The original Jurassic Park turns 30 next year. Its impact cannot be overstated as a blockbuster work of entertainment, as a technical achievement, as an historic moneymaker for everyone involved. While in an era of indefatigable intellectual property few sequels ever truly mark the definitive end of a franchise, Emily Carmichael and co-writer and director Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World: Dominion, opening June 10, at least appears to bring its story to some sort of resolution. To ready moviegoers for what to expect, The A.V. Club has put together a “primer” to prepare them for the prehistoric adventure that’s now 65 million and thirty years in the making.
Back in 1993, International Genetic Technologies, Inc., also known as InGen, extracted DNA from fossilized mosquitoes preserved in amber, and used genetic engineering to clone dinosaurs. Where the animals’ genetic sequences were incomplete, scientists used materials from living reptiles to fill on those spaces; this has repeatedly caused unexpected abnormalities in their genetic makeup, enabling them to adapt both against protective measures InGen developed to control the dinosaur population, as well as larger environmental conditions they face because of being bred in captivity.
At the behest of the company’s now-deceased CEO John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough), InGen built Jurassic Park on the fictional Central American island of Isla Nublar as a destination theme park and animal preserve where ticket holders can see and interact with dinosaurs. Before opening it to the public, Hammond invited a team of experts to the park, and their experiences not only set the franchise into motion, but established the pattern that virtually all of the sequels followed up to and including Jurassic World Dominion.
For the latest film, a company called Biosyn, one of InGen’s corpoirate rivals, has acquired worldwide rights to capture and detain dinosaurs, an opportunity that the company’s CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) leverages for military and scientific purposes. Dodgson made a brief appearance in Jurassic Park, played by Cameron Thor.
Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) were the first scientists to visit Jurassic Park. Grant, a paleontologist, Sattler, a Paleobotanist, and Malcolm, a chaos theorist, express a variety of doubts about the science utilized to bring dinosaurs back to life—some individual to their area of expertise, and some overlapping as ethically-minded scientists—and many of them are legitimized when a combination of human error and criminality leads to the animals escaping their enclosures, attacking visitors, and eventually causing some brutal casualties.
Malcolm returned for The Lost World (1997), Grant for Jurassic Park III (2001), and Malcolm made a brief appearance in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom speaking in front of government officials as subsequent generations of ambitious businessmen have attempted to fulfill Hammond’s dreams, repeating many of his mistakes in the process. All three return for Dominion: when Sattler investigates evidence that Biosyn has resurrected (or created) a specific of prehistoric locusts that begins devastating wheat crops in the American Midwest, she recruits Grant to help verify her findings. The two of them receive an invitation to Biosyn’s animal preserve and scientific headquarters, thanks to Ian Malcolm, who Dodgson hired to train and motivate his staff despite the scientist’s aptitude for disruption, and, well, chaos.
In the meantime, biotechnologist Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) has worked for since the original Jurassic Park, first for InGen and later for Biosyn, as one of the chief engineers of the dinosaurs that have not only run rampant across almost all of both corporations’ financial plans, but through his direct efforts, recombined known science to give them skills and abilities they never had before.
While Dr. Wu returns in the Jurassic World films, and plays a pivotal role in Dominion to relieve the damage that his corporate overlords caused, a number of younger characters have taken over for the original Jurassic Park scientists to try and shepherd the franchise into a new era.
The two most important individuals are Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard. Grady is an ex-Navy veteran and a trainer for the velociraptors—specifically Blue, the genetically engineered raptor that becomes a pawn in both Jurassic World (2015) and Fallen Kingdom (2018) as moneyed and unscrupulous parties decide that these deadly predators should be used for military use. Dearing is the former manager of Jurassic World, who develops a more empathetic perspective towards dinosaurs after her all-business worldview gets completely shattered by the events of Jurassic World. Through their experiences at the park, Grady and Dearing rekindle a romance with one another that they maintain through Dominion.
Also making an appearance in Dominion is Barry Sembène (Omar Sy), an animal trainer who worked alongside Grady at Jurassic World. After last being seen narrowly escaping being murdered by a velociraptor, Sembène joins the CIA to track dinosaur poachers, leading him to reconnect with Grady in the events of the new film. The person who leads Grady to Sembène is Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), a former technician at Jurassic World who appeared in Fallen Kingdom. He lands a job at the F.B.I., where he works on cases involving dangerous animals.
The character from the previous films you have the most difficulty remembering—or recognizing her importance—is Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon). She first appeared in Fallen Kingdom, the nine-year-old granddaughter daughter of Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell). She is actually a clone of her mother Charlotte (Elva Trill), and comes to embody the scientific potential unlocked by the experts who were able to clone disosaurs. After Benjamin passes away, Grady and Dearing comfort her, establishing trust, and they (and good ol’ Blue) later rescue her from being eaten by the Indoraptor. At the beginning of Dominion, Grady and Dearing raise her in secrecy to protect her from interested parties who want to acquire and study her for their own nefarious purposes. She soon becomes a pawn between Grady, Dearing and ruthless mercenaries.
In Dominion, Grady and Dearing cross paths with Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), a former Air Force pilot and soldier of fortune who agrees to help them rescue Maisie after she transports her and Blue’s offspring into the hands of mercenaries. She is resourceful, and knowledgeable about the dinosaurs—particularly the new ones.
Meanwhile at Biosyn’s science facility, Sattler and Grant are introduced to Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie), one of Malcolm’s proteges who not only leads them on a tour of the facility but monitors them as they try to seek the evidence of Biosyn’s corporate malfeasance.
Blue was mentioned above—as was the animal’s baby, whom Maisie calls Beta, who makes its appearance here for the first time. But the film features a handful for dinosaur species from earlier films, including Ankylosaurus, which wields its bulbous tail like a club; the mammoth, awe-inspiring, cow-like Brachiosaurus; Triceratops; and the horse-like Parasaurolophus. There’s also the terrifying Dilophosaurus, whose colorful signals that it plans to strike at its victim with a venomous spray. And last but never least, there’s the Tyrannosaurus Rex, in fact the same beast from the original film as it has fought—and almost died—to prevail as the king of a particularly volatile food chain.
Among the new dinosaurs making their introduction in Dominion are the Atrociraptor, a feathered predator that exemplifies humankind’s evolving understanding of dinosaurs as genetic descendants of birds; and Giganotosaurus, yet another super-predator whose size exceeds that of the Tyrannosaur and follows in the series of ever-bigger dinosaurs that scientists unadvisably engineer, only for them to turn on their makers (and anyone else within biting range).