Indominus Rex, the new and improved 50-foot long, 18-foot high Jurassic World dinosaur, is the perfectly subversive symbol of the new and improved Jurassic Park. And like the big bad prehistoric—or perhaps posthistoric—beast, director Colin Trevorrow is also a new kid on the block. His 2012 sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed made only $4 million at the box office, but its smart script and genre savvy caught the eyes of many critics, not to mention Steven Spielberg, who hired him to carry on the terror tradition in the franchise’s fourth film (in theaters June 12). Trevorrow spoke to EW about the similarities between a dinosaur behemoth and a beloved movie franchise—and which is scarier to get close to.
EW: So we shouldn’t expect to see Indominus Rex at the Natural History Museum, is that right?
COLIN TREVORROW: No, it’s not a real dinosaur. The Indominus was meant to embody our worst tendencies. We’re surrounded by wonder and yet we want more. And we want it bigger, faster, louder, better. And in the world of the movie the animal is designed based on a series of corporate focus groups. Like in the same way a lot of movies are. They sit a bunch of people down and they ask them, “What can we do to make the dinosaurs more entertaining for you? What would make you tell a friend to come to Jurassic World?” And their answer is, of course, “We want to see something bigger, faster, louder, more vicious; we want a killer.” And they get what what they ask for.
What’s it actually made out of?
It’s a hybrid of specific dinosaurs with great movie names like the Giganotosaurus and Majungasaurus, as well as other animals that exist in the world today, with certain attributes that Dr. Wu [B.D. Wong] felt would create the ultimate piece of entertainment.
Sounds like a pretty simple metaphor for going to the movies.
Well, we’re so surrounded by so much of this marketing and just being told on a regular basis that you have to like this, you will go here, you want this. I found that to me that fit perfectly into what a theme park of dinosaur would be about. It’s a surprisingly simple idea. I found that a lot of bigger films tend to get very complicated in their storytelling these days, and we have ideas in here that, yes, they may be sophisticated if you decide to think about them and talk about them a lot, but I think the experience of seeing the film is one that even young kids will be able to process and get behind.
That definitely ties into the desire in the movie culture for anything bigger and louder, right? The original Jurassic Park was a huge hit, but you don’t even see the T. Rex for an hour.
Yeah, we live in a cult of the upgrade right now. There’s always something around the corner that will make whatever you think is cool right now feel obsolete. And I feel like the Indominus Rex tis the animal version of that.
Were you thinking of other great villain characters from movies?
It’s a classic villain to me because it’s comparatively synthetic to the other dinosaurs. You know, Frankenstein and Darth Vader and even Captain Hook, there are parts to them that aren’t entirely organic. Indominus sort of makes the dinosaurs feel like real animals. It’s an abomination that must be exterminated.
We can tell a little bit from the trailers that the movie makes sly references to itself?
Right, you have to. Tthere’s a character in the film played by Jake Johnson who says very clearly, early in the movie, “Jurassic Park—the original Jurassic Park—that was legit! You don’t need synthetic dinosaurs. It was so much better when it was just real ones. Wasn’t that enough for audiences?”
That’s very funny.
I know there’s a lot of both fans and people who love movies that are frustrated that we would have anything but real dinosaurs in the film. But to me that’s the whole point.
For yourself, were you afraid at all of selling out as a director? Or the perception that you were?
Well, obviously it’s a thrill to direct a Jurassic Park film and it’s a great honor. But from a storytelling standpoint, its not something that I wanted to do just so I could up my career. Or make a bunch of money. There’s like six or seven genres going simultaneously in a movie like this. What is it—it’s like a sci-fi adventure horror romantic comedy thriller? It’s a lot. For me the challenge was doing a movie that balanced all those tones. That’s what I challenged myself to do as a filmmaker. This was the next level opportunity to do that.
How ironic is it to you that some details of Indominus Rex have been leaked through merchandising?
You know, the toys are made almost a year in advance. We lock this stuff pretty far out. And yet I didn’t really mind it.
Right, it totally underlines the metaphor.
At this point I realize that, just like the Indominus Rex itself, we have not been able to keep it in a cage. We failed. People have seen the animal. And to me, it’s not that I don’t wish we could’ve kept it a secret. Sure I do. But to me the exciting part of this movie is what happens and how it happens. So it’s okay that we think of the dinosaurs like the actors—you know, come see what Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard and T. Rex and Indominus Rex are going to do. But the fact that stuff was leaked through merchandising plays right into what we’re doing. Indominus is an abomination and a killer—and on party plates.