Jurassic City | How Gareth Edwards’ Jurassic Park sequel could bring his filmmaking career full-circle

Jurassic Park 4 Gareth Edwards
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We look ahead to Gareth Edwards’ Jurassic City, what it might be like, and how it connects to his very earliest work.

In the press tour for his 2023 sci-fi film The Creator, British director Gareth Edwards suggested that, after the bruising experiences of making 2014’s Godzilla and in particular 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he wouldn’t rush to go back to studio filmmaking again.

Suggesting that both of those films had started production without finalised scripts, Edwards said as recently as January that “I have to concentrate on personal and original projects.”

This stance appeared to change rather abruptly just one month later, when Universal approached Edwards with the offer to direct the next Jurassic Park (or Jurassic World) sequel. Original director David Leitch had dropped out, and with the film’s production racing to meet a self-set 2025 release date, Universal Pictures needed a replacement in a hurry to keep things on track.

By early March, Edwards had confirmed his involvement, with production on Jurassic 4, as it was dubbed in a press release, due to get underway at London’s Sky Studios Elstree later this year.

Read more: The Creator review | The best science fiction film of 2023

Although Edwards’ climbdown might have sounded a bit surprising at first, it’s clear that he simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to make his own Jurassic film – especially given that the first in the series, 1993’s Jurassic Park, had been such an influence on him.

In fact, looking back over Edwards’ career, it becomes evident just how important Jurassic Park – and Steven Spielberg’s 1980s and 1990s work in general – was to his growth as a filmmaker.

Like so many directors of his generation, Gareth Edwards’ formative years were partly spent watching Spielberg films in a state of wonderment. An early love of movies like Jaws and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind led him to study art and design at university, which in turn led to a burgeoning career in visual effects. Edwards was still in his 20s when he worked on the VFX for the documentaries Nova and Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World.

In 2010, Edwards revealed that he’d made a monster movie as a graduation film project in 1996, and that it was loosely inspired by Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

“I saw Jurassic Park, like everybody, and my only disappointment was that I was hoping [the dinosaurs] would get on the mainland,” Edwards told me back then. “I was hoping they’d affect suburbia, homes and towns and stuff. Obviously, [Jurassic Park] stays on the tropical island, and so I was thinking to myself that I wanted to do a monster movie that took place in our backyard, like it’s in the place I live in and you live in. That’s what I did in my graduation film. It’s terrible. You wouldn’t ever want to watch it. I’d burn every copy of it if I could. But it was a monster movie set in suburbia.”

(Interestingly, the rumoured title of Edwards’ film is Jurassic City – this hasn’t been confirmed at the time of writing, but would certainly hint at a suburban or at any rate urban setting.)

All of this paved the way for Edwards’ low-budget debut, 2010’s Monsters – a road-trip indie drama that saw photojournalist Andrew (Scoot McNairy) charged with guiding his boss’s daughter, Samantha (Whitney Able) through Mexico and across the border to the United States. The twist being that, in this version of reality, Central America is overrun by colossal alien creatures which have long since demolished infrastructures and prompted the US to erect a colossal wall to keep the threat contained.

Monsters (2010). Credit: Vertigo.

Made for about $500,000 – Edwards saved money by shooting on location without a script, then completing the VFX in his bedroom – Monsters was a sleeper hit, and launched Edwards’ Hollywood career. And while its documentary feel and improvised dialogue may not have felt especially Spielbergian, the director’s influence nevertheless made itself felt on the project in a less obvious way.

While Monsters was still an idea on a page, Spielberg had just released War Of The Worlds – his bracing 2005 update of HG Wells’ seminal alien invasion novel. Taken by this, and the then-relatively-recent success of the found footage smash The Blair Witch Project, Edwards put a pitch document together with the words, ‘“Blair Witch meets War Of The Worlds” on the front.

Read more: Monsters and Godzilla | The creature movies of Gareth Edwards

When Hollywood came calling, and Edwards got the Godzilla gig, his thoughts again turned to Spielberg – and how he could mix the filmmaker’s style with his own documentary-style approach. Talking to cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, Edwards asked how they could find some kind of meeting point between the two styles; McGarvey’s response was a simple, “Just do both.”

“On a per-shot basis, just do what feels right,” Edwards recalled McGarvey saying in 2014. “If you think it should be stable, do that, and if you want rawness, do that.”

“I was paranoid that it wouldn’t cut together,” Edwards said, “that it wouldn’t feel right. But it doesn’t notice, really.”

For Godzilla, Edwards also borrowed an approach Spielberg took in both Jaws and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, where sharks and alien craft are suggested, but only occasionally glimpsed.

Godzilla (2014). Credit: Sony/Legendary.

“…early 80s and 70s movies, whether it be Jaws or Alien, they spend the first half of the film building up glimpses of things,” Edwards told me. “Maybe because they had to, because they couldn’t show so much back then… And if you look at horror and action, like my favourite films, like Aliens or Close Encounters or Jaws, they’re movies that couldn’t show everything. They’re so powerful as a result, and there’s an important lesson for filmmakers there, which is that sometimes, less is more.”

It’s a maxim that other filmmakers quietly dropped as the various sequels and spin-offs to Godzilla emerged over the next decade; the trailers for this year’s Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire are almost wall-to-wall kaiju mayhem, with the creatures shown brawling in broad daylight. The less-is-more approach has long since gone.

Read more: Star Wars Rogue One, Gareth Edwards, and a question of authorship

The Creator, meanwhile, is an unabashed mash-up of his heroes’ work – a sci-fi combination of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. But at its core is a distinctly warm, even Spielbergian relationship between an artificially intelligent humanoid, Alphie (Madeleine Yuna Voyles) and the soldier initially sent to kill her, John David Washington’s Joshua. For all the spectacular visual effects and hard-edged sci-fi worldbuilding, The Creator arguably wouldn’t have worked without this Amblin-esque softness at its heart.

All of which helps to explain why, after finishing The Creator, he suddenly changed his mind about making another personal film and signed up to make a Jurassic film instead; it’s the opportunity to work with Spielberg and his production company, Amblin Entertainment.

“I was about to take a break,” Edwards said in a February interview with Collider. “I started writing my next idea for a film, and this is the only movie that would make me drop everything like a stone. I love Jurassic Park – I think the first movie is a cinematic masterpiece. And Steven Spielberg is 100 percent the reason I wanted to become a film director, so this opportunity is like a dream to me. And to work with Frank Marshall and Universal and David Koepp who’s writing the script – they’re all legends.”

As for what Edwards’ Jurassic film might look like – well, his previous work certainly gives us a clue. There’s his talent for blending ground-level action with a cinematic sense of scale, but also a humanistic optimism that separates his movies from the downbeat cynicism often found in the films of, say, Neill Blomkamp or Alex Garland. The creatures in Godzilla, for example, are simple forces of nature – neither good nor bad. It’s something that might also apply to the dinosaurs in his own take on the Jurassic Park franchise.

“I like grey, not black and white,” Edwards said in 2014. “Even the bad creatures, I wanted to give them a moment where you empathise with them. You realise that what they do isn’t so evil.”

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