There’s that famous moment in Steven Spielberg’s seminal 1993 classic Jurassic Park, where Sam Neill’s Dr Alan Grant sees a live brachiosaur for the first time and is instantly struck agog with jaw-dropping amazement. That sense of unabashed wonder has never really been replicated successfully in any of the franchise’s sequels since, and to be honest, Jurassic World, director Colin Treverrow’s decade and a half later fourth entry in the franchise, doesn’t quite nail it either. But just as Spielberg swapped out that awe for just as effective terror in his second film, here Treverrow pulls off a similar switcheroo and dishes up a gigantic serving of toothy dino fun.

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Not that there also isn’t terror. Oh, there’s lots of terror, mainly courtesy of new dino big bad, the Indominus Rex, the end result of the god-playing scientists from the first film at their most arrogant godliest. In a savvy meta-commentary on modern movie audiences’ demand for constantly bigger, more extreme spectacle, Treverrow and his writing partners – Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver – have cooked up a clever new hook for the franchise:

20 years after John Hammond’s dinosaur amusement park dreams have been realized and a fully operational park abounds, park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her team face a problem of disillusioned patrons no longer being wowed by regular dinosaurs. In response, Jurassic World owner Simon Masrani (Irfan Khan) has chief geneticist Dr Henry Wu (DB Wong reprising his original role) and his team splice together various animal DNA to custom-breed a super-dinosaur, larger, more wily and more nightmarish than the T-Rex, which they plan to unveil in a few weeks.

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Meanwhile dino whisperer raptor wrangler Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) has his hands full – not just with the pack of vicious velociraptors he’s attempting to “train” – but also with InGen security head Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) who wants to adapt Grady’s raptor program for military application. Masrani also wants the experienced Owen to inspect the Indominus Rex’s enclosure, as he’s not too sure that they have adequate security measures for a 50ft tall bundle of scaly death and sabre-like claws. Dun dun dun!

And then there are Claire’s two young nephews, Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins), who have been sent to visit their uptight aunt who is too busy to look after them, prompting them to break from the crowd and roam the park by themselves. Dun dun duuuuunn again indeed!

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And if you cannot see how all of those elements will come together for the perfect popcorn storm of screaming and running and lots of carnivorous carnage, then you’ve clearly never seen a Jurassic Park movie before. But although this ride generally stays on its pre-described tracks, Treverrow still manages to keep you hooked throughout with great pacing, excellent jump scares, white-knuckle suspense, fantastic visuals (cannot wait to see this in IMAX 3D this weekend), some hilarious beats and a monstrous, fist-pumping third act battle royale that dwarfs pretty much anything we’ve seen in the franchise thus far when it comes to sheer dinosaur mayhem.

As proven in Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt is a charming natural at this sort of rough ‘n tumble alpha-male gig, though he turns down the snark here to go for a more purely action hero angle, more gruff than guffaw. That leaves most of the dramatic heavy lifting to Howard, whose Claire goes from coolly controlling to desperate heroine and everything in between. Also, if the Oscars ever included a category for Best Running For Your Life on High Heels Award, she would no doubt clean house like Meryl Streep.

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Youngsters Robinson and Simpkins keep their “future talent to watch out for” status alive with able showings, and D’Onofrio may not exactly be the Kingpin here, but he makes for a decent enough if fairly undeveloped antagonist. To be fair to all of these actors though, while all solid in the moment, I don’t think any of their characters will reach the instantly and infinitely quotable cult status of Sam Neill’s aforementioned Dr Grant or Jeff Goldblum’s chaos theory obsessed Dr Ian Malcolm. But then really, who has?

Treverrow is the star of the show here though – well, him and the butt-clenchingly scary Indominus Rex – making the seemingly gargantuan leap from small-time indie comedy scene to the world of widescreen tentpole blockbuster look like a walk in the (Jurassic) park. He does borrow from the patented Spielberg bag of tricks often though, which obviously helps, but as a result the script sometimes leans a tad too hard on the fan service – the movie is littered with homages to the first two films, and most are done quite deftly to play with audience expectations, but on a handful of occasions come across almost too remake-ish.

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But these narrative missteps, most probably brought about by a desire to recapture the evergreen glory of the first film, luckily don’t detract too much from the fact that the film is just plain fun from start to finish. It may not be as cinematically polished, technically inventive or timelessly durable as Spielberg’s masterful offering (hence why I feel modern general audiences will get a much bigger kick out of this than the more dissection-heavy film critic crowd), but Jurassic World is not only a worthy sequel, but also a viscerally enjoyable, rollicking ride stuffed with big dinosaurs and even bigger popcorn thrills.

Last Updated: June 11, 2015

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Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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