In the world of Jurassic, J.A. Bayona is the new kid on the block. As the director of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the young auteur worked alongside the original film’s director, Steven Spielberg; the previous film’s director, Colin Trevorrow; the franchise’s longtime producer, Frank Marshall; and so on. It may seem like he was just a hired gun, but every step of the way, Bayona made sure made Fallen Kingdom very much his own.
Despite the beyond-gigantic blockbuster status of Jurassic World, its sequel is a smaller, more personal Jurassic tale, with moodiness to spare and pathos around every corner, but still with the special effects and action one expects from the franchise. Bayona—the award-winning director of the real-life disaster movie The Impossible, based on the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami—put his stamp on everything in Fallen Kingdom, even in some more surprising ways. One such example? Those infamous high heels.
“The first time we see Claire in the movie, it’s a shot of her high heels,” Bayona told io9. “There was so much conversation about it, it was a way of playing with the controversy. But Colin was terrified to show Claire with high heels again and I convinced him it doesn’t go against the woman she is. Then we move to the island and she’s wearing boots, which basically is the most logical thing to do. So we were trying not to take that controversy too seriously and just make it natural.”
But that’s just one silly example of Bayona’s authorship in Fallen Kingdom. The whole process began long before that, with the decision to bring him onto the project. That happened because Trevorrow loved Bayona’s first film, The Orphanage.
“That was a surprise to me,” Bayona said. “Then he told me about this movie having a second half that was kind of like a haunted house story. And I fell in love with that idea because when I think about the original Jurassic Park, I think that the best things in that movie are the moments of suspense, kind of like Hitchcock, that Steven Spielberg was able to create.”
So while the first half of Fallen Kingdom has the kind of massive set-pieces and action one may expect from a Jurassic Park movie, the second half is the opposite. It works not just because that’s Bayona’s forté, but because he felt it stayed true to the original film.
“When you look at the first Jurassic Park, the movie becomes more claustrophobic and tighter in the second half,” Bayona said. “So I felt that I was somehow following the DNA of that movie... [Also], I felt comfortable playing with long corridors, cracking woods, and shadows on the wall. It was playful and fun. These movies are oriented to the whole family, so when you play with the scariness you should always have this moment of fun at the same time.”
Everything about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a balance between action and suspense, and horrifying and family-friendly moments—and, maybe most importantly, the fact that it’s both a Jurassic Park movie as well as a J.A. Bayona movie.
“When you do a film like this you put yourself at the service of the story,” he said. “You put yourself at the service of the legacy of the movies they did before. So it’s not that I tried to hijack the Jurassic universe and change the mood and not be faithful of what’s expected. You put your craft at the service of the world that has been established already by other directors.”
Even with such a major, big-budget film, Bayona stressed there’s still chance for a director to make it his own. “From the moment you come to the set and decide to put the camera in one place instead of the other, you’re taking on a very important decision for the storytelling, for the way the audiences perceives the story,” Bayona continued. “In that sense, I had total freedom.”
Also freeing: the fact that Fallen Kingdom is the second entry in a trilogy, and Bayona isn’t writing or directing any of the other films in the series. He took full advantage of that.
“When you think about a trilogy, the second episode is when things get more complicated and it’s very exciting as a director,” he said. “You pick up the repercussions of the first movie and you plant the seeds for the third one... You don’t need to deal with the mess you are creating with this story.”
Instead, he’ll leave that to Jurassic World 3 director Colin Trevorrow. In the meantime, Bayona isn’t looking for Fallen Kingdom to totally change his career.
“I come from Europe and I normally produce my own movies,” Bayona said. “So [working in the Hollywood system] was something that I really wanted to try. But, for me, it’s very exciting to go back to Europe and keep making my own movies there. That’s the kind of career I’m looking for.”
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens Friday, June 22.