GOING INTO THIS weekend it looked like Jurassic World was going to do all right. The reviews were warm enough, the Jurassic nostalgia was kicking in, and it was a nice June weekend to see a movie. Then it went and broke a global box office record, bringing in $511.8 worldwide.
Not bad for a flick from a director with only one other feature film under his belt (2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed)—an indie to boot. So how did Colin Trevorrow, the man behind Jurassic World‘s camera, pull off such a blockbuster feat? For starters, by being a huge Jurassic fan. He was 16 when he first saw Steven Spielberg’s original, and he made the kind of movie that boy would have wanted to see.
Here’s what you need to know about Hollywood’s newest blockbuster director.
Trevorrow Didn’t Try to Follow in Spielberg’s Footsteps
Considering his reverence for the original Jurassic Park, it’s easy to see why he would consider it “a little difficult to unpack” trying to fill Steven Spielberg’s shoes. So going into Jurassic World he didn’t try to emulate the legendary director. “My goal was to not be derivative while acknowledging Jurassic Park‘s presence, to not make a fan film, while providing certain imagery and certain ideas that were going to make them feel comfortable they were in the hands of somebody who actually cares about this,” Trevorrow says. “So I focused on not following in [Spielberg’s] footsteps but making a separate pair of tracks just slightly respectfully behind his and to the right at all times.”
He Mixed Practical Effects with CGI
Like Park, Jurassic World uses some actual robotic dinosaurs as well as ones created by CGI. “A big goal we had was to not just use animatronics and things that you can touch when we could, but also make sure that even in the context of CGI when [the actors] were interacting with something that was a practical effect,” Trevorrow says. “If they’re going to hit something and it’s going to explode or smash into a building all that stuff we would do for real so that you could feel the impact of them interacting with the world.” The director adds that both of those things were essential. “I almost get a little offended sometimes on behalf of all the incredible men and women who worked with us on this movie,” he says, “because these people are absolutely the greatest animators available on the planet right now and what they do is an art, and every bit as much a craft as animatronics and practical effects.”
He Brought His Dinosaurs Out Into the Light of Day
The 1993 Jurassic Park had a lot of scenes set in dark and rainy settings—settings that could mask imperfections in visuals effects if need be. Nearly all of Jurassic World takes place in the harsh light of day. It’s a testament to the things Industrial Light & Magic can do now that it couldn’t do in the early 1990s. Putting the dinos in the harshest light possible was actually the recommendation of ILM creative director Dennis Muren, who worked on Park. “At certain times we embraced the imperfections in the animals and recognized that things don’t always look beautiful when you go to a zoo or you go on safari, they’re awe-inspiring and yet they’re dirty and they don’t entirely look the way you expect them to look,” Trevorrow says. “Dennis Muren is the one who really encouraged us to do that. He saw us putting the animals in harsh top light which is not flattering to them, and bright-day scenarios, and we were trying to figure out, ‘Oh, should we add a bunch of fog to this scene or find a way to back off it a little bit?’ and he said, ‘No, this is actually what makes it feel new to me.’ So he pushed us to go bold with them.”
He Kept in Mind His Dinosaurs Should Have Feathers
In the years since the first run of Jurassic films, we’ve learned that many dinosaurs have feathers. Trevorrow’s dinos don’t. He couldn’t exactly retcon feathers, but that doesn’t mean dino-feathers will never appear in the Jurassicworld. “I think that very specifically we know that the raptors are the least accurate depictions of their animal in the whole Jurassic Park universe,” Trevorrow says. “So we went out of our way because they’re also iconic in the context of the Jurassic Park universe. We may have aspirations to adjust and change this over the course of what we plan to do with this franchise, yet for this one—because I consider it sort of a bridge from where it started to where it can ultimately go—we just made sure to explain that these are theme park attractions and they always had genomes from other animals that were inserted into them. Nothing in Jurassic World is natural.”
He Didn’t Realize He Put a Jurassic World Ethos in Jurassic World
The thing that drives the corporation behind Jurassic World to build its super-dinosaur Indominus Rex is to attract new audiences. It seems logical that Trevorrow, who co-wrote the script, was injecting his own anxieties about needing to be bigger and better to attract theatergoers into his movie. But he wasn’t—at least not consciously. “To me, it wasn’t so much about the movie, it was about our culture in general and this desire for constant upgrades,” he says. “It’s not necessarily an indictment, but at least an observation of how the world has changed. I could see how that could be compared to the movie itself, but like many things in this movie, that particular angle didn’t even occur to me.” Speaking of things that didn’t occur to him…
Trevorrow Believes His Movie Has a Strong Female Lead … But He Understands Others Don’t See It That Way
Some backstory: A few weeks back, Universal released a Jurassic World clip of the banter between Bryce Dallas Howard’s corporate-minded Claire and Chris Pratt’s dinosaur-whispering Owen. Director Joss Whedon then sent a tweet noting that her’s was a stiff characters while his was energetic and noted the whole thing came off as “’70s era sexist.” (He later noted the tweet was “bad form.”) But Trevorrow understands Whedon’s point. “I’ve seen certain analysis that that character is presented in a way that does feel antiquated in who she is, what she goes through. A little bit of it, honestly, kind of hurt my feelings,” Trevorrow says. “I wanted to make a movie with a pretty forward, badass, feminine hero who I considered the lead of the film.”
Trevorrow notes that he was trying to show the character progression of Claire as someone who goes from being very business-minded to someone who, once she sees an injured dinosaur, begins to see beyond the dollars and cents. “That said, I now understand how people might perceive that as being ‘a woman becoming in touch with the fact that she should have children,’” he says, “which never occurred to me and is not what I meant to say.”
And, yes, he knows some folks think it’s ridiculous Claire spends nearly the entire film in high heels—and he’s considering it seriously. “I certainly will continue to process this,” he says. “I hope that as people continue to look at the movie they recognize our intent, which is to have a female lead who changes over the course in a way that is ultimately very positive.”