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Jurassic World

Year: 2015
Production Co: Amblin Entertainment
Studio: Universal
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Producer: Patrick Crowley/Frank Marshall
Writer: Rick Jaffa/Amanda Silver/Colin Trevorrow/Michael Crichton/Derek Connolly
Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Judy Greer, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jake Johnson, BD Wong, Omar Sy, Lauren Lapkis

Jurassic World is kind of a meta-comment on its own existence. In the world of the film, Jurassic Park was started and abandoned 22 years ago after the genetically created dinosaurs took over – in fact, the old park locations make an appearance.

But Jurassic World is now open, a Disney/Universal-esque theme park in the tropical idyll of Isla Nublar, teeming with visitors, excessive product placement and of course, dinosaurs.

But just like Spielberg's original had our jaws on the floor with what CGI could do 22 years ago, dinosaurs are kind of old hat. We've been seeing digital characters ever since – including dinosaurs – and good CGI is frankly not that big a deal anymore (the fact that there's still so much bad or misused CGI in movies means we've actually come to demand it).

In the film, real dinosaurs have suffered the same fate. As the overly officious operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) explains to potential attraction sponsors, attendance is dropping because people are losing interest in the same old animals. Corporate, she says, wants to up the 'wow' factor, and every time the park has opened a new exhibit, visitor numbers have spiked.

The next logical step is to engineer a completely new creature, something meaner, bigger, and as Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong) – the sole returning cast member from the original films – describes it, 'more teeth'. So the Indominus Rex has been created, hatched and grown and it's now a monster, bigger than the iconic T Rex and skulking around its giant pen awaiting its public debut.

Our way into the story are brothers Gray (Ty Simpkins, the kid who helped Tony Stark in the Tennessee backwater in Iron Man 3) and Zach (Nick Robinson). They're bundled off to the park for a holiday by their mother (Judy Greer), who also happens to be Claire's sister.

A hopeless careerist who can never leave work, Claire wants only to be rid of the kids, dumping them with an assistant and making vague promises of spending time with them later.

At the behest of the park's new owner, industrialist Masrani (Irffan Kahn), Claire is sent to get the advice of the resident animal wrangler who's in charge of the velociraptor training program, Owen (Chris Pratt).

Owen tells Claire everything she doesn't want to hear – without any of the socialisation or acclimatisation to its surroundings nature intended, the Indominus Rex is a bomb waiting to go off. It's more intelligent than they realise, wields more predatory tricks than they know it has thanks to the constituent DNA, and when it seems to have disappeared from its paddock and escaped on an island with 20,000 tourists, the dinosaur shit seems set to hit the fan.

With a monster on the loose that kills everything it comes across (human or otherwise), Owen and Claire have to track down and stop the Indominus, and with her nephews having given their minder the slip and finding themselves cut off in its territory, things get a whole lot more urgent.

There's also a subplot behind the raptor training where Ingen (the company behind the original vision of Richard Attenborough's John Hammond) is underwriting the work to assess the potential of breeding raptors that can be tamed and trained to be soldiers, a narrative strand that leads inexorably to the final showdown with the beast and gives the marketing that cool image of Owen running with the raptors.

Director Colin Trevorrow (who's sole feature credit Safety Not Guaranteed was as far away from Jurassic World as you can get) seems to realise that you can't make jaws drop as much as Spielberg did all those years ago with this kind of material, so he doesn't try. He's got the tone just right in a sense of fun, child-like wonder and danger all at once, and although the visual effects are all good, they're seldom great (but again, maybe we're just spoiled after all this time).

There are certain shots that reveal a great eye for composition. In the scenes of Owen riding his motorcycle with the running raptors you can really see their weight and heft as they run.

Trevorrow does something particularly effective with the Indominous Rex. In a couple of sequences we can see the whole creature in all its angry, rampaging glory, but there are far more shots – particularly those involving humans – where we only see it up to the shoulders, its great snout and teeth inching into view to sniff the air for food, feet crashing through the jungle or claws slashing at victims.

By crowding and overfilling the frame, it's a cool visual way of saying the monster is too big to be contained, almost too big for us to credit as real.

Trevorrow also sticks to the tone by building in some effective scares, chase sequences and a couple of funny moments, many of them courtesy of Jake Johnson (as control room tech Lowery) and Pratt.

Although it has to be said that after the humour and personality Pratt bought to the character of Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, Owen is a little bit bland by comparison. After all the Indiana Jones chatter you might expect him to be more like the kind of swashbuckling hero with the slightly cheeky edge Harrison Ford made his own, but he's little more than just a capable, straight-laced hero who has a couple of choice lines.

It's also interesting to see how different it can really be to the original film. Because the story deals with the animals escaping and running amok on a dinosaur theme park island, it's structurally a remake of Jurassic Park itself, the only real difference being that there are more people around.

Fortunately Trevorrow, along with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes / Rise of the Planet of the Apes writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, has made something that both reminds you what makes the Jurassic Park franchise great and is its own animal to just the right degree. It's not ground breaking any more, but you'll have the good time you're hoping for.

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