There was a time when Jurassic World Dominion director Colin Trevorrow doubted whether the movie would ever be released.
"[Dominion's] story was based on how [co-screenwriter] Emily [Carmichael] and I were feeling, and then ultimately how the whole group was feeling when we were making this movie – we weren't sure if we were going to survive at that point," Trevorrow tells Total Film when we sit down with him in London.
He's referring, of course, to lockdown. Filming on Jurassic World 3 began in February 2020 and was promptly suspended the following month due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. However, the sequel – which will act as a culmination for both the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World series – was one of the first major movies to get back up and running, with filming resuming in July that same year.
"Nobody really knew. It was really scary," Trevorrow continues. "So it's a movie, probably more than a lot of movies of this size, that's really about what the people making it were feeling while they were making it."
That anxiety certainly permeates Dominion. Set four years after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, when Isla Nublar (AKA the location of the infamous dino theme park) was destroyed, the movie sees humans and dinosaurs uneasily existing side by side. Matters are complicated further by the threat of an ecological disaster at the hands of Biosyn Genetics, a corporation with its own herd of prehistoric critters in an overseas sanctuary. As you would expect, there’s a whole lot of dino action as the beasts clash with humans. It’s high-octane, with one notable sequence involving Chris Pratt's Owen Grady, a motorcycle, and the streets of Malta.
"There's a way that these movies have been shot, and even the other directors who have made sequels to Jurassic Park have stuck to a very Spielbergian filmmaking style," Trevorrow explains. "Once we got to Malta, in the middle of this movie, I just wanted to break it to a certain extent and turn it into something where it really felt like a camera person was just on a moving vehicle trying to capture the dinosaur, and maybe they missed it."
He adds: "I wanted to make sure every interaction was different and had its own set of very clear ideas. It wasn't just action for action's sake. Even at the end, we really focused on the people trying to escape and the dinosaur fight was almost happening around them. We did very little featuring of the fight – I wanted to keep it from the human perspective at all times, which hopefully would make it feel like it was actually happening to you."
One of Trevorrow's favorite scenes follows this ethos – when Bryce Dallas Howard's Claire has a run-in with a Therizinosaurus. "The scene that Bryce and I did together where it's just her and this Therizinosaurus, which is an herbivore, but she gets in his way and we know she's in terrible danger anyway,” he says. “[In the other movies] she and I never got to just do an action scene with just her. [This time] we had like four of them, but that particular one, I'm just most proud of my work and her work. In that one scene, it feels special."
As well as bringing back Jurassic World mainstays Pratt and Howard, Dominion also sees the return of the original Jurassic Park trio – Laura Dern as paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler, Sam Neill as paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant, and Jeff Goldblum as mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm – and bringing them back to the screen, Trevorrow says, was a joy.
"I have the authority on those characters available to me, which is the actors," he explains. "And so Ellie's story was created based on how a potential ecological disaster would require a paleobotanist to solve it. Her relationship with Alan Grant was defined by her and Sam together. A lot of the dialogue that a lot of these characters say, all of this was devised collaboratively. And so there's nothing that any one of these actors says on-screen that they don't believe, which to me was crucial."
"They're great actors," Goldblum tells Total Film of Dern and Neill. The actor’s also in London promoting Dominion, and he’s exactly how you would expect him to be – exuding an aura of good-natured chaotic energy and going on more than one meandering tangent over the course of our conversation.
"I admire them, adore them, respect them," Goldblum adds. "And then we hit it off on set over this movie 30 years ago, and people seemed to like it, and we had a great experience. And we survived a hurricane, so we bonded because of a threat to our lives. And once again, we were here in COVID. We haven't been on screen together since then, so seeing them and working with them was a wonderful, rich experience. And then given this assignment, and trying to put our shoulders to the wheel, to the Jurassic wheel, was fabulous."
Unlike Dern and Neill, Goldblum had a smaller part in the second Jurassic World movie. Dominion, though, sees Ian Malcolm play his most pivotal role since the original trilogy. Goldblum embraced this wholeheartedly: "I like to sink my teeth into anything... Believe it or not, I've never had a cavity or a filling… So these can handle a ripe apple or a corn on the cob, and this was a juicy part."
"I loved being back on the set and having this opportunity," he continues. "Emily Carmichael and Colin Trevorrow had written a beautiful script. You know, [it's] no easy task to bring these characters together and give everybody a satisfying and logical and interesting... it's kind of impossible. It's really something. It was great. I loved it. I felt lucky."
Then there's Mamoudou Athie, who plays Ramsay Cole, the head of communications at Biosyn Genetics and a new character in the Jurassic movies. Athie says he definitely felt the pressure of joining such a well-established franchise in its final installment. "I felt all the pressure and dealt with it on set," he says. "And these wonderful cast members helped me – they were just so generous and warm, and it was just such a lovely environment to work and play that we just got really comfortable with each other really quickly. It was a real treat. Because I admired all these guys since I was a kid and to work with them in this way, in this movie, that was such a landmark in cinema history, you can't really ask for much more."
So, what's next for the franchise? Well, Dominion is "definitely designed to be a conclusive end to this story," according to Trevorrow. However, there is scope to explore other, different stories within this world, he thinks. "We introduce new characters, major new characters, in this movie, who I am as proud of as any characters I've ever been involved with," he adds. "And so the idea that DeWanda Wise [who plays pilot Kayla Watts] and Mamoudou Athie could carry on in the franchise is one that's exciting to me."
What kind of future does he see for these characters? "I think that's up to somebody else to tell me," Trevorrow answers. "I think it's really important that we bring in new voices who can look at what we've done and have the kind of vision that I had for it back when Steven asked me, so I'm excited to hear what a new creative person sees as the future."
Jurassic World Dominion arrives on the big screen on June 10. For more from Trevorrow, he also spoke to us about his canceled Star Wars movie and how that helped him make Dominion. And for more viewing inspiration, fill out your watch list with our picks of the other most exciting upcoming movies of 2022.