Soulful Dino Mania In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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It may seem difficult to believe, but when the filmmakers behind 2015’s Jurassic World  began its development, they had no idea that their labor of love would become one of the top-five grossing movies of all time.

For Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, who also co-wrote the first chapter—and returns as co-writer and now executive producer of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom—the relaunch of the series that has captivated him since he was a boy has long been imagined as a trilogy.

Alongside co-writer Derek Connolly, he has taken great pride in bringing the cautionary tales of Michael Crichton and world creation of Steven Spielberg to a delightfully dangerous and unexpected new level.

It’s been three years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment.  Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles.

When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.  Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission.  Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times.

With all of the wonder, adventure and thrills synonymous with one of the most popular and successful series in cinema history, this all-new motion-picture event sees the return of favorite characters and dinosaurs—along with new breeds more awe-inspiring and terrifying than ever before.

Once the global press tour wrapped and riveted audiences celebrated this landmark achievement, it was time to take a deep breath…and then get back to work.  “About two weeks after Jurassic World came out, I had been living in Los Angeles with my family for the year and had to drive back to our home in Vermont,” recounts Trevorrow.  “I asked Derek if he would ride with me, so we could use that cross-country trip to talk about where the story could go next.  I had a very basic set of ideas I wanted to present to him—in a place that we could think freely and just get weird with what the future could be.”

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Screenwriter Derek Connolly

Buoyed with confidence at the film’s rip-roaring success and Spielberg’s confidence in their narrative arc, the pair hit the road to discuss what was next for former raptor trainer Owen, operations manager Claire and the thousands of displaced dinosaurs roaming the land and flying above Isla Nublar.  “This time around, Steven said, ‘Show me what you think this can be, where you think these characters should go and where we should take them,’” shares Trevorrow.  “So we drove to Vermont and, on the way, came up with the story that is Fallen Kingdom.”

While Jurassic World took the park that was only a promise and brought it to awe-striking, terrifying life, Trevorrow knew the next chapter could and should tackle much darker themes.  The storyteller who first made a splash with the celebrated Safety Not Guaranteed has long been curious by what it means to exist within paradoxical time.  “These dinosaurs were of this Earth 65 million years ago, and now they’re in a place that is completely foreign to them,” he says.  “I thought there was a way we could tell a story that would identify the human angle.  How would you feel if you were brought into a world that you didn’t belong to…just for the satisfaction of others?  That was a realm we hadn’t gone to before, and it was something we knew these movies would benefit from.”

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Screenwriter Colin Trevorrow with actor Chris Pratt

As the writing partners designed this second act, they strategized where they could take the audience.  Through the greediness of investors playing God and park guests throwing caution and cash toward reason, Jurassic World had been unceremoniously obliterated.  The writers knew there was fertile ground to explore off island, and they’d been quietly planting the seeds for years.  “What would be the result of that destruction; what would be the step beyond it?” asks Trevorrow.  “Fortunately, there were a lot of clues we planted in the first movie; in the film itself, on maps and on the website—in places people wouldn’t think to look for hints about the next two movies—there’s information embedded in all of them.”

Few characters are closer to Trevorrow than Claire Dearing and Owen Grady, the fiery former lovers who are seemingly destined to pine—and grouse—after each other from afar.  Discussing how the heroes have evolved, he notes: “We thought a lot about where Claire would be a few years later, and how she’d have a lot of guilt, regret and responsibility—which she would take and put it into action.  Claire knows there’s a natural disaster that is about to occur on the island—one that has posed a question to the world: ‘Do we let these animals die, or do we save them?’  She’s the person who feels the most responsible for rescuing the dinosaurs.

“On the other side, we have Owen, who is responsible for proving that raptors can follow orders.  He knows there is a capability for them to serve the same purpose as animals that have been used throughout history for war,” Trevorrow continues.  “That opens its own Pandora’s Box.  We have these two characters who are the mother and father of the new world.  They’re the parents of this slowly building biological disaster begun by John Hammond.  It was important for us to find a way to weave Hammond into the story and to connect them together, as well as tell more about the history of how Jurassic Park began.”

The extraordinary dinosaurs are as much players as Claire and Owen.  Nowhere is this more evident than with Blue, the Velociraptor to which Owen has had a deep connection since she was a hatchling.  After a fierce battle with littermate Echo—one that left Blue with a scarred lip—she established her dominance among her pack.  Once Owen pretended to be injured during her training, Blue showed her capacity for empathy.  A virtual enigma among dinosaurs, she is equal parts vicious and nurturing; sadly, in the post Jurassic World era, she is also last of her kind.

For the writers, it was crucial to bring back this fully fledged creature to which we have all grown quite attached.

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That storytelling level was extraordinary in Spielberg’s eyes.  “Blue has become a real character that we have imprinted on,” he reflects.  “In the first movie, John Hammond liked to be around every birth, every hatchling, because he wanted the animal to imprint on him.  In this case, the audience has imprinted on Blue, which allows Blue to become a major character that we really care about in this second film.”

It was crucial to the narrative to open the series up and introduce a new set of dinosaurs from multiple epochs.  From a Baryonyx and a Carnotaurus, to a crazy little bull-in-a-china-shop called a Stygimoloch, the writers brought more colorful creatures to Fallen Kingdom than ever before.  As if it that wasn’t enough, they imagined a genetically designed monstrosity known as the Indoraptor.  Its DNA an unholy mix of Velociraptor, Indominus rex and who knows what else Dr. Wu spliced into its codons, this creature is not deadly because of size—it’s due to his intelligence, speed and ability to follow orders…when he so chooses.  Indoraptor is, without a doubt, the perfect weapon.

There will never be a Jurassic film without our star T. rex, if the filmmakers have anything to say about it.  “The T. rex is also back,” Trevorrow shares.  “We’ve been following this same character since the beginning; she’s the same T. rex that was in Jurassic Park and in Jurassic World.  She is iconic—not just because she’s a T. rex, but because she’s this T. rex.”

Taking the Reins: Bayona Joins Team Jurassic

When it came to the next chapter of the trilogy, the producers turned to acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio “J.A.” Bayona to join their quest.  Known for work as deeply intimate as it is sweeping in its storytelling, the director was eager to join a production that would be his biggest challenge to date.

Bayona recalls memories of the epic that started it all: “Like many people of my generation, there was a sense of wonder when I saw Jurassic Park.  There is something absolutely engaging about creatures that inhabited our planet millions of years ago, and the idea of bringing them back from extinction is fascinating.  It is as playful as it is genius an idea for a saga.  The first time I saw the Brachiosaurus on screen, I knew that everything was possible.”

“It was Steven Spielberg who offered me the opportunity, and I feel blessed to be working with him.  I admire him profoundly.  Also, having shot The Impossible, The Orphanage and A Monster Calls, the opportunity of an adventure movie felt like a lot of fun for me; the timing was perfect.”

Bayona appreciated that Trevorrow, whose years-long passion is all-things Jurassic, was willing to partner with him in bringing the new installment to the big screen.  “Colin pitched the story for this second episode in a trilogy, and that got me so excited,” the director relays.  “Since that day, we have been working together to incorporate my vision.  I love playing with suspense to engage the audience; I like intensity and making people feel the total experience.”

Always humble, Bayona welcomed the opportunity for collaboration.  “When I came aboard, I knew I was to take care of Steven and Colin’s baby.  As a director, I can contribute a lot of things to the story, to the energy and to the tone.  However, I’m also aware the Jurassic saga is loved by millions, so I it was important to work closely with them to ensure we are bringing the audiences new, exciting experiences…while keeping the soul of the franchise.”

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Bayona states that the imagination of his younger self was ignited by the prescient genius of Dr. Crichton.

“What I always loved about Michael Crichton’s books is that, apart from making you enjoy a great big adventure, they make you think about moral repercussions of the advancement of science.  It is not science-fiction anymore; the reality of these advancements gives an audience immediate empathy.  Twenty-five years ago, the debate about the moral limits of science was just beginning; today it is daily news.  Colin and Derek knew we needed to be talking about this, and it makes our movie extremely relevant.”

Spielberg appreciated that Bayona was able to dovetail his signature voice into a universe that has a distinct style of its own.  “One thing that the films in the Jurassic series have in common is that they are created by filmmakers who love the craft of filmmaking,” reflects Spielberg.  “Juan Antonio did an amazing job through his art in being able to make Fallen Kingdom a little bit like the first movie I directed, a little bit like the last movie that Colin directed…but still make it 100 percent his.  Because he’s a real filmmaker who has a real voice, he found a way not to hijack and change the tone or mood or style of Jurassic Park, but a way to make this his own Jurassic World film.  We were blessed that he brought his voice to our series.  He’s just knocked it out of the ballpark.”

For veteran filmmaker Frank Marshall, who returns to produce, the dynamic appeal of this partnership was a no-brainer.  “Colin and Derek have taken elements we are familiar with and pushed them to a new level.  This film has such huge scale.  We begin in the park itself, on this vast environment with volcanoes, as well as underwater and within escape-sequences.  Up until now, humans and dinosaurs have been separate.  In Fallen Kingdom, we see a lot more interaction.  We’ve brought back Blue, Mosasaurus, T. rex and others you will remember, plus a lot of new dinosaurs you’ve never seen before.”

Marshall appreciated that Bayona could bring to the project a sensibility that was unlike anything the series had seen: “J.A. has a wonderful, cinematic vision in which he creates incredible worlds and wonderfully succinct characters.  It is not just about the dinosaurs, it is about the characters.  He brings a vision and excitement to the characters as they pass through Jurassic World.”

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Inarguably, the biggest stars of any Jurassic film are the stunning dinosaurs, an elegant brainchild of top artists working in their respective fields of animatronic creatures and visual effects.  “We have surrounded J.A. with highly experienced people who have a done a great deal of large-scale production,” gives Marshall.  “ILM worked very closely with him; they always push the envelope on technology, and it is exciting to see the new toys we have in our toolbox to create these scenes with the dinosaurs.  We also have Neal Scanlan, who has imagined wonderful creatures over the years, creating our animatronics.  Fans enjoy our use of real creatures and for the actors, it is great for them to interact with an ‘actual’ dinosaur.”

Patrick Crowley, who returns alongside Marshall to produce the new installment, speaks to the solid foundation and caretaking that benefits the franchise.  “The key element we have going for us in this trilogy is the involvement of Colin Trevorrow and Steven Spielberg.  Steven is the grand master, in charge of making sure that what we do reflects the original intentions and carries out the themes that he set up a long time ago.  Colin, Steven, and now J.A., understand the responsibility of upping tension and danger.  This movie is full of things people haven’t seen—places, dinosaurs that have never been on screen, and brand-new experiences.”

Crowley lauds that his director has given the established franchise just the energy boost that everyone needed.  “The Impossible was the experience we all felt made J.A. a worthy candidate do this movie.  We knew he could handle the scope and scale.  He had a tiny budget, but his specialty is creating tension and bringing the same feeling to a Jurassic movie that Colin brought to Jurassic World.”

For Crowley, a Jurassic movie would not be complete without an abundance of speciation.  It’s also a source of pride to the crew to outdo itself, without dwarfing the narrative.  “In this movie, you will see more dinosaurs than you’ve ever seen before,” the producer proclaims.  “You will also see dinosaurs much closer in proximity to human beings.  It’s a very unique feeling, involving totally different action.  We spend a lot of time with Blue, who is the film’s heart.  We also have a brand new dinosaur called the Indoraptor, who is a genetically modified creation of Dr. Wu.  He is smart, incredibly physical, can move like a lizard and get into places other dinosaurs were too big to get into; he is really, really nasty.”

This scientific miracle/abomination was a particular delight to Spielberg.  He laughs: “This is the first Jurassic movie that I could truthfully say where we have a monster.  The Indoraptor is a dinosaur, but it’s really a monster.  That makes Fallen Kingdom the first real hybrid between a dinosaur film and a monster movie.”

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For her part, producer Belén Atienza, Bayona’s right-hand filmmaking partner, was thrilled to join the group of seasoned filmmakers on this journey that’s been 25 years in the making.  When discussing their experience of working on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, her attitude echoes Bayona’s boyish sense of wonder.  “It felt like we were kids again because it reminds us of our childhood,” she reflects.  “The wonder of dinosaurs, the adventures, jungle, mysteries, action and suspense was just astonishing.”  That energy would prove infectious on set.  “From the very first moment we began to work on this project, it was all about how to squeeze every moment we could out of the film and bring it to the audience.”

Producer of all of Bayona’s features, Atienza shares a kindred spirit in executing engaging stories.  Of the process, she graciously notes: “The vision starts on the framing of the scene.  It is all about the shot and work that’s been done months in advance: reading the scene, working out the shots…every camera move, speed and time you spend on each character.  On the day, there will be input from actors and other filmmakers, and we are always open to that.  Once you know what the scene is about, then it is all about making it better.”

Speaking to the style Bayona has honed over the years, she notes that Fallen Kingdom’s director is equal parts disciplined workman and mischievous storyteller: “He is always trying to find something special.  That is why there are playful sequences in all his movies, where you don’t really know what to expect next.  He wants three or four beats from every shot; it is quite complex, like a technical choreography that is instinctive in him.  At the same time, he is an artist who is incredibly invested.  It is a joy to see him work.”