Jurassic World: Dominion is still a year away. For hyped-up dinosaur enthusiasts, not to mention aficionados of Ian Malcolm, that wait may as well be 65 million years. But fortunately, director Colin Trevorrow and Universal have put together a special treat for fans to help the time fly by, a five-minute preview of the movie that will play before IMAX screenings of Fast & Furious 9.
Empire got to see the footage earlier this week, up on a brachiosaurus-sized screen, and it begins with something new for the franchise: an epic flashback to prehistoric times, teeming with all manner of toothy, scaly beasties (plus a buzzing, DNA-extracting mosquito or two). After a fierce showdown between a T-Rex and enormous debuting dino the Giganotosaurus, it cuts to the modern day, and a sequence in which a drive-in cinema is under assault by the Rex we know from previous movies, with a military helicopter in hot pursuit. It’s the kind of huge, kinetic spectacle we’ve been missing, and we spoke to Trevorrow over Zoom to find out how it came to be.
The series has never gone back in time like this before. Why did you decide to do it?
It was always part of the story. I really wanted to not just tell an origin story for the T-Rex that we love, but to really put into visual terms this story that we’ve been told for 30 years about how dinosaurs were made from DNA fossilised in amber. Sometimes we put a human face on things — I wanted to put a dinosaur’s face on things and see what actually went down. And now canonically we know that the dinosaur that we love, the T-Rex, was brutally murdered by the Giganotosaurus. And that’s part of the story we’re telling for the film.
It’s quite hypnotic, watching the dinosaurs just doing their thing without humans around. Can you talk us through some of the creatures in the sequence?
Well, we start with the Dreadnoughtus, which was discovered not long ago, those bones. And it’s one of the great things about being able to rip dinosaurs from the headlines, that we’re able to see something exciting and do some research on it, then build a model and put it in the movies. The Quetzalcoatlus, which we’ve never seen before, which is much bigger than a Pteranodon. We’re following this massive Quetzalcoatlus, and then it lands and you see all these Pteranodons at its feet like birds, and you realise how big the thing is. And then we have our first feathered dinosaur, the Oviraptor. I feel like that’s going to be a bit of a headline for those who care about paleontological accuracy. Another one [with feathers], which is the one in the picture, is the Moros intrepidus. That one showed up maybe two years ago. It probably popped up into your feed, that people found a tiny, T-Rex-like feathered dinosaur. And that was one of the quickest turnarounds that we’ve had, from discovery to putting it on screen.
How much of the sequence was shot on location, and how much was CG?
It’s all location. We managed to get footage from the island of Socotra, which is in the Indian Ocean, and has not been filmed much at all. And then put our dinosaurs into it. And I loved that the environment has plants and trees and flowers unlike anywhere else in the world. I’ve been fascinated with it for a long time. The idea that we’re able to put the oldest creatures known into a place that feels like the oldest part of the planet was fascinating to me.
Was that something you shot right at the beginning, before you got into the human stuff?
It was actually ready to go last summer. That whole sequence had been storyboarded out by Glen McIntosh, who played Blue in the first movie, and has been our animator throughout. Glen moved on from ILM, but we really wanted him to be involved, so we designed this sequence together. He’s probably the biggest dinosaur nerd in the world — he won’t mind if I call him that. He loves them so much and he got the opportunity that I think all dinosaur fans would want, to recreate what life would be like in the Cretaceous. He really went for it.
The drive-in scene is a lot of fun. The cinema happens to be showing a double-bill of American Graffiti and Flash Gordon.
One is a bit of a shout-out, I guess, to Bryce Dallas Howard]’s dad, and also to [George Lucas. What we didn’t realise at the time was that having a drive-in with vintage movies was going to be what we were all doing for the following year. And so it turned into this weird life-imitating-art thing, where suddenly the T-Rex was going to destroy the drive-ins we’ve all been spending our time in while waiting for movie theatres to open again.
It feels like maybe a little nod to the creatures descending on a cinema in Gremlins.
A little bit. It’s funny — initially Emily [Carmichael, co-screenwriter] and I talked about her attacking an actual movie theatre, and then we just couldn’t figure out how she’d get in there. It couldn’t be like the first movie where she just appears from above frame — no-one’s going to buy that. And so, as we connected it into the story, the idea that there would be a rural drive-in theatre right on the edge of this national park where the T-Rex has been hanging out and is now on the run from the cops, basically, it all just came together
This is part of how you’re establishing that the dinosaurs are out in the wild, causing havoc.
A version of it. What people are seeing here is unique to this preview. But there will certainly be elements of this in the movie.
Where are you at with the film now?
We’re pretty far along. We actually just screened it today. For some very close friends and family, people we trust. And heading into a sound mix, which is one of my favourite parts. I get to go to San Francisco, back home, where I’ve mixed all my movies, and go to Skywalker Ranch and finish it up.
You’ve had a delay of a year. How has that changed things for you?
A couple of things, from a film-making standpoint. Normally, because we’re always cramped and trying to make the release date, especially in some of the territories where we’re releasing earlier, we’re finishing visual effects while we’re mixing sound, and right after we do the score. This time, we actually got to do all of those things separately, and on their own time. Especially the sound mix — we will be completely done with visual effects when we’re mixing sound. So, it’s just a very humane way to make a movie. I wish I could do it this way all the time. It’s definitely taken a bit of the intensity out of what that process normally is.
Is there one thing about this movie that you’re particularly excited about it, now it’s kind of all in front of you?
I’m just really into the story. This is a very different kind of Jurassic movie. There’s a lot of action and a lot of adventure. But the way that we bring these characters together and the effect they have on each other and how their stories collide — a movie where they’re drawing closer and closer together — is just very exciting for me. Structurally, it’s cool. It’s different. And it’s just very satisfying to see all of them up on screen together.
Are you getting back to the cinema now yourself and checking things out?
We went to see Cruella, my daughter and I, on Saturday. And I just ate it up. Like, I’m not sure if I’ve loved a movie more in a long time. Just because I was in the theatre, having that experience, watching it. And we’re going to go see In The Heights this weekend. I’m really excited for that. I just love that we get to at least make the choice. You know, I understand that streaming is great business for a lot of people. But I hope parents are going to be able to make an effort to remind their kids how special the theatrical experience is. It’s more than just content. It’s a shared experience.
This preview is screening in front of Fast & Furious 9. I’m sure you’ve seen the rumours online about a Fast & Furious / Jurassic crossover. Do you have a comment?
I don’t want to say anything because then the memes will stop. Reality is just not as much fun. I mean, have I ever heard anything about a franchise crossover? Of course not. But do I enjoy seeing people take it really seriously on Twitter? I do. So, let’s just keep having fun with the what-ifs.
The five-minute special preview will play exclusively at IMAX screenings of Fast & Furious 9 from 25 June. Jurassic World: Dominion will be in cinemas on 10 June, 2022.