How Jurassic World Dominion Finally Gives Laura Dern Her Due

Exclusive: Jurassic World Dominion director Colin Trevorrow talks dinosaurs in the wild, bringing back the original cast, and wrapping up this iconic film series.

Jurassic World Dominion
Photo: Universal Pictures

For director Colin Trevorrow, his new film Jurassic World Dominion marks the end of not one, not two, but possibly three eras for this long-running, audience-favorite franchise.

The movie, the sixth overall in the Jurassic Park/World cycle, concludes the story that began with 2015’s Jurassic World (also directed by Trevorrow) and lead actors Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. But it also puts a bow on the previous trilogy of films by bringing back original Jurassic Park stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum for their first joint appearance since Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic. And the third era? We’ll get to that a bit later.

Trevorrow initially landed the job to direct Jurassic World in 2013 after helming just one previous feature, the tiny sci-fi indie Safety Not Guaranteed. When asked if he thought at the time that he’d be the keeper of the Jurassic flame nearly a decade later (he also co-wrote all three of the recent films, including 2018’s J.A. Bayona-directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Trevorrow is modest.

“I don’t think I had the arrogance to believe that,” he says. “I think I was, at the time, focused on trying to do the job that I was given and deliver a film that would even be worthy of sequels in any way. So the answer is no.”

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Still, he admits that the ideas were percolating in his head even back then. “As a creative person, I couldn’t help but think about where we could go,” he adds. “Even in the very early discussions with Steven, I talked about an arc for this and a way that we could potentially create a world in which we had to coexist with dinosaurs in the same way we do with animals. He responded really well to that, but he also understood the need to build that and to spend two movies earning that.”

While the plot details for Dominion remain largely secret, the information and trailers released so far clearly indicate that the film takes off from the ending of Fallen Kingdom, in which the cloned dinosaurs—-in a development long anticipated by fans—were finally encroaching on the outside world and human civilization, with all the ramifications that could stem from that.

As far back as 2016, Trevorrow was saying in interviews that he had an ending in mind for this trilogy of films, although he reveals now that the idea has been repurposed since then.

“The image that I had at that moment, we actually use as the ending for [animated spinoff series] Camp Cretaceous,” he says with a small laugh. “So it is in something. The ending of this film is a similar kind of idea… people seeing dinosaurs in our world, not in the confines of a theme park or on an island, and just recognizing intellectually that it’s possible. That’s where I think we’re headed.”

Another longstanding idea, which Trevorrow says began to take shape even before Fallen Kingdom, was the possibility of bringing Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant, Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm back for another go-round with the dinosaurs (the latter made a brief appearance in Fallen Kingdom). But the director did not want to deploy the trio unless it made sense and was respectful to their legacy.

“I knew it was very important that if we were going to bring our legacy characters back that we needed to show them the respect of putting them on a true adventure,” he explains. “Putting them in danger, sending them out into the story in a way that was equal to the characters that we built in Jurassic World. I also felt it was really important to have Owen [Pratt] and Claire [Howard] in the first two films create a relationship with the audience so that once they come in contact with the legacy characters, there’s a sense that there’s a bit of equal footing there.”

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Trevorrow continues, “To even to get [the original trio] geographically into the same environment as our other characters, we really needed to have a reason, and the reason in this film is that it’s based in science, it’s based in their expertise and why they would be needed, and also why they would be curious… all of that stuff had to feel earned, and it took time and a couple of movies to do it.”

The director says that the biggest challenge in developing the story for Dominion was finding the right balance of screen time for the legacy characters and the newer ones, keeping in mind that different generations of moviegoers have grown up with different protagonists. But it was equally important to make sure that Neill, Dern, and Goldblum were integral to the story and had moments of their own as well.

“One thing we noticed really early, which seems obvious, but I don’t know if we ever really think about it, is that the three of them don’t face danger together in Jurassic Park ever,” Trevorrow notes. “That’s something we knew that we’d be able to remedy. Not that it was a mistake—it’s just what happened. It was part of the structure of that movie. So we were like, ‘Wow, we actually have something we can show people they’ve never seen before.’”

Something else that hadn’t been seen since the original movie, according to Trevorrow, was a far meatier role for Dern’s Ellie Sattler (who last made a brief appearance in 2001’s Jurassic Park III).

“I actually felt, and Emily [Carmichael, co-screenwriter] agreed, that it was important for the plot to be driven by Ellie,” he explains. “She’s the only one of those three characters that hasn’t had her own movie. Ian Malcolm had The Lost World, and Alan Grant had Jurassic Park III.”

Trevorrow reveals that Sattler’s “expertise as a paleobotanist and what’s happening in the world as a result of unchecked genetic power drives their story,” adding, “Then we have a parallel plot that seems unrelated but is actually the same story that is being driven by Claire and Owen. These lines just continue to get closer and closer together until they collide, and you realize you were watching the same story the whole time… It’s much more of a science thriller than I think people expect.”

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Adding that Dominion is “much more of a film about the dangers of genetic power on a greater scope than just dinosaurs,” Trevorrow is adamant that while his creatures are now very much loose in the world, he wasn’t interested in a Godzilla-like scenario of having a Giganotosaurus (reportedly the movie’s dino big bad) rampaging through cities and knocking over buildings.  

“The stakes in this movie are global, but they’re global in an extremely realistic way,” he says. “I think when people see what it is, they’ll recognize that there are experiments with genetic power that are happening right now and that we are toying with this science in ways that I imagine most people aren’t aware of and could have tremendous repercussions.”

In a bit of irony, Trevorrow was given an opportunity a few years back to create a conclusion to another long-running series of films: he was hired to direct and co-write Star Wars: Episode IX, which was not only meant to tie up what became known as the “sequel trilogy,” but was supposed to also provide a grand finale to the eight previous films of the Skywalker family saga. 

Yet he and Lucasfilm eventually parted ways over those all-too-familiar “creative differences.” Still, he says that he applied what he learned while working on his Star Wars script to crafting the story for Dominion.

“I approached [Star Wars] in my own way, and I felt what was most important is that it had to be approached as the end of three movies, to the end of six movies, and the end of nine movies, all at the same time,” he recalls now. “It had to respect every single one of those installments along the way in order for it to feel like one complete story. I definitely applied that same thinking to [Dominion], in that once you get to the end of this movie, I hope that it’s clear to the audience that all of those films are respected as being of equal value.”

Depending on how Jurassic World Dominion wraps up this story after nearly 30 years—and, of course, how many moviegoers turn up to see it—-there is always the possibility that this universe could continue in a Jurassic Park/World 7 and beyond. But Trevorrow’s involvement with the franchise—-that third era we mentioned at the beginning of this article—-is probably over, with the director confirming he’s ready to move on.

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“I feel like I made a trilogy of movies, and it’s a lot,” he says. “It’s been nine years of my life. And I feel like the audience would probably agree that they’ve seen what I have to say about this. I think there would be a lot of interest in what another filmmaker had to say about it. I would just want to be there to share my own mistakes and the lessons that I’ve learned and provide the same kind of mentorship that I was provided and the same kind of guidance.”

Jurassic World Dominion opens in theaters on June 10, 2022.