Any director of a Jurassic film has a lot to live up to, given that the first two movies in the franchise were directed by genuine legend Steven Spielberg. Spanish director J.A. Bayona is the latest to fill that chair with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the direct sequel to 2015's Jurassic World.
Bayona arrived at Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom having helmed the acclaimed films A Monster Calls, a 2016 dark fantasy, and 2012's The Impossible, about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. For Fallen Kingdom, which opened with a $150 million weekend at the box office, he brought prominent touches of horror to the film, along with plenty of empathy for the cloned dinosaurs who didn't ask to be in the situation they're in. As Bayona puts it, "It's about accepting the thing that we don't understand."
CBR talked one-on-one with Bayona in-depth about the film, including the intimidation factor that comes with following a movie that grossed $1.67 billion dollars, the importance of kids in the Jurassic Park franchise and working with Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow to bring this sequel to life.
CBR: The first thing I'm curious about is, knowing how big this franchise is and knowing how successful the last film was, how much was the intimidation factor in taking this on? Was there anything you were hesitant about, or did you jump at the chance?
J.A. Bayona: I have so much respect for the story of any movie that I do, that I didn't feel an extra pressure. Of course it's a big budget and there are a lot of expectations, but at the end, you give yourself pressure about the story and the characters of any movie that you do. I didn't feel very different. But of course, it's a big responsibility. There's a legacy of films, and there are so many people expecting so much for the movie.
Given that, what was it about this movie in particular and the story that it tells that made you excited to take it on -- and confident that it was a good match for your vision and style as a director?
When you think about Jurassic movies, there's always a lot of entertainment and a lot of fun, and I love the suspense moments -- we all remember great moments of suspense in the first two Jurassic Park movies. But it also talks about timely things, that are there from the original books by Michael Crichton. So it's a way of mixing big entertainment while at the same time talking about interesting things that I like.
One thing that's interesting about all of the movies in this franchise is that obviously the dinosaurs are at the forefront, but what makes it a real story are the human characters -- the movie needs to keep them interesting and their relationships compelling. What was that balance like you? What did you focus on to make sure the human characters grounded the story on an emotional level?
I think it's a very interesting question, because this movie is as much about dinosaurs as it is about us. I think that's one of the things that I like about the story. From the very beginning, Colin told me a story that takes the adventure out of the island makes the situation with the dinosaurs a global problem. It's three years after the disaster, and the whole world is talking about dinosaurs. There's a volcano about to erupt, taking the lives of the remaining dinosaurs. It's very emotional. It's not about only dinosaurs -- it's about us. It's affecting us in a very straightforward way. I thought that was very exciting.
This being the second chapter of a trilogy, this presents the Jurassic universe in a way that feels upside down. It's a big twist. It's not only about dinosaurs, it's also about us.
In Fallen Kingdom, the dinosaurs pose a threat and can be scary, but there's also a lot of compassion for them and the situation they're in. What did that aspect mean to you, and how much does that come from you as a person and a stoyteller?
One of the things that I like the most from the first Jurassic World is, the same way the books by Michael Crichton were a reflection of the world we live in, they were also a reflection on entertainment. You can see that not only in Jurassic Park, but also in Westworld -- it's a show that's very relevant nowadays. They're stories of the relationships humans have towards science and new technology, and towards entertainment. In Jurassic World, there was this debate of, how far can we get to deliver what the audience expects from us. This time, it's not about entertainment -- it's about the world. The park is destroyed. It's now about, what is going to be the relationship humans have towards their creation? Which is timely subject matter. I thought that was very interesting and very relevant, the way we talk about the relationship that man has towards science -- always blaming the use of the science, not the science. Science is always a gift.