In the original Jurassic Park—adapted for the screen by Steven Spielberg, three years after Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel brought dinosaurs back to life—kind-hearted paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and smarmy mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) tick through a succinct historical timeline as they mull the wisdom of this wonderland theme park. You might even know the lines by heart.
Malcolm: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.
Sattler: Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.
It’s a moment of levity before the T. rex breaks up the party. It’s also a nod to the movie’s apocalyptic warnings.
“Jeff Goldblum and I spent a day yesterday, between interviews, just thinking about how much further down the horror hole we’ve gotten,” Dern says by phone earlier this week, referring to the existential crisis our planet faces. It’s the morning after the Los Angeles premiere of Jurassic World: Dominion, the final installment of the Jurassic World trilogy landing in theaters today, which brings together the old gang (including Sam Neill), the reboot stars (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard), and newcomers (DeWanda Wise, Mamoudou Athie, Campbell Scott).
However much it’s an action-packed work of science fiction, Dern appreciates “being part of a franchise that seamlessly, from its origin story, is about a previous extinction and how we avoid another, and nature versus science, and corporate greed,” she says. It was only fitting that her character, nearly three decades later, would have turned her attention to environmental science. Onscreen, the fictional Dr. Sattler is examining the effects of genetically modified food and industrial farming, “while me, Laura Dern, sits on every plane—I’m traveling a lot right now—with my new bible, which is John Doerr’s book, Speed & Scale. It’s such a gift in really practically laying out for us how we can get to net zero [carbon emissions] by 2050. But it also looks at how we’ve gotten here.”
A spin-off trilogy is necessarily steeped in nostalgia. The 1993 original remains preserved in the amber of people’s minds even as it continues to draw new recruits. (In the Times, Dern recalled watching it with her daughter three days before leaving to shoot the latest movie: “It was amazing to see it through her eyes—there’s nothing dated about it.”) Just as seemingly unchanged is 55-year-old Dern herself. In the film, when Dr. Sattler whirls around to catch sight of Neill’s Dr. Grant, her skin looks surreally fresh, as if her facialist has taken up residence in a dusty corner of this dig-site tent. The same goes for the actor at the L.A. premiere, where the beauty look—a loose ponytail by hairstylist Frida Aradottir, with a crisp red lip by longtime makeup artist Simone Siegl—had a minimalist, timeless quality.