Shooting began this week on the next Jurassic World film. That’s not exceptionally newsworthy - it was going to start shooting eventually - but in announcing the start of production, director Colin Trevorrow also announced the film’s title: Jurassic World: Dominion.
The word “Dominion” evokes any number of images, depending on who you are. Maybe it evokes Paul Schrader’s Exorcist prequel. Maybe it evokes Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's baddies, or a Sisters of Mercy song, or a New Zealand newspaper, or the sordid history of British imperialism. But the most likely inference in the title is to the notion of anthropocentrism espoused by, among other philosophical sources, the Biblical book of Genesis (1:26):
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
The 7,000-year-old idea being presented here is that human beings are, if not the literal centre of the universe, the metaphorical centre of it - a uniquely empowered species that not only exerts but deserves control over the rest of the world and all the living things in it. Humans, say anthropocentrists, have intrinsic value simply by virtue of being human. Some interpretations (like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which reconciles Biblical fantasy with science and environmentalism) see the word “dominion” implying stewardship of humanity over nature, but the majority suggest a master/servant relationship. We “develop” the world for our own purposes; we want to save the environment mainly for our own survival; our basic “human” rights do not apply to animals or plants, because they are not human, and therefore we can do with them as we like.
I think anthropocentrism is a load of shit. And I think the Jurassic Park series does, too.
The original Jurassic Park’s most significant theme is one of humanity's hubris in trying to muster forces it cannot control. There’s talk throughout the film about the long natural reign of the dinosaurs, and the egocentric God-playing taking place in humanity’s comparatively tiny one. The Lost World goes further, telling a story all about preventing further exploitation of an island where dinosaur life is flourishing. Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond delivers the final lines of the film, stating that the animals “require our absence to survive, not our help. And if we could only step aside and trust in nature, life will find a way.” Jurassic Park III ends more cynically; while paleontologist Alan Grant’s wonder at life and evolution is uncowed, Téa Leoni’s character says of some escaping pteranodons, “I dare ‘em to nest in Enid, Oklahoma.”
The Jurassic World films are more confused thematically. The first film is nominally a continuation of the original’s ideas, but winds up accidentally celebrating much of what Spielberg’s film railed against. And though its sequel Fallen Kingdom develops into a discussion of conservation versus weaponisation, it’s not really given any treatment more significant than as a driver of action. Still, the idea is there, and when putting dinosaurs next to humans, questions of evolutionary superiority (or whether such superiority can even exist) inevitably get raised. After all, dinosaurs ruled the Earth 500 times longer than homo sapiens has existed, and 15,000 times longer than our civilisation has. Given that there are currently twice as many bird species as mammal species, when it comes to speciation they’re still on top.
Which is where the title “Dominion” comes in. What follows is one hundred percent speculation and wishful thinking, so don’t come crying to me when the movie ends up being some other ridiculous nonsense. Scott might want dinosaurs with guns in this movie, but my plea is just as insistent: I want the dinosaurs to win in Jurassic World: Dominion. Not just survive. Win.
Think about it. This entire series has presented humankind’s self-serving goals of conquest and financial gain as insignificant next to the power of nature. The ending of Fallen Kingdom saw dinosaurs spreading out across North America and, presumably, the world. The title of its sequel is Dominion. There’s clearly some kind of existential power struggle going on in this movie, and I think the dinosaurs should win it. How better to deliver upon the thematic promises of the rest of the franchise, which even in its production and marketing has endowed its dinosaurs with far more importance than its human characters? How better to follow up the depiction of these animals as dangerous to humans than to have them kill us all?
A struggle for “dominion” between people and dinosaurs would make for a hugely satisfying movie. Some dinosaurs would die, of course, but the majority of the film would be made up of what people really come to see these movies for: people getting absolutely ripped to pieces by dinosaurs. The principal difference would be that instead of getting the satisfaction of seeing lawyers, venture capitalists, and military types butchered, it’d be the entire human race. All inter-human conflicts would be reduced to the petty squabbles they are for one brief, glorious moment, as the entire species is brought to an end under the great equalising might of the dinosaur. It will be the final expression of the stepping-aside alluded to in The Lost World.
You might think this will result in some kind of Planet of the Apes scenario, with pockets of plucky survivors eking out a meagre existence in the shadow of tyrannosaurs. Or it could end in an uneasy peace, with dinosaurs simply adding to our current wilderness biodiversity. That’s not what I want. I want humankind exterminated. It doesn’t matter if they’re eaten, starved out of existence, driven into the sea - I just want them gone. I want the camera to pull out to a future where the dinosaurs reign anew, as they would have continued to were it not for a stray piece of space rock. I want the only option for another Jurassic movie to be a faux-documentary about the natural world, led by dinosaurs, taking back over the spaces humanity terraformed for millennia. I’d say “all hail our new dinosaur overlords,” but we’ll all be dead in this scenario, so the notion of overlords is sort of irrelevant.
It’s not much to ask, really. And if Trevorrow can’t manage that, at the very least he could have women inherit the Earth, as Laura Dern decreed nearly three decades ago. Again: it's just fulfilling a promise made by the original Jurassic Park.