For his dino out of jungle sequel, “Fallen Kingdom,” director J. A. Bayona (“A Monster Calls”) channeled classic horror in collaboration with Industrial Light & Magic, especially during the final battle in a Gothic mansion between Blue, the heroic Velociraptor, and the new weaponized monster hybrid, the Indoraptor.
“If you think about kids playing with dinosaurs, most of the time they play in their bedrooms, so it was like a fantasy of a kid becoming a reality,” Bayona said. “And there is this shot of the Indoraptor over Maisie’s [Isabella Sermon] bed and he’s extending his claw. I got that from ‘Nosferatu.'”
And, like the Frankenstein monster, the Indoraptor (Indominus Rex crossed with Velociraptor) served as a prototype gone wrong: a rejected creature worthy of some sympathy. “It’s not about accepting dinosaurs anymore, it’s about accepting ourselves,” added Bayona. “The dinosaur situation has become global. They leave the island behind and it’s the whole world debating about it. ”
Frankensteining the Indoraptor
When it came to designing the Indoraptor, Bayona and the design team first looked at animal references, from dinosaurs to snakes to cats and dogs. “The most important elements in the design of the Indoraptor were taken from real animals,” he said. “The eyes, the texture of the skin, the claws, the way he crawls. I wanted him to be very dark and disappear in darkness. I put myself in the position of a kid and what would be scary: the eyes and the teeth.
“So we put color and brightness in the eyes and gave him very white teeth. For me, that was a way of making it terrifying. The design of the arms were very long. That also makes it creepy and almost human.”
Along with referencing “Nosferatu” for the the claws, Bayona showed ILM some of “Frankenstein” for its dark yet melancholy mood. “When Indoraptor is in a long, dark corridor, there is a kind of ghostly flavor,” he said. The director also discussed how they could incorporate the nervous shake of mentally ill people into the animated performance.
For ILM’s production VFX supervisor, David Vickery, there was the impression of a mangy, rabid street dog. “J.A. wanted him to be incredibly lean and malnourished and slightly unhinged,” Vickery said. Although the Indoraptor is both bipedal and quadrupedal, ILM struggled with its proportions and avoiding it becoming too much of a monster. “So we tried to inject as much of the Velociraptor into its traits and movement,” added Vickery.
“Fallen Kingdom” utilized more animatronics than any previous “Jurassic” movie, with Vickery collaborating closely with Neal Scanlan, the creature effects supervisor. This resulted in the best of both worlds. “I pushed for having animatronics because they are perfect for the actors,” Bayona said. “They can touch and perform against something that looks real. They were also helpful for the CGI artists because they make an excellent reference for light and texture and color.”
However, although they made three animatronic pieces for the Indoraptor, only one shot made it into the movie. That’s because the design of the creature continued to evolve into post-production, when the CG work became more finessed. “Doing animation tests, we very quickly realized that the arms were too long and the torso too short because as soon as he started walking on all fours, his elbows collided with his knees.” ILM tweaked both, so it could tear up the ground while galloping or slink across the floor like a cat.
A Gothic Horror Fight
The final battle in Maisie’s bedroom and then on top of the glass roof overlooking the library diorama in the pouring rain was the perfect horror throwback. “All great classic stories end up on top of the castle or the cathedral,” Bayona said. “Lighting and playing with the idea of the glass cracking has this Gothic element that I really like.”
The bedroom set at Pinewood, though, was tricky for ILM to destroy during the VFX mayhem caused by the two dinos. It was filled with more than 200 practical props that had to be digitally scanned and then systematically added for moments of interaction or destruction. “Fortunately, it was a quick piece and all of the shots are from different angles, which made it easier,” Vickery said.
The rooftop set, meanwhile, offered its own difficulties, not the least of which was trying to piece together the puzzle of how to shoot it all in camera with the diorama set below with the giant skull of the Triceratops. Yet they weren’t able to find a stage big enough to put the glass roof on top of the library set.
“So we were left with this unrewarding and difficult prospect of trying to composite plates of the library underneath,” said Vickery. “We tried to think of a way to avoid it because it would be visually quite distracting and technically complex. So we came up with the idea of up lighting the entire roof with a hidden architectural light and then frosting the glass.”
It turned out to be visually arresting, with the soft light illuminating the actors and the more horrifying-looking stream of light on the Indoraptor. “It worked really well,” Vickery said. “Too bad we couldn’t do it in black-and-white.”