Terror will come not only on land in U’s “Jurassic Park III,” but from the skies as well. Thanks to the camera movement of cinematographer Shelly Johnson, the audience will be swooped up by the new pteradons, an airborne species added to heighten the sequel’s dino-hype.
“We go to a very otherworldly place on the island where we have never been before,” says Johnson, whose “moving camera experience” gives audiences a sense of flying with the creatures.
“So much of this movie is the dinosaurs in pursuit of the people. My camera had to remain kinetic, and even add movement.”
According to Johnson, the latest installment will be much darker and more character-driven than its predecessors. This tonal difference is largely due to a change in the director’s chair from Steven Spielberg — who remains executive producer after helming both “Jurassic Park” and sequel “The Lost World”– to Joe Johnston (“Jumanji,” “October Sky.”)
“If there is ever a guy to focus the human story within the larger proscenium of an effects movie, it’s Joe,” Johnson says.
“This film is strictly the characters against the natural elements, and we have kept the point of view in front of the actors,” the d.p. says. “We never place the camera where the characters cannot go, and (we) resisted going for the Hollywood shot.”
The jungle in this film is a grungier one, with dying trees and meaner dinosaurs.
“It’s a damp, rotting world they are in, so we wanted the light just fighting its way in, where some areas fall into silhouette, and others have tremendous shafts coming in,” Johnson says. “But we also wanted to keep the look natural.”
Filming both on the large Stage 12 on the Universal lot and in Hawaii made the “seamless integration” of the locations a challenge for Johnson.
Johnson makes the jump back to features after starting in science fiction and action films such as “Nightflyers” (1987). He moved on to an extensive career in TV, most recently on the NBC series “The Others.” Currently he’s on location lensing Rod Lurie’s feature “The Castle” in Nashville.