For almost three decades, the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films, based on characters created by author Michael Crichton, have inspired awe and wonder and terror and exhilaration and unfettered joy in almost every living person who has crossed the threshold of a movie theatre in the past 29 years. Under the guidance of filmmaker Colin Trevorrow, who reignited the franchise with Jurassic World in 2015 and has been the series’ creative architect ever since, and long-time franchise producers Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley, the films have become woven into the cultural DNA of almost every country on Earth.
For all the ground that the Jurassic World films have broken, for all the records they have shattered, for their almost-incalculable impact on global culture and on cinema itself, no film series has had a more direct, profound and enduring impact on a field of science than the Jurassic franchise.
Following the debut of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park in 1993, palaeontology would never again be the same. “Jurassic Park was the most important thing that’s happened to palaeontology in the last several decades, because that film brought dinosaurs back to life for a new generation, and it showed dinosaurs in a way they had never been shown before,” says Stephen Brusatte, Professor of Palaeontology and Evolution at University of Edinburgh, who served as the film’s palaeontology consultant. “It led to a public reawakening of dinosaurs, and that led to so many more young people going into palaeontology. It led to more money going into the field, it led to more universities putting on dinosaur courses, it caused museums to put on dinosaur exhibits, and we’re still reaping the benefits of that. We are in the golden age of palaeontology where somebody somewhere around the world is finding a new species of dinosaur once a week on average, and that’s been going on for over a decade now because this is the Jurassic Park generation of palaeontologists.”
“With these films, I’m sharing the next few chapters of a story we’ve been telling around the campfire for thirty years,” says Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World Dominion from a screenplay he co-wrote with Emily Carmichael from a story by Derek Connolly (Jurassic World) & Trevorrow, based on characters created by Michael Crichton. “This is a world that Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton created together, and I have been fortunate enough to be a custodian of it for three films—in collaboration with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona, the writers and everyone who’s worked to make this what it is. I’m so grateful to Steven for allowing a new generation to continue telling the story that he and his collaborators began.”
Jurassic World Dominion is the conclusion of that unprecedented three-decade story, and it is, by design, unlike any Jurassic film that has come before.
“There is a cataclysmic event in the middle of the trilogy that fundamentally changes everything,” Trevorrow says. “The dinosaurs are taken off the island and released out into the wider world. It was such an amazing opportunity to be able to explore the consequences of that. Jurassic World Dominion is about the need for us to respect the power of the natural world—if we fail, we’ll go extinct just like the dinosaurs. Not only are we finishing the story that began in 2015 in Jurassic World, but we’re also finishing the story that was begun in 1993 with Jurassic Park. That’s a story that takes all the characters in the saga to tell.”
For the first time, the film does not take place on Isla Nublar, but entirely in our world, and, for the only time in history, the stars of both chapters of the franchise – Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm and Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant from Jurassic Park and Chris Pratt as Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing from Jurassic World – are united on screen, joining BD Wong who, as Dr. Henry Wu, who appeared in 1993’s Jurassic Park and now all three Jurassic World films. For Trevorrow, these characters are central to this film and are the reason for the franchise’s success all these years. “These characters are rich, and the drama is human and real,” Trevorrow. “The best version of this movie is one that works even without the dinosaurs.” The fusion of those two casts was long-planned. “We designed this trilogy to bring in characters from Jurassic Park,” Trevorrow says.
Joining the franchise for the first time as Trevorrow’s co-screenwriter on Dominion is Emily Carmichael, who scripted the 2019 Jurassic-themed short film Battle at Big Rock with him.
“I first met Emily Carmichael when I was in New York City shooting The Book of Henry,” says Trevorrow, who conceived the Dominion story with his fellow Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom screenwriter Derek Connolly. “Emily made a brilliant short film that was at Sundance, and I called her after I saw it. I found a kinship with her in the way she approaches storytelling, and the kinds of ideas she has. She started having this incredible career as a writer and it gave me the ability to go into the studio and say that this is the screenwriter that I want to partner with. Derek—who became so busy after we had written the story—and I felt like this was an opportunity to be able to bring in a new voice and perspective. I asked Steven Spielberg and the studio if they would support my joining up with Emily; everybody did, and we went from there.”
For Carmichael, the experience was exciting on every level. “It was wonderful,” Carmichael says. “Learning the voices of the different characters from Jurassic Park was one of the most thrilling parts of the process. Listening to the way that their characters choose words—from Ian Malcolm’s distinctive ‘um’s’ and ‘uhs’ to Henry Wu’s more formal style of speech. Dr Wu doesn’t use conjunctions when another person might. Claire is so heartfelt. Ellie has lightness and effervescence, which we forget about because she’s also hard as nails. And Maisie Lockwood, our teenage character, is starting to come to life. Listening to each character’s diction, the way that they choose words—and writing lines that felt unique and true to each—was exhilarating as a writer.”
The structure of the screenplay sets up two separate storylines, one with Owen Grady, Claire Dearing and Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the other with Dr Ellie Sattler and Dr Alan Grant, that will eventually intersect with Dr Ian Malcolm, Dr Henry Wu and new characters such as Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) and Ramsey Cole (Mamoudou Athie) and rocket forward in a powerful, singular narrative. “Colin, Emily and Derek have achieved something truly unprecedented,” Marshall says. “Up until now, humans and dinosaurs have been separated. Now they are an integral part of our world. And to bring these two generations of characters together in such an organic and seamless way is an incredible and powerful achievement.”
Trevorrow was grateful for the trust his fellow filmmakers placed in their vision.
“Universal and Steven Spielberg put a lot of faith in the way that we structured this movie,” Trevorrow says. “We have two stories that draw closer and closer together until they collide in the third act. It’s an epic, sweeping narrative that I think honours all our characters in a fulfilling way. When they finally come together, it is explosive.”
The return of Lewis Dodgson – a character last seen in 1993’s Jurassic Park handing an empty Barbasol can to the ill-fated, would-be smuggler of dinosaur embryos – and the union of the two generations of the cast was both thrilling and moving for almost everyone on the production. For many of the cast and crew on the set of Dominion, the film proved to be a poetic and poignant full-circle moment in their lives and careers. “People who want to get into film generally do so because of a key film that they saw when they were a kid,” says producer Patrick Crowley, who joined the franchise beginning with 2015’s Jurassic World. “You ask around on any set, and a lot of people have answers about what motivated them. On our set, you would hear more people say that Jurassic Park was the inspiration for them to be in the movie business. It’s wonderful that it’s finally come around for them. Thirty years later, they got a chance to do exactly what they dreamed of as a child.”
Animatronics supervisor John Nolan and his creature effects team of designers created 27 individual dinosaurs for the film, 10 of which had never been seen in any of the previous Jurassic films. Brusatte, who served as the film’s palaeontologist consultant, is a professor at the University of Edinburgh. Every dinosaur in the film existed in real life and was approved by Brusatte.
The inclusion of animatronic creatures was Trevorrow’s goal from the outset and more importantly, he wanted to work with people who shared his passion for dinosaurs.