The internet exploded earlier this week when we received a brand-new adventure set within the Jurassic World universe – the long-rumoured Battle at Big Rock. Set one year after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Battle at Big Rock provides fans with a tantalising taste at the work which Colin Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael are putting in ahead of the debut of the next Jurassic World sequel in 2021. So – how does this battle hold up? Is this short enough to make us hungry for more Jurassic? I certainly believe so!
Battle at Big Rock (BABR) was shot in just five days – with the team behind it filming in a single location in one of Ireland’s truly stunning forests. Over the course of the eight-minute short we get a taste of life in the United States post Fallen Kingdom, providing us with some extra context for the montage of shots we saw at the end of the Jurassic World sequel. BABR wastes no time in diving straight in – providing us with fledgling details of dinosaur encounters within the Jurassic universe which really helped to build a foreboding atmosphere. We’re given some nice set-dressing through glimpses at normal, every-day American camp life. The family whom the short follows have an interesting and dysfunctional dynamic which, whilst not explored too much given the short nature of the project, does enough to feel grounded and authentic to many real-life families. The characters here are relatable, and that is crucial. It is also nice that, within the cast of characters, we see a nice mix of diversity – bringing different actors from different backgrounds into the fold to create a truly diverse ensemble which feels completely different to the feature-length films.
The short wastes no time diving into the dinosaur action, as a pair of Nasutoceratops come face to face with the evil jaws of an Adult Allosaurus – grown since the juvenile we see in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Although the Nasutoceratops ultimately escape unharmed, a crying child draws the attention of the Allosaurus to the family of heroes – causing it to tear into their RV in a desperate attempt to chow-down on a family-sized meal. This sequence feels incredibly intense and terrifying, with the cinematography and direction combined with a phenomenal score to create real tension and drama. The action here feels particularly fast-paced, and this helps to really lend itself towards the animalistic intentions of the Allosaurus – building a dinosaur which taps into the more monster-esque themes which we have seen explored through hybridisation in previous Jurassic World instalments. These sequence is truly terrifying – feeling raw, authentic and spine-tingling.
What really helps to absolutely dial-up the volume of scares within Big Rock is the truly beautiful use of cinematography here – and I feel, lighting, I always look at the HALO Jump sequence from Godzilla (2014) as a master-class in how to do cinematic lighting well, and it certainly feels like BABR has taken a few queues from this. Car lights and camp fires combine to create a mixture of light sources which, when mixed with the smoke and mist present, really help to create an intimate, and I would argue, terrifying ambience throughout the piece. It is true, I would argue, that we fear the unknown as an instinct – so playing into this through the smart use of silhouettes and shadows is crucial for building tension and horror within cinema. The direction here, combined with smart writing for the sequences, enabled the crew working on Big Rock to get the most out of their short time working on the project – using smart lighting and camera angles to really dial up the levels of immersion we feel as an audience.
BABR also delivers on very guttural and real action – something which I think other films within the series have perhaps lacked. Here, everything feels authentic and crucially feels as though it has a purpose. The baby Nasutoceratops, for example, lends itself well to the sense of vulnerability we feel within the piece, whilst also allowing the script to beautifully juxtapose the fear and terror carnivorous dinosaurs bring with more of the natural beauty and ambience that these harmless herbivorous dinosaurs can instil. In sharp contrast, however, the way the RV is absolutely torn apart within the short shows how nowhere is safe within this new world – with the relatively safe confines of something like an RV (Looking at you, The Lost World) turned into something which can easily be broken through in a much more vicious manner than we have seen before. This sense of realism and authenticity throughout the short really helps to make it much more relatable, and therefore much more palette able to audiences, providing deep and enriching emotional connections which I personally feel is a big achievement given the limited amount of screen time present here.
Big Rock is a lesson in how smart use of cinematography, direction and practical effects can be used to tell a story which feels just as effective in eight minutes, as it would within an hour. The story hits several different emotional beats and provides the core ‘Jurassic’ experience which many fans yearn for. Big Rock is by no means perfect, but it is a fantastic tease at what a Jurassic World live-action series could be, and is certainly a mouth-watering appetiser for what is sure to be a great sequel in 2021.
What did you all think? Leave your thoughts on BABR in the comments below and let us know if you’d like us to talk about it more in the near future here on The Jurassic Park Podcast.