Darwin be damned: The evolution of dinosaurs continues to be accelerated by human hands and not Mother Nature in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the second in the "Jurassic Park" sequel trilogy about revived prehistoric creatures. First it was the Indominus rex of "Jurassic World" (2015), with genes from multiple dinos including velociraptors. Now in the new film, opening Friday, June 22, it's the indoraptor, a next-generation model with new and improved DNA from velociraptors and, judging from its insatiable chomping, those little novelty clacking teeth you wind up and set off.
None of this, of course, bodes well for homo sapiens. Yet as director J.A. Bayona ("The Impossible," "A Monster Calls") stresses, science isn't the bad guy. Science is neutral. It's all in what we do with it.
"I think from the very beginning, in the Michael Crichton books [on which the film series is based] they are cautionary tales," the Barcelona-born filmmaker, 43, says by phone from a press junket in Hawaii. "They talk about the relationship man has with nature and science and new technologies, and I think it's very important to say that he was never blaming science," Bayona says in English, his second language. "Science is one of the best gifts humankind has. These movies are like warnings — what are the red lines and what is the punishment for those who cross those red lines?"
Bryce Dallas Howard, who reprises her role as Claire Dearing, says the late Crichton had used "the term 'syntelligence,' which means that humans, as we innovate and make scientific breakthroughs, especially when it's done in the name of commerce, often are not thinking of the potential consequences, the implications of this innovation." Science fiction in general, says the 37-year-old, also speaking by phone, "provides an opportunity for us to all think through these things. And hopefully entertain at the same time."
Claire, the former operations manager of the Jurassic World park destroyed in the first movie's dinosaur breakout, has since founded the advocacy organization the Dinosaur Protection Group. She's been lobbying for U.S. government intervention to save the remaining animals on Isla Nublar, on which an active volcano threatens a new extinction. But with discouragement from Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, reprising his role from 1993's "Jurassic Park" and the first sequel, 1997's "The Lost World: Jurassic Park"), the pertinent Senate committee decides instead to let nature take its course.
Unfortunately, that also means human nature, as unscrupulous business types decide they can make a fortune selling dinosaurs on the high-end black market. Claire and former dino wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) find themselves confronting a scheme to auction weaponized 'saurs to the highest bidders. And then, as Malcolm coos in the second "Jurassic Park" film, "Oooooh, ahhhhh, that’s how it always starts. But then later there's running and screaming."
Given that, why is Claire so concerned for their preservation? "These animals are, at this point, an endangered species, and they deserve the protections that are afforded to other endangered species," Howard, daughter of filmmaker Ron Howard, says of Claire's outlook. "Even if that endangered species is dangerous — there are lions and poisonous scorpions and snakes that are endangered — they have a right to be here. The dilemma is a complex one."
Compounding it is the dinosaurs' arrival on the mainland, at which point, describes Bayona, the film becomes a haunted-house movie, with creatures on the loose in a massive mansion. The director, working from a script by Derek Connolly and "Jurassic World" director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow, says he enjoys "the fact of staying in a tight space and you build the tension with the very few elements you came in with in," following the first part's expansive jungle action and exploding volcano.
"That for me is very interesting," he says. "From the moment we come into the movie, we come into a place which is full of violence — you see the erupting of the volcano and you see thousands of dinosaurs," he says hyperbolically. "Now you only have one dinosaur [who gets loose] and you're in a dark place. No lights and no sound — only the tapping of the claws on the floor."
So where is the franchise headed, with its menagerie of ever-more-intelligent, ever-adapting saurian stars? "Planet of the Dinosaurs," where the only good human is a chewed-up and spit-out human?
Bayona chuckles at the fanciful notion. "I think it's very exciting, the gate that we open to a world that we've never seen before, at the end of this movie," he says. Trevorrow, who directs and co-writes the next film, set for release June 11, 2021, states that the third movie will have no new dinosaur hybrids. But scripts, like dinosaurs, evolve.
Ultimately, suggests Bayona, the biblical-sounding "Fallen Kingdom" is "about losing control, something that seems relevant these days" in an era when technology has rendered privacy scarce, where social-media commenters may be AI bots rather than humans, and such technology has helped sunder long-standing political and diplomatic norms. "We have this technological progress and it's moving faster than the way we are able to process it," Bayona says. "In that sense we are living now in a moment of change, a very uncertain moment."
"You see the actors sinking in the water in that closed space and running out of air — that looks very dangerous from the outside," director J.A. Bayona says of the key scene in "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," featuring Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing and Justice Smith as computer whiz Franklin Webb in a gyrosphere up to their necks, and beyond, in rushing water.
"All precautions are taken," he assures of the scene shot in a tank at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. "But of course it was physically very demanding for the actors and also a big challenge for us because we had to shoot a [what appears to be a single] take with different takes, and then merge the shots."
They rehearsed for a week and filmed it over three days, Bayona says. And as Howard avers, it actually wasn't scary to shoot.
"We had a lot of time to work with the stunt team and learn and collaborate on the choreography of that sequence," the star says. "So by the time we were actually filming, it was more like theater [than film]: Rather than discovering it and the camera capturing that moment of discovery," she explains, "we were performing something that we had worked out. So for me, it felt very safe. But no matter how many times you practice it, there's always an element of danger and the stakes are high."
And there's anxiety, no matter what. "Those days before, you have a countdown in the back of your mind, like, 'Six weeks to the gyrosphere-in-the-water scene. Five weeks to the gyrosphere-in-the-water scene. ... ' When you complete it, you definitely have a sense of accomplishment." — Frank Lovece.