January 2010 - The original is still the 15th highest grossing movie worldwide. The franchise has taken nearly £2 billion worldwide. Ripe for reinvention, then.
Sure enough, in Jan 2010, during promotional duties on The Wolfman , Joe Johnston - who also helmed Jurassic Park 3 - confirmed plans for a reboot:
"Well, there is going to be a Jurassic Park 4 . And it's going to be unlike anything you've seen. It breaks away from the first three—it's essentially the beginning of the second Jurassic Park trilogy. It's going to be done in a completely different way. That's pretty much all I can tell you."
Dinos in Development Hell
2001 - 2010 - Time for a flashback because, in fact, Part 4 has been mooted since Johnston's threequel wrapped, but has been stuck in development hell ever since.
The initial screenplay was penned by an impressive tag-team, comprising future The Departed scribe William Monaghan and monster-movie veteran John Sayles (who cut his teeth writing Pirahna and Alligator before becoming an indie icon).
However, when the so-called "Dinosaurs With Guns" draft was leaked by Ain't It Cool News, its plotline (something to do with a repentant mercenary taking on genetically modified warriors with combined dinosaur, human and even dog DNA) was widely ridiculed.
In 2007, SFX guru Stan Winston confirmed that Spielberg wouldn't move forward until they'd cracked the story.
"Steven wasn't very enthused with the first couple of screenplay drafts. I think he felt neither of them balanced the science and adventure elements effectively.
"It's a tough compromise to reach, as too much science will make the movie too talky, but too much adventure will make it seem hollow."
The death of Winston in 2008, not to mention series creator Michael Crichton the same year, ensured that things stayed cold until Johnston's recent announcement.
Reborn in the USA
July 2011 - Johnston, promoting Captain America: The First Avenger , feels compelled to drop further hints about the new movie, explaining that "things will be a little closer to home this time."
The media leaps upon Johnston's ponderings as proof that the series will be set on American soil, and most are broadly enthusiastic. Den of Geek sums up the appeal thus:
"The franchise desperately needed to get away from 'tropical island' fatigue. While The Lost World paid lip service to the idea of dinos in the city, what we've never seen until now is armies of marauding reptiles chomping on passers-by."
Science Vs Adventure Vs Politics?
October 2011 - What premise could justify bringing the dinos back home, while fulfilling Spielberg's edict about balancing the tone?
When State of Play scribes Peter Morgan and Tony Gilroy are announced as writers, speculation shifts to an increased political tone to the film.
So it proves when a blogger catches sight of a Universal memo suggesting that this will be the " All The President's Men "-style set-up for a major conspiracy thriller."
All The President's Men ... with dinosaurs, presumably.
January 2012 - Universal comes clean, when the official press release confirms the premise of the film.
Riffing on the set-up to Monaghan and Sayles' script, the story involves a secret military bio-dome in the Nevada desert, where dinosaurs have been cloned (using the Thermos of embryos that went missing in the first film).
An informant goes rogue with the info, turning to an investigative journalist with a special knowledge of dinosaurs...
...None other than Lex Murphy, John Hammond's granddaughter in the original movies, now an adult reporter determined to uncover abuses of power, corruption and lies.
Raves for Reeves
March 2012 - Joe Johnston, tied to Captain America 2 , backs down from handling Jurassic Park 4 . A source close to the director says, "if it's gonna be a clean break, it's gonna be real clean."
For similar reasons, Spielberg confirms he's out of the running; he and Johnston will participate only as exec producers.
With Neill Blomkamp engaged on the Star Wars reboot , Michael Bay is the initial bookies' favourite to fanboy consternation.
Surprisingly, though, a quick decision is announced. Despite Let Me In 's muted box office, the film's excellent word-of-mouth - allied to Spielberg's love of Cloverfield - sees Matt Reeves brought in to balance action with emotional heft.
June 2012 - With Arianna Phillips' acting career on the backburner, Reeves takes the reluctant decision to recast Lex Muprhy.
Amanda Seyfried and Ashley Tisdale are the names bandied about, but it turns out that the pundits have failed to consider how old the character should be.
Canadian actress/director Sarah Polley, of Dawn of the Dead and Splice fame, gets the part. Only eight months older than Richards, her preference for more leftfield roles gains favours with online fans.
Attention soon turns to whether there will be a role for Lex's brother Tim. In this case, there's no question of recasting, since Joseph Mazzello is back in contention after major roles in the Spielberg-produced The Pacific and The Social Network .
Hero and villain
July 2012 - Two major casting announcements underline that Reeves is looking to put his own stamp on the film.
First, The O.C. 's Adam Brody is confirmed as Glen Foster, apparently the informer who leads Lex to the mysterious bio-dome.
The same week, Michael Fassbender, Hollywood's latest go-to guy for villainy after his scorching turn as Magneto in X-Men: First Class , is cast as Major Owen Scott, the man in charge of the dino cloning operation.
Tim Murphy returns... but beware spoilers
August 2012 - In a widely anticipated move, Joseph Mazzello is indeed returning as Tim Murphy. However, in a major gaffe, the publicity marks the character as a villain.
Specifically, Tim is revealed to be the chief scientist working with Fassbender's Major Scott, with the press release reading:
"Tim, haunted by his experiences on Isla Nublar, has dreamt of finishing his grandfather's work and has done a deal with the devil to bring dinosaurs back to Earth."
Amidst the outrage over the spoiler (Ain't It Cool News rechristens the Universal PR team as "the Craptors"), many are sufficiently intrigued by Tim's character arc for some pundits to suspect that the 'mistake' was deliberate.
A cavalcade of cameos
September 2012 - The consistent murmur throughout casting is how many of the original cast will return. Answer: all of them.
Well, the main ones anyway, with Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough signed up to reprise their characters.
There's an understandable question mark over the level of 89-year-old Attenborough's involvement, but his agent confirms "he's absolutely delighted to be battling dinosaurs once again."
Meanwhile, after a heated online campaign, it is confirmed that Arianna Phillips will appear in the film after all, albeit in a different role.
November 2012 - With pre-production in full swing, Industrial Light and Magic talks up the challenge of making dinosaurs in (inevitably) 3D. One technician promises "these guys will be so lifelike you'll think you can smell 'em!"
Many are expecting the dinosaurs to be 100% CGI, but Steven Spielberg's team issues a statement confirming the continued use of animatronics (from Stan Winston Studio) on set, with digital effects used to fine-tune the spectacle in post-production.
At the same time, Reeves will be using the latest 3D cameras, more lightweight and portable than any others to achieve complex shots on location.
Spielberg, fresh off Tintin , advises the director personally on how to get the best out of the technology. According to sources close to both men, Reeves' response was: "Best school ever!"
The Obligatory Comic-Con Launch
August 2013 - After months of shooting under tightly guarded secrecy, Reeves and his cast take to Comic-Con, with an unprecedented level of audience love for a non-comic book movie.
The director is keen to point out that only half of the film has been announced and reveals a teaser trailer, which confirms a long-rumoured mid-film twist: it's Tim who opens the doors to the dinos' containment pens to let them loose into America.
Telltale snippets suggest that the movie's second half is a full-on action onslaught as Lex gets caught in the cross-fire between an insane brother, trigger-happy soldiers and 'improved' dinos capable of withstanding scorching desert sun.
January 2014 - These hints are broadly confirmed when the first full 3D trailer goes live during Superbowl.
Utilising an Aliens -esque structure, a clammy sense of panic and wonder envelops Lex as she and Glen infiltrate the bio-dome, where Major Scott pits dinosaur against dinosaur to test their strength.
Perturbed at the military's use of his "pets," Tim lets them loose into America. Cue a race against time to prevent the raptors reaching populated areas, while Major Scott is hell-bent on gunning down witnesses.
Oh, and the dinosaurs look fricking immense in 3D.
June 2014 - Hot on the heels of the Star Wars reboot, many are wondering if Reeves' dinosaur revolution will get lost amidst the hype.
They needn't have worried. Shored up by astonishing reviews, the film goes supernova at the global box office, earning as much as Lucas' revival.
For The Guardian, it's the better film of the two: "Reeves marries Spielbergian shock and awe to the same grounded reality he demonstrated in Cloverfield . It's thrilling and terrifying, but beyond that you'll care what happens."
2015 and beyond - The film ends on an almighty cliffhanger, with Lex convincing the President not to drop a nuclear bomb on middle America to contain the threat... but at the cost of letting the dinos loose across the whole of America!
The sequel is quickly green-lit, which promises to show the aftershocks of that decision. Reeves talks up a continent overrun by predators, with scientists and soldiers racing to find the best way to cope.
Meanwhile, Lex has to penetrate the heart of dinosaur country to locate her insane, feral brother.