Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow vividly remembered the early rounds of discussions he had with Steven Spielberg on helming a Jurassic Park movie six or seven years ago. “One of the first things I said to Steven was, ‘Look, if this fails, you will continue to be a legend, while I’ll disappear,” Trevorrow told 8 DAYS in 2015.
Trevorrow had every right to be anxious: Spielberg must be out of his mind to hand the key to a beloved multi-million dollar franchise over to a relative newbie who had only made one movie, Safety Not Guaranteed, a quirky time-travel dramedy that cost a little over US$750,000 (S$1 mil).
The ’Berg’s US$150 million gamble paid off handsomely: 2015’s Jurassic World was well-reviewed (it averaged 71 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) and it grossed more than US$1.6 billion worldwide, making it the most successful installment in the series.
And Trevorrow didn’t exactly disappear. For a while, he was hired to write and direct another coveted gig, the untitled Star Wars: Episode IX, but left the project last year over creative differences with the producers. But, hey, that’s another story for another time.
Cut to the present: Trevorrow is back in the trenches of the dinosaur saga, but this time he’s just the co-writer and executive producer on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom; the directorial baton is now passed to Juan Antonio ‘JA’ Bayona.
Spielberg chose the 43-year-old Spaniard after he saw The Impossible, his 2012 disaster thriller set against Indian Ocean tsunami of 2014, starring Naomi Watt, Ewan McGregor and future Spider-Man Tom Holland.
Like Trevorrow, Bayona was nervous meeting Spielberg for the first time. “But he makes you feel good all time,” says Bayona. “He makes you feel empowered; he makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the room, not him.”
The offer to do Fallen Kingdom couldn’t have come at a better time: Bayona believes every movie he’s made so far — The Impossible, the spook-fest The Orphanage and fantasy drama A Monster Calls — is a learning experience and that, in turn, has given him the confidence to grab his Hollywood debut by the horns. Like the saying goes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Fallen Kingdom picks up four years after the events of Jurassic World, where the eponymous theme park is now abandoned and only the dinosaurs are left roaming on Isla Nublar. When the island’s dormant volcano becomes active, the reanimated prehistoric beasts face extinction again.
So, it’s up to wrangler/animal behaviorist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and theme park operations manager-turned-animal activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to save these endangered species, with a little help from Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), a former business partner of dino park founder John Hammond.
“I try to be as close as possible to the original one,” says Bayona. “Because I wanted to put myself in the position of the young guy who saw Jurassic Park for the first time. I also want to bring back the sense of fear and suspense of the first movie.”
But Fallen Kingdom is no nostalgia fest. “The story Colin came up with is very brave because it takes the Jurassic Park universe to a place it has never been.” And that place is a Gothic mansion where the heroes are trapped alongside the dinosaurs, including a genetically modified one called the Indoraptor…
8 DAYS is with Bayona in Shanghai where he and his actors, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are on their whirlwind world tour to promote Fallen Kingdom. Bayona is dry and serious, and looks knackered. Pratt and Howard are a bit livelier; they show no signs of fatigue from the back-to-back grilling and even if they are exhausted, they are still game to shoot the breeze. For the next half hour, we’re holed up in a private dining room at the Peninsula Shanghai where they regale journos with their memories of making the supersized sequel.