Jurassic World: Battle at Big Rock

That was FUN! He said with a combination of relief and surprise!

Here’s the thing, I don’t mind Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom. Fallen Kingdomwhatever the Hell literally every decision made about Toby Jones’ character was aside, is actually a surprisingly good and emotionally resonant time. The commodification of the dinosaurs makes perfect sense, as does the way that humans react. Plus that shot of the last Brachiosaur left behind? NOT COOL, J. A. Bayona. NOT. COOL.

That being said, this second trilogy of movies has been distinctly janky.

Not to mention the inherently limited nature of the plot; we’ve had five movies set on two islands (And briefly on the main land but we don’t talk about The Lost World. At all.) and there was a growing sense of, well, things needing to grow.

Thankfully, the end of Fallen Kingdom embraces that idea and Battle at Big Rock, set one year later, overtly sets up the world of the third movie. It follows a blended family, played by André HollandNatalie Martinez, Melody Hurd, and Pierson Salvador as they encounter a  Nasutoceratops family and, less pleasantly, an AllosaurusWorse, the dinosaurs encounter each other…

Directed by Colin Trevorrow and co-written by him and Emily CarmichaelBattle at Big Rock works because it knows exactly what it is; a prelude. This is what the world is like now, the untidy fanged singularity slowly breaking across humanity in unexpected ways. In this case, it’s Holland and Martinez’s family who bare the brunt. They both do excellent work here and the transition from idle curiosity to terror to the iconic final images is really well handled and believable. It’s doubtful the family will show up in the next full length movie but honestly I’d take them all over Worst Chris and not just because he’s Worst Chris. Action movies live and die in a complex, and narrow, Goldilocks Zone of suspension of disbelief. You have to be worried for these characters and if the persona of the actor is bigger than their character, then you just aren’t. It’s why a lot of ’80s and ’90s action movies bore the Hell out of me. You know the perma-flexed meat wad in center shot is going to come out the other side because he always does and as a result the ride is a little less fun. Here, that’s absolutely not the case precisely because Martinez and Holland aren’t as well known. That. combined with their massive talent sells not just the danger but the ignorance that leads to it. Their characters may not have names but their reactions are painfully familiar, brave and in this case, they pay off. A lot of the characters in the next full length movie won’t be so lucky.

It’s also worth seeing for the cinematography by Larry Fong, The Allosaurus actually feels predatory and dangerous. The action is visceral and physical and real and that’s partially down to the cast and partially down to Fong. Plus there’s some inventive use of small spaces and some really striking imagery worked into under ten minutes. That in turns ties into the sense of accelerated danger. There’s no comforting hour catching up with the island, no wasted time. A carnivore larger than a mobile home is trying to eat your children’s heads. Welcome to Jurassic World.

Short, punchy, and well done Battle at Big Rock‘s release date is a little weird but everything else works. If this is the direction the franchise is finally going in then the third movie should be something very special and bluntly long overdue. Besides, look at the end credits here and imagine that, worldwide. Like the man says, life…uh…finds a way and if this is the way Jurassic World 3 is going, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Jurassic World: Battle at Big Rock is available now, just up there, for free.