We’ve been watching Jurassic Park movies for over 20 years now, although for the most part, nothing after the first one has been particularly great. So instead of watching The Lost World and Jurassic Park III again before the new one comes out, let’s just go over the important bits of the story so far.
First of all, there is a ton of Jurassic Park stuff out there. As a product of the early 90s (before studios really started to figure out how to properly put together a transmedia universe), the quality on the various Jurassic Park comics, novels, and video games varies wildly across dozens of different stories.
Luckily, you don’t need to worry about any of it, because literally none of it is considered canon with the films (despite how hard Telltale worked to make their game fit in between the movies).
So that simplifies things a bit. Making things even easier is the fact that Jurassic World is more or less being positioned as a standalone story. There are certainly plenty of nods and references to the first three films, but seeing them isn’t particularly necessary to enjoy the newest installment.
That being said, if you want the “full” story, there is a lot of connective tissue between all four Jurassic Park movies. Here’s how it all went down.
InGen is Founded
In the early 80s, Dr. John Parker Hammond was exploring methods of potentially cloning dinosaurs from fossilized DNA samples. His original team included one Dr. Henry Wu, who would later become extremely important in the formation of both “Jurassic” theme parks.
Hammond, Wu, and the rest of the team managed to clone a prehistoric animal in 1984, which led to a ton of investor interest in the project. Hammond was eventually able to to raise enough money to form a corporation called International Genetic Technologies Inc. (InGen), and set about establishing research facilities in Palo Alto, California and the island of Isla Sorna off the coast of Costa Rica.
The First Dinosaurs Are Reborn
On Isla Sorna, InGen scientists managed to clone several species of dinosaurs, and Hammond himself began working on plans for a way to show them off to the public. His original idea was to create a large amphitheater-like structure in San Diego, but he eventually changed his mind, and pursued plans for an entire theme park on Isla Nublar, a neighboring island.
While this is happening, the InGen research team continues to refine its cloning methods, combining the DNA of dinosaurs (taken from fossilized mosquitoes preserved in amber) with that of modern day frogs. They also opted to clone all the dinosaurs as female, in order to prevent uncontrolled breeding.
Jurassic Park Opens (And Then Immediately Closes)
“Jurassic Park” would take over a decade to build, but by 1993, InGen had completed work on its main attraction: a safari-esque guided tour in custom-built jeeps.
Unfortunately, just as it was nearing completion, a park worker is killed while attempting to move a Velociraptor. Hammond’s investors panic, and demand that experts be allowed in to inspect the park and certify its safety. The investors group sends two representatives, a lawyer named Donald Gennaro, and Ian Malcom, a mathematician and Jeff Goldblum impersonator. Hammond meanwhile invites a palaeontologist named Alan Grant, and a paleobotanist named Ellie Sattler.
By this point in time, the park is more or less operational (although future attractions were still under construction), and Hammond was so confident in its safety measures that he invited along his grandchildren for the test run.
All of these plans go out the window though when a perfect storm (literally) of bad luck hits the park. A large tropical storm turns towards the island, forcing an evacuation of most of the park’s employees, save for a small skeleton crew of the park’s chief engineer Ray Arnold, game warden Robert Muldoon, and head computer programmer, Dennis Nedry. Making matters much, much worse is the fact that Nedry had been working with a rival tech company known as Biosyn to steal some of InGen’s dinosaur DNA. Seeing the storm as the perfect opportunity to escape with the DNA, Nedry intentionally sabotages the park’s security system.
The dinosaurs escape, and a rampaging Tyrannosaurus rex and a trio of Velociraptors kill Muldoon and Arnold. Meanwhile, Dr. Grant discovers dinosaur egg shells, implying that the animals had somehow been breeding (he surmises that their frog DNA allowed them to change their gender).
Grant, Sattler, Malcom, Hammond, and his grandkids are ultimately able to escape via helicopter, but Hammond’s hopes for his park are crushed.
The Lost World is Found
Despite the tragedy on Isla Nublar, a successful cover-up ensues, and the story of Jurassic Park isn’t widely believed by the general public. Ian Malcom publishes a tell-all book about the incident, but just manages to ruin his academic reputation in the process.
Meanwhile, InGen is still limping along. Despite losing a ton of money in the construction of Jurassic Park (and over $50 million in settlements to the families of Gennaro, Muldoon, and Arnold), their scientists manage to create a new hybrid breed of plant, which keeps the company afloat.
Unfortunately for John Hammond though, his nephew Peter Ludlow gains control of the company. In the hopes of revitalizing InGen’s profits, Ludlow launches an operation to create a new Jurassic Park-esque attraction. As it turns out, many dinosaurs survived on the island of Isla Sorna, where they were engineered and raised before being moved to Jurassic Park on Isla Nublar. After InGen abandoned the facilities, a hurricane freed many of the species still living on Isla Sorna, and they’ve established a loose ecosystem on the island.
In order to prevent Ludlow from repeating his mistakes, Hammond creates his own team, with the mission of traveling to Isla Sorna, documenting the dinosaurs in their new “natural” habitat, and revealing their existence to the public. Hammond hopes that Isla Sorna will then be turned into a nature preserve, preventing humans from meddling in the dinosaurs’ existence (and presumably, also getting eaten by them).
Hammond’s team consists of Ian Malcom from the original movie, a paleontologist named Sarah Harding, Ian’s daughter, and Vince Vaughn for some reason.
Shit hits the fan for both groups though, and they’re forced to work together. They manage to call in a rescue and escape, but not before the InGen reinforcements capture a T-rex, and prep the animal for transport.
It seems InGen had picked up John Hammond’s scrapped plan to build a San Diego-based amphitheater, and they now plan on using that T-rex as the central attraction.
En route via ship though, the T-rex stops breathing, and while attempting to revive it, the animal kills the crew. Upon arriving in San Diego, it escapes once more, and tears shit up for a while before it’s eventually tranquilized, and sent back to Isla Sorna.
In the aftermath of the incident, Isla Sorna is declared a nature preserve by the American and Costa Rican governments, and InGen more or less goes tits up.
People Won’t Stop Going to Dinosaur Island
While all of this is going on, Dr. Alan Grant is also struggling. His research funding is drying up, and his relationship with Ellie Sattler broke down shortly after the Jurassic Park incident.
A rich couple turns up one day though, and offers Grant a ton of funding for his research if he’ll give them an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. Grant reluctantly agrees, only to find out he’s been duped into a rescue operation. It turns out that the couple’s kid crash landed on Isla Sorna while parasailing, and they’re here to find and save him.
Dino-shenanigans ensue, and almost everyone in the rescue party is killed. Grant and company do manage to escape though, after Ellie Sattler calls in the US military to pick them up.
Also escaping? A bunch of Pteranodon that go flying off to Canada (no joke).
Masrani Steps In
Following the death of John Hammond, the nearly bankrupt InGen is bought up by Simon Masrani, head of the Masrani Global Corporation.
Third time’s the charm apparently, and Masrani went straight to work on building a new dinosaur theme park called Jurassic World.
He also restaffed the operation with a mix of InGen employees and outside contractors, including Vic Hoskins, the guy who “took care” of those Pteranodon that made it to Canada, as the park’s head of security, Henry Wu, the geneticist who spearheaded the original cloning efforts, and Star-Lord, who has taken up raptor-rearing while waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
The project would take over two years and $1.2 billion in construction, but when it opened, it was a staggering success.
But because people are dumb, dino-excitement didn’t last forever, and after eight years of operation, park attendance began to wane.
In order to reinvigorate public interest, Masrani begins creating a genetically modified super-dinosaur as the park’s newest attraction. They call it, the Indominus Rex.
Upon announcing it, online booking for Jurassic World goes nuts, and Simon Masrani himself flies into the park to be there for its official opening.
Queue: Jurassic World.