It was nearly 10 years ago when Chris Pratt signed on to play animal behaviorist Owen Grady in Jurassic World, the first new movie in the Jurassic Park franchise since 2001. Looking back at it now, Pratt tells Den of Geek he couldn’t imagine that he might still be playing Grady a decade later in Jurassic World Dominion, a movie billed as the conclusion to not just the trilogy he’s starred in but also the three movies before that.
“I had just done the first Guardians of the Galaxy and I was under contract to do whatever my contract was for that, I think it was three movies and two cameos,” Pratt says on the phone during an interview with him and Jurassic co-star Bryce Dallas Howard. “I remember thinking, ‘They’re probably gonna do the same kind of thing with Jurassic World.’ And they did—they wanted to sign us up for three movies. And I just remember thinking, ‘Well, how do you do this? How do you do a sequel on these Jurassic films?’ Because they’re a little bit like lightning striking.”
Nevertheless, Pratt had a contract in hand that said he would show up for two more movies, but now he admits that he didn’t quite see back then how the narrative would end up developing.
Says Pratt, “I didn’t have the wherewithal or the vision to see the way Colin did that you could actually take this off the island and create a threat outside of just some animals that are meant to be spectacles in a zoo escaping and wreaking havoc.”
“Colin” is Colin Trevorrow, director of Jurassic World and Jurassic World Dominion, co-writer on both those and the middle film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and Steven Spielberg’s hand-picked keeper of the flame for the franchise that The Beard launched nearly 30 years ago with the first film, Jurassic Park (1993), an all-time classic of its genre.
While the now six-film franchise has always been about the conflict between science, commerce, and nature (and how cool dinosaurs are), Pratt says that the Trevorrow era has brought those themes into sharper focus, which is what has kept it interesting for him these past 10 years.
“It was something deeper, which still resonated with the type of themes about hubris and meddling in nature, and all that stuff, but on a global scale, on a bigger degree,” says Pratt. “So I couldn’t possibly have known what he had in store. And I’m really grateful that he came up with this idea, because it’s a way to tell a really compelling story that didn’t feel contrived.”
In 2015’s Jurassic World, the park that the late John Hammond had always dreamed about was now open and thriving under the supervision of Claire Dearing (Howard). But inevitable mistakes and miscues led to the park’s collapse and abandonment. In 2018’s Fallen Kingdom, political, corporate, and mercenary forces converged and led to the cloned dinosaurs being shipped from the original island and, eventually, allowed to escape into the wild at last.
With Jurassic World Dominion, the dinosaurs are now part of the world’s ecology again, but a new environmental crisis—the destruction of essential crops—may be connected to their re-emergence. Owen and Claire, the latter now an activist who wants to protect the dinosaurs, are keeping the world’s only human clone, Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), hidden from the greedy likes of Biosyn Genetics and its off-putting CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott).
“We knew that, by the end of Fallen Kingdom it was likely that Claire and Owen were going to basically become guardians of Maisie Lockwood,” says Howard. “So this journey of them being parents was one that was definitely exciting.”
Howard adds that the love-hate, “will they or won’t they” relationship between Claire and Owen has now permanently changed as they are charged with the responsibility of protecting the teenaged, rebellious Maisie.
“In Dominion, we’re a family, and we have shared values and shared responsibilities,” Howard elaborates. “It’s very easy to create conflict and have that be entertaining. How can you create teamwork and have that be just as fun? So I think the partnership of these two characters, and that journey that they went on in order to get to the place that we see them in Dominion, is a powerful one.”
When Maisie and the child of the makeshift family’s velociraptor ally Blue are both kidnapped, Owen and Claire set out on a path that will take them directly into contact with the three lead characters from the original Jurassic Park movies: paleontologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and chaos theoretician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). Sattler is investigating the unfolding mystery of the destroyed crops while Malcolm is inexplicably working now for Biosyn as a spokesperson.
Meanwhile Alan Grant initially wants no part in any of this.
All he wants is a quiet life and to dig up stuff,” Sam Neill says during a Zoom chat. “To be left alone. Every time he leaves the camp, things go to shit and he just barely gets away with his life. [Laughs] So I always imagined he’d retired to Montana and was still digging, was still as ornery and grumpy as ever, and generally disgruntled with the world, especially a world where dinosaurs are running around and shouldn’t really be existing at all.”
Neill says that while there had been talk here and there of having Grant reappear in the franchise, he was adamant that any return to the Jurassic universe had to be worth his and the filmmakers’ time.
“I wasn’t entirely sure whether a) that I wanted to do it, and b) whether it would be suitable for me,” Neill explains. “I knew for certain that a cameo with Alan Grant would not be what I wanted to do. Life’s too short. But if those legacy characters were integral to the story and part of everything, then yeah, why not? I met Colin in Spain at the Sitges Film Festival, and he took me out for lunch and was very persuasive. After that lunch, it was apparent to me that I wanted to do it.”
The merging of the original Jurassic Park trio—who had all made appearances throughout the previous films but had not been seen all together since the first one—with the protagonists of the succeeding trilogy was a thrill for both Pratt and Howard.
“It was really fun to have that group dynamic and know that we were all sharing the screen and to see that they’d come up with an organic way for our storylines to converge,” says Pratt. “That was awesome. One of the best moments and the best parts of it was just kind of experiencing life together as a group. There was a level of intimacy to this project that I really hadn’t felt on a project since doing low budget independent movies or doing plays at the beginning of my career.”
Jurassic World Dominion began filming in February 2020, shut down the following month as COVID-19 sunk its teeth into the world, and resumed again that summer under incredibly strict health protocols. But one inadvertent side effect of all that was that the cast did have to isolate all together in one hotel for a large portion of the shoot, to which Pratt attributes their unusual closeness during production.
“We were shooting at the height of the pandemic, living through the election of 2020, there was so much stuff happening,” says Pratt. “For us all to be experiencing it together… It was like a pressure cooker for creating really intimate relationships with everybody. We were very lucky to do that with this particular group of people, because they’re just all fantastic people with kind hearts and pure souls.”
Howard confirms that bonding with the Jurassic Park stars was a memorable experience even despite the external circumstances.
“Just getting to work with them as individuals and collectively—they’re all extroverts, they’re all incredibly warm, they’re some of the most talented people who have actually worked in this business,” Howard says. “Laura Dern had just won an Oscar right before coming to shoot Dominion. So it was a masterclass in all things, and their charisma and care for the project, and for one another and everyone in the group, it was honestly such a beautiful time in my life.”
As beautiful as Howard says the experience was, and how satisfying it was for her and Pratt to complete their three movies and have the original stars come back into the story as well, she also sounds fairly confident when asked if this is where she and her co-star get off the ride and exit the park.
“This is definitely the end of the road for our characters in terms of their journey,” Howard says. “Whether or not something happens in 30 years, like the case with the legacy characters, that remains to be seen. But it’s just been an incredible run, and the fact that the grand finale of Jurassic World is also the grand finale of Jurassic Park makes it a spectacle not to be missed.”
Howard adds that she hopes people go to see the film in theaters, and that a new generation of moviegoers thrill to the seemingly indefatigable sight of living dinosaurs on the screen. “Chris and I saw Jurassic Park when we were kids, opening weekend in 1993, and it changed our lives,” she concludes. “The hope is that Jurassic World Dominion will do the same for another generation. We’ve been very, very, very lucky, and now it is time to pass the baton.”
Jurassic World Dominion is in theaters now.