May 21, 2015 5:58 AM EDT


In Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park, dinosaurs were astounding, awe-inspiring beasts. But to the jaded theme-park visitors of Jurassic World (June 12), if you’ve seen one predator, you’ve seen them all.

“We wanted to create a world where we’d grown numb to the wonders around us,” says director Colin Trevorrow. As the movie’s dino-tourists begin to exhibit ennui, the theme park’s management attempts to boost interest by creating a genetically modified super-reptile, bred from terrifying strains of extinct species. Chaos, of course, ensues.

Indominus Rex (right) is the movie’s hottest new star not named Chris Pratt. The creature isn’t so outlandish as to be “a freakish sci-fi monster,” says Trevorrow. But it is fantastical. The director and collaborators, including executive producer Spielberg and paleontologist Jack Horner, “sat in a circle like 8-year-old kids and asked what would be the most awesome attributes: very smart, very large, very fast, arms that could pick things up.”

The GMO plotline liberated Trevorrow to build a dinosaur with a combination of scary characteristics. “With any kind of genetic modification,” he says, “all bets are off.” In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs were a well-meant scientific project; in World, Trevorrow says, they’re intended to thrill: “It’s not reality-based. It’s entertainment-based.”

These dinosaurs, shot with a mix of CGI, animatronics and motion capture (for raptors with quasi-human attributes) are truly more ferocious than Spielberg’s. They need to be, to keep parkgoers–and movie watchers–sated, says Trevorrow, who adds, “We’ve all reached a point where we expect the next installment of what we love to be bigger than what came before.”

This appears in the June 01, 2015 issue of TIME.

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