Watch this as soon as you can…
You have no reason not to watch Battle at Big Rock: it is only eight minutes long and free online. This short film is a satisfying pay-off to the exciting cliff-hanger of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It imagines how something as normal as a camping trip, a perfectly normal way to spend the summer, can no longer be the same again now the woods are inhabited by dinosaurs (following their release into the wild at the end of the second film). Yet, this film is also more original than most franchise films b taking the form of a short film. It is not necessarily a big risk on Universal’s part, but it is nice to see fresh ideas being brought to the table. Despite not having the usual running time, this film packs in a lot of interesting ideas, character growth and fully-realised, glorious CGI mayhem.
Of course the cliff-hanger at the end of Fallen Kingdom would lead to a lot of CGI chaos and thrilling action. The CGI is a roaring success. The dinosaurs look as great and as real as ever, which is impressive considering the considerably smaller budget offered to Trevorrow. The action is as thrilling as a sequence from a big budget action film. Trevorrow also makes the superb choice to direct most of the dinosaur vs. dinosaur action through a window, as a family watch in horror. This excellent choice of perspective and camera angles makes a relatively small scale fight between two or three dinosaurs feel like a “battle”. For this family, the stakes could not be higher. The same goes for us. The film may be short, but it offers a lot of excitement, and serves as an exciting follow up to the end of the last film.
Yet, it works as a thriller that can stand alone in its own right. Battle at Big Rock stars Andre Holland, Natalie Martinez, Melody Hurd and Pierson Salvador as a newly introduced blended family. Quickly, they sell the family dynamic. You can that they care about each other, but you can also see the tensions resulting from this “blending” of two families. They are likeable and our sympathies align with them immediately. Even though we only met them two minutes ago, you do not want them to be eaten by dinosaurs. Further, you really believe their bravery in the face of adversity. This is helped by the use of the triceratops family, which serve as a clever parallel to the human one. The parent triceratops fight the T-Rex first. Their teamwork and fiery defence of their children hint towards Dennis (Andre Holland) and Mariana’s (Natalie Martinez’) own desire to fight later in the film. In only eight minutes, you really get to know the family dynamic, and you are utterly convinced that the parents love their children enough to die defending them.
This is not necessary though, for Kadasha (Melody Hurd) saves the day with a crossbow. Battle at Big Rock proves a tightly structured film, for Kadasha’s actions is not a deus ex machina used to quickly resolve the plot in eight minutes. It is established earlier that Kadasha has used it before, for Dennis and Mariana get angry at her for it. Kadasha’s use of the crossbow then serves as a moment of education for her parents: they can be proud of her skill and trust her to be mature enough to use such a dangerous weapon. (Well, they should be able to trust her with a crossbow after she saved their lives with it.) For such a short film to be successful, tight structuring is a must. This film provides that.
All good short films must feel like satisfying films in their own right. They must include character development, rising and falling action, and align the audience with the characters. In many ways, it is much harder to do these things without a two hour running time. Yet, Battle at Big Rock succeeds. A worthy follow up to the last film, a promising appetiser for the next one, and a standalone film in its own right, Trevorrow’s short film offers likeable characters, succinct character development and exciting action galore.