skull might have also served as a muscle attachment point, and so probably would not be as exposed as it is on the figure, or the film creature’s design. Although not represented on the figure, the film design did have hairy eyebrows, a speculative feature for which there is no evidence for, at least not yet. It may have been chosen to help showcase the Lystrosaurus being within the same lineage as mammals, at least an early member of it, and not a reptile. I also think the Lystrosaurus would have benefitted from being included in Kayla Watts’ character set, since this was her animal, that battled other animals in the underground of Malta in the film (including a particularly unfortunate Oviraptor in a cut scene, only added back into the extended version), but it was likely added to this set with Maisie to help pad it out and justify the cost. Neither Maisie nor Beta interacted with Leonard either.
Now moving on to the other unique figure in this set, Maisie, the infamous clone girl, whom a large part of this film (and some of the previous one) revolved around. Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of either film’s subplots regarding this, as one can guess, but I feel bad for the young actress (Isabella Sermon) who played this role, and all the hate her character has been getting. Obviously, she’s older here than her former Fallen Kingdom appearance, and thankfully, this set has had a somewhat better distribution this time around. In fact, I never encountered the original Maisie figure back in 2018, and only got my hands on it through a haul of figures that came from Germany in early 2019 from someone I eventually became friends with to this day. Focusing on the new figure, I think it has a decent enough likeness to her, aside from the too yellow hair color. She only comes with two accessories, the ever so common knife and a satchel.
Finally, moving focus on the last figure of the set, the re-packed Beta the Velociraptor (or Deinonychus, if one wants to be technical). It was originally released in a set alongside Owen and a fox back in early 2022, so nothing new here. The head and proportions are heavily stylized and don’t really match what we see on screen, either the animatronic or the CGI model that was used (Takara Tomy did a much better iteration in both their Ania and ARTS Gacha raptors sets). It’s still a nice little cute figure, though, and adds nicely to the growing pile of baby or young dinosaurs that Mattel has done (such as 2020’s Camp Cretaceous Bumpy, 2021’s Dino Escape Baby Brachiosaurus, the 2022 Legacy baby Stegosaurus, or the 2022 Dominion baby Nasutoceratops, etc). It’s also worth mentioning that Maisie did interact with Beta quite a bit, so this one was an appropriate inclusion here (more so than when she was packaged with Owen previously).
In case it isn’t obvious enough, Beta is also Blue’s daughter. If I recall correctly, I think the film touched on this a bit, that it was done through parthenogenesis, which some extant female reptiles exhibit. It allows a female reptile to reproduce asexually without DNA from a male. It’s been established for a while that Blue gets her markings from monitor lizard DNA, and some species of monitor lizards like the Komodo dragon can breed through parthenogenesis. Speaking about the markings, I find Beta color matches the best with the 2019 Savage Strike Blue figure, if not one of the 2022 ones that I passed on.
Overall, this is a nice little set of figures, and features characters from Dominion that might otherwise easily get overshadowed from some of the many other creatures and characters in this film. As mentioned earlier in this review, if one wants this set, or at the very least the Lystrosaurus, get it while the stock remains at retail price (if it is an option, since global distribution varies). It’s also worth mentioning that both the Lystrosaurus and Beta are part of a unique size class of figures that thankfully is getting expanded on in 2024 with the upcoming Eoraptor and Stegouros 2 pack. Hopefully, the Lystrosaurus will get a repack alongside its unfortunate victim, the feathered Oviraptor, which is one of the few film canon animals missing a mainline figure at this point in time (others include Microceratus, which last got a figure in 2018, the Camp Cretaceous Smilodon, and Sino-Spino the Spinoceratops).