Jurassic World ★★★★

"Jurassic World" is a confident movie. Much more confident than one might have expected from a director who has helmed only one previous feature film, the romantic dramedy "Safety Not Guaranteed" (2012). Colin Trevorrow’s assured direction imbues the proceedings with a contagious sense of joy and adventure and even awe. As far as summer blockbusters go, this one is a real winner and the one to beat.

Nostalgia plays a pivotal role in making the movie work as well as it does. Fairly frequent references to the film that started it all, "Jurassic Park" (1993), delighted me immensely. Who knew that the sight of some familiar items—a pair of night-vision goggles, a banner, branded Jeeps, a road sign—and a brief glimpse of Mr. DNA would so effectively make me wax nostalgic? But they sure did.

Whether intentional or not, "Jurassic World" is undeniably self-referential. There are instances in the picture where things said about Jurassic World the theme park apply just as much to "Jurassic World" the movie. For example, the park needs a new dinosaur, a bigger and more dangerous one, to attract visitors; the same goes for the film to attract viewers. Too bad screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Trevorrow, and Derek Connolly don’t really do anything with the meta aspect of the narrative, though.

The first-rate visual and special effects bring the dinosaurs to life in a very convincing manner. The seamless combination of live-action footage and excellent effects work results in thrilling scenes of human-versus-dinosaur and dinosaur-versus-dinosaur action. While hardly integral to the experience, the post-converted 3D is competently done and satisfying.

Much to my pleasure, John Williams’s classic and indelible music themes from the first installment can be heard here and there in "Jurassic World". And Michael Giacchino has composed a solid adventure-movie score that stands well on its own.

My biggest issue with the film is that it doesn’t take any real risks and doesn’t try to break out of the mold. Instead, the viewer gets a variation of familiar story beats; entertaining story beats, to be sure, but familiar ones nonetheless. In fact, a couple of scenes seem to be almost directly copied from the original.

The characters are rather flat and stereotypical, which is not, however, to say that they are completely uninteresting. Besides, honestly, the human beings play second fiddle to the dinosaurs in this movie. Chris Pratt’s Owen, Ty Simpkins’s Gray, and Nick Robinson’s Zach have a little depth to them. Pratt is expectedly likable. Simpkins and Robinson have fine rapport together, especially in their portrayal of how the divorce of their characters’ parents affects the relationship between the two young brothers. As Claire, Bryce Dallas Howard has a few good moments, including her character’s actions during the climax. Vincent D’Onofrio doesn’t disappoint in the role of Hoskins, a man with a shady ulterior motive.

Compared to the previous two sequels to "Jurassic Park", "Jurassic World" is the best sequel yet. Be sure to watch it on the biggest screen possible.