As fans of the franchise, we all have our own opinions on what makes a good Jurassic Park movie (hopefully we can all agree Jeff Goldblum is a key ingredient). But what does someone who actually makes the films think makes them great?
Colin Trevorrow – writer and director of Jurassic World, and writer and exec producer of the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (and then back in the director’s chair for the trilogy's finale) – has a pretty clear idea of what makes a good dinosaur film. And yeah, consulting with Steven Spielberg is part of the plan.
Trevorrow recently spoke to BFI about the six “crucial steps” in making a successful Jurassic Park film, and his answers really give you some indication as to why his first dino film made all that scratch.
He starts with the tenet that you have to treat dinosaurs as though they’re just regular, average, earth-dwelling creatures: “I think animals can be creatures that you love AND horrifying and scary. I think that they could be our greatest companions and our biggest danger,” said Trevorrow, while noting that dynamic is what makes them so interesting, as opposed to just something you’re scared of all the time.
His second tenet goes all the way back to Screenwriting 101: Make sure your hero is relatable. Sure, Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt are gorgeous movie stars, but they also have a relatable vulnerability that we can identify with, which allows us to see ourselves in their (high-heeled) shoes.
Trevorrow’s third tip is one that many a superhero movie would be served well by remembering: Focus on the villains too. Interestingly, Trevorrow doesn’t consider the dinos to be the villains in these films, they’re just predators, doing what they do. The real villain is mankind, particularly the greedy, corporate kind.
Fourth rule: Keep your foot on the peril pedal. Trevorrow specifically mentions the difficulty of creating the middle film in a trilogy, while looking at The Empire Strikes Back as a model of how the film is “non-stop peril.”
Number five is a tricky one, and requires a deft touch: Be responsible. Not the easiest thing to do when you’re also trying to entertain. “I try not to make a message movie, but I think that inherent in the story we’re telling are some real questions about our responsibility to other living creatures on the planet,” said the filmmaker, while bringing up the last male white rhino, who recently perished.
Finally, and this has been a tried-and-true approach to filmmaking since before Trevorrow was even born in 1976: Get Steven Spielberg’s opinion. Jurassic World was based on “a set of ideas” that Spielberg had, and Trevorrow believes that film served the venerable filmmaker's vision. And that foundation is still in place, even if Spielberg let Trevorrow and co-writer Derek Connolly go off on their own for this one. “I think one of the benefits of the first film doing as well as it did is that it gave us a little bit of room to make it a little more challenging and resonant and take some risks, without cracking the foundation that Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton built,” said Trevorrow. “I look at it like we are tending to a garden that was planted by others before us, and we have to plant a couple of seeds of our own. Hopefully that whole thing will grow into something more.”
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will sprout into theaters June 22. What do you think of Trevorrow’s six-part plan? Are they good seeds to help the Jurassic Park garden grow?