In 2015, Colin Trevorrow was on top of the world. The Jurassic World that is. After his first feature Safety Not Guaranteed earned the director attention for his Amblinesque aesthetics, Trevorrow’s name passed through the lips of Steven Spielberg and Brad Bird as one of the great up-and-coming cinema crafters. These two advocates built the filmmaker’s career; Spielberg himself chose Trevorrow to write and direct Jurassic World, while Bird recommended his name to Kathleen Kennedy during her search for Star Wars directors. In August, only a few months after the insane record-breaking box-office success of the first Jurassic WorldTrevorrow was officially announced to be writing and directing the ninth episode of Star Wars for Disney.
Meanwhile, the dinosaur franchise continued to press onward. Directing duties for the second film, 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdomwere passed to Juan Antonio Bayona while Trevorrow finished work on his third feature, The Book of Henry and began writing the end of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. In June 2017, almost exactly two years after his successful Tyrannosaurus-trek, Trevorrow released The Book of Henry to widespread critical befuddlement and financial disappointment. While Trevorrow’s Spielbergian fingerprints do not have a clear script to smudge anyway, critics and fans alike pinned much of the movie’s failure on its director.
That September, Disney released the following statement: “Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutually chosen to part ways on ‘Star Wars: Episode IX.’ Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process, but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon. ” While no one has ever officially stated that this was due to The Book of Henry, it’s been widely speculated that the timing is no coincidence, although throwing out Trevorrow’s original script was inevitable due to Carrie Fisher’s passing forcing a huge rewrite. Only a few months later, in March 2018, Trevorrow returned to the Jurassic World franchise and was announced as director of the third film. While he couldn’t complete one legacy trilogy, he had a shot at another.
This brings us up to date with Jurassic World: Dominion, the odd artifact of this whole situation. This being Trevorrow’s first project after being backed against the wall as well as another trilogy finisher, comparisons between this movie and Star Wars may seem coincidental. But viewers of Dominion might have spotted plenty of aesthetic and scripted reasons to see Star Wars in the Jurassic World universe.
The production design of the latest Jurassic World movie departs slightly from the first two. The 2015 film featured Apple-Store-white designs and blue-tinted windows over the whole park. Outside the Gyrospheres (bubble cars for safaris with host Jimmy Fallon as your tour guide), advanced technology was limited to the biological. Fallen Kingdom ditched most of that design with the chance of location to a gothic manor. Wood and iron replaced blue glass and sterile walls.
The main location for Dominion ended up being Biosyn labs, which takes a completely different approach to their science fiction look. The production design of Biosyn’s main headquarters has many elements that feel very Star Wars. The odd lighting in train tunnels and single-color locations as the facility falls into chaos bring to mind scenes from The Last Jedi. While the main control room of the first Jurassic World is blue and black and enclosed, the control room of Biosyn faces a window, looking out into their forest reservation through a window like the bridge of a spaceship.
The film leading up to that moment takes the globe-trotting to an extreme. As the characters shuffle through distinctive biomes at a rapid pace fighting off creature after creature it’s not hard to draw parallels to the different planets’ environments. There are the swampy redwoods in Biosyn’s man-made habitat reminiscent of Endor, the snowy landscape of the Dolomite mountains could easily be the vast ice tundras of Hoth, and even the Sierra Nevadan mountains that could be mistaken for Starkiller Base. Most prominently there’s the Maltese city that evokes Tatooine’s overlap between urban and desert. This location match holds the truest at the underground dinosaur market, where one could easily mistake Michael Giacchino‘s score for a certain cantina band. A wretched hive of scum and villainy anyone?
Some of the action takes on the feeling of a galaxy far, far away as well. Zooming through the streets of Malta with a raptor on your tail? Now this is podracing! Later in the entirely red-lit server room Ellie (Laura Dern) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) fight off the enlarged locusts with tasers, but wielding them like sabers cutting through the air. And of course, there’s the questionable blend of animatronics and CGI that’s rare to see in special effects nowadays unless you’re making a Star Wars picture. While these individual elements might seem like coincidences apart, altogether they give Dominion the feeling of being in the wrong galaxy.
Perhaps that all could seem incidental; having the old cast does already lend the same legasequel feeling that the new Star Wars films have had. But the most glaring element pulled right out of the Millennium Falcon is Kayla Watts, played by DeWanda Wise. From the design of her costume to her character arc, it’s clear that Trevorrow wishes to make her a Han Solo type. She starts uncaring about the injustice going on around her but learns to care for the cause. The way Trevorrow shoots her sitting in her plane straight on and then from a slight angle feels identical to the Falcon’s cockpit. The distinctive way she treats her plane and readies to ride reminds us of our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder to the very last few shots of the film where she lovingly strokes the aircraft’s hull.
While the original Jurassic Park kills off main characters, letting us know that no one is safe, Dominion never manages to make its characters feel like they’re in much real danger because they function more like the kinds of action heroes that don’t die: rebels, rogues, and Jedi. At the end of the day, these elements make Jurassic World: Dominion feel more like a space opera, leaning away from the horror elements that made the original movie so iconic.