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War Of The Worlds (2005) Review

Dakota Fanning brings the raw emotional terror of alien invasion to life in Steven Spielberg’s visually stunning but narratively stunted War Of The Worlds

I’ve always had a love for H G Wells’ “The War Of The Worlds”, borne out of many a childhood listen to Jeff Wayne’s musical version. While I enjoy the contemporary 1950s version and even the pre-MAGA patriotic fever dream of “Independence Day” (less so its dumber than dumb cousin “Battleship”), I’ve always kind of yearned for an authentic adaptation of the novel, set in the proper time period and exploring the alien invasion from an authentically Victorian – and British – perspective. When Spielberg’s adaptation of the story was first announced, I hoped that this would be the one I had been waiting for, but alas it was not to be. Still, as we find ourselves on the eve of the BBC finally bringing a period-set version of the tale to the small screen, I decided to revisit the 2005 offering.

“War Of The Worlds” is unlikely to top anyone’s list of Spielberg’s cinematic masterpieces and while it may be ‘lesser’ Spielberg to some, that still gives it a fighting chance of being in the upper echelons of movies in general. Aware of how many previous adaptations there have been, Spielberg wisely brings his focus tight around the fractured family of Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) – a surrogate for the evidently splintered and factional human race and in doing so makes this a story less about alien invasion and more about how fragile and vulnerable society itself is when faced with disruption and crisis.

Unfortunately, at times, the relentless focus on the family conflict sometimes bogs the film down in soapy melodrama especially in relation to the Ray’s eldest child Robbie (Justin Chatwin), who’s badly underwritten, evidenced by how much the film picks up once he’s rather unceremoniously written.

Ultimately, like the invading Martian death machines, the film stands on its own tripod: three factors, two of which propel it towards greatness and one which holds it back. The first firm footing the film has is in its Director. Spielberg’s visual genius, and the cinematography of Janusz Kaminski, suffuse nearly every frame with bleak yet beautiful imagery. Yes, some of the visual flourishes are just indulgences, the wow factor overriding logic, such as the floating clothes of Martian victims which make for a macabre and memorable visual but a weapon which incinerates flesh but leaves clothes untouched makes zero sense, especially to an invading force which seeks to use humans as a food source. It’s undeniably cool looking, though.

Spielberg certainly doesn’t hold back the darkness in this film, though, and he delivers a plane crash aftermath which tops the one “Lost” delivered a year before while the train on fire and the attack on the ferry are similarly standout sequences. There’s some real darkness on offer too, arguably darker than anything Speilberg has embraced before – in one of his action-adventure movies that is – such as the family drowning in the cars falling off the ferry and, especially, the river of corpses which take Rachel (Dakota Fanning) by surprise during one of the movie’s deceptively peaceful moments.

Dakota Fanning is the second factor which gives “War Of The Worlds” its power. Her performance is simply astonishing and she absolutely should have been in the running for Best Supporting Actress, at the very least. Time and time again, she absolutely nails the emotional intensity of a world gone awry from a child’s point of view and provides a chilling evocation of the very real, present day horror of having to raise a child into an increasingly violent, dangerous and unpleasant world.

The film’s third factor, the one that works against it, is its star, Tom Cruise. His performance is actually pretty good but he’s badly miscast as the blue-collar asshole divorced selfish asshole who’s not really interested in his kids but finds himself stuck with them during the crisis. He feels far too clean-cut, square-jawed and heroic to really deliver the necessary grittiness of the role and it works against the film and the family story Spielberg’s trying to tell and so it’s no surprise when most of that dynamic fades quickly from the performances even as the script tries to continue fanning the flames of the conflict. Ironically, it might have worked much better if Tim Robbins and Tom Cruise had swapped roles. Robbins would have been more believable and layered as the deadbeat dad while anyone who’s seen Cruise’s Oprah’s couch moment can attest to how convincing he is as a delusional maniac.

The finale feels very abrupt but it’s mostly down to the breakneck pacing of the film up to that point and actually, it doesn’t really end so much as just kind of stop. It’s something of a misstep for the rescue from the basket of the tripod to be the defacto action finale set-piece which should probably have been reserved for a better showdown between the dregs of the US Army and the afflicted invaders than we get to see. It’s a nice nod the fifties version of the story to give Gene Barry and Ann Robinson cameos at the very end, but it’s also here that the movie makes its most egregious mistake by bringing back Robbie, alive and well, undermining everything the audience has just seen the other characters endure.

It’s a polished sci-fi disaster epic that with a few casting changes could have been something really special and, while it’s never not nice to hear the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman’s voice, his opening and closing narrations feel a little unnecessary.

Twilight Of The Movie Brats


Do not go gentle in that interview,
Old filmmakers shouldn’t burn and rave at close of box office;
Or rage, rage against the art of those younger than you.

Though wise men at their end know what is right,
Because their art has busted no blocks they
Do not go gentle on that which might.

Good men, the bygone new wave leading lights
Whose early deeds changed old Hollywood ways,
But now they rage against the fading of their light.

Once wild young men brought realism grit into sight,
And learn, too late, they grieve the mainstream way,
Will not obey, it feels like sleight.

Grave men, nearing end, who see with envious sight
New eyes blazing with new things to say,
Rage, rage against the upcoming generation’s might.

And you, their fathers, there on the sad height,
Curse those who followed your fierce trailblazing ways
Try to go gentle into that good night.
Your rage obscures your shining light.


(With apologies to Dylan Thomas)

Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984) deserves far more fortune and glory on its 35th Anniversary

Unjustly denigrated by fans, unfairly disowned by its creators, “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom” has long had to fend off more than its fair share of criticism. Now, on its 35th Anniversary, it’s time this neglected middle child of the Indiana Jones saga got the praise it’s due.

That rare sequel which doesn’t seek to repeat the successful formula of the first movie (it would leave that to “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”), it also makes a virtue out of it being a prequel, bringing retrospective depth to the character we first met in “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”. Not that it makes a meal out of being a prequel – there are scant nods to the audience beyond the mind-twisting metatextual reference to the ‘bringing a gun to a sword fight’ gag yet it gives us more character development than arguably any of the other films in the series. “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom” is Indy’s hero journey – it shows exactly how he goes from being a glory-hunting fortune seeker to the hero we know and love.

The opening immediately sets out to carve its own path, distinct from its predecessor and Spielberg ticks off an item for his bucket list as he stages a Busby Berkeley musical number to introduce not only our leading lady but reintroduce our suave, sardonic hero in the luxurious Club Obi-Wan as he completes yet another treasure-hunting commission for a villainous Chinese gangster. It’s a knowing homage to the Bond movies’ pre-credits sequences – the good ones that is, where they link to the main story not where they feature throwaway villains offering to buy stainless steel delicatessens. Nightclub singer Willie Scott, played brilliantly by Kate Capshaw is often a lightning rod for many of the criticisms aimed at “Temple Of Doom” but even here, the film is doing something new and different with its leading lady. She’s meant to be vain, superficial and shrilly annoying when we first meet her and the story is as much a journey of growth and character development for her as it is for Indy. By the end of the movie, she’s not the same character she was at the start and she’s helped Indy become a better man too. She’s helped in this by Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), a character who serves to bring a vulnerability to the character of Jones as well as give him some non-MacGuffin stakes worth fighting for when things get dark – and in “Temple Of Doom”, things definitely get dark. After all, it’s responsible for causing the creation of America’s PG-13 rating.

Rather than bringing back the Nazis for another round of biblical Mcguffisticuffs, Spielberg and Lucas leaned harder into the 1930s serial inspiration by taking us to the dense and mysterious jungles of India, an exotic location of hidden fortresses, Thugee cults, dark magic and precarious rope bridges. Yes, it’s a somewhat prejudiced and deeply old-fashioned portrayal of the sub-continent even by 1980s standards, although it remains authentic to the 1930s setting of the adventure itself, conspicuously sidestepping any of the difficult issues brought up by the British Raj. Besides, the story is very keen to draw a distinction between India in general and the occupants of Pankot Palace in particular.

Although the savage Thugees act as de facto stand-ins for the Nazi hordes Jones usually dispenses with, Mola Ram brings something different to the mix. In Mola Ram, played with delightful relish by Amrish Puri, the film gives us an iconic villain, possibly the most evil and ruthless Jones has ever personally faced.  He’s the supreme leader of an evil army but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, quite literally. He wears his evil heart on his sleeve and by his I mean his victim’s and by sleeve I mean in his hand, still beating. He’s vicious, cruel and malevolent in a much more visceral way than the elegantly evil Nazi stooges have been and he makes the stakes of “Temple Of Doom” intensely personal. As the story progresses, unusually for an Indiana Jones movie, it becomes less and less about the story’s McGuffins – the Sankara Stones – and more and more about who Jones is and what he stands for.

Although Indy’s initial motivation to find the stones is a self-declared desire for ‘fortune and glory’, in Mola Ram he meets a foe so malicious and so powerful that he actually manages, albeit temporarily, to corrupt Indiana Jones himself. It’s here that the introduction of Short Round pays true dividends as it’s he who manages to pull Indy back from the dark side, opening Dr Jones’ metaphorical eyes to what’s really important and what he needs to do. Where Jones is often little more than a passive observer of the finales of his adventures, here there are stakes if Indy doesn’t act. The children’s’ lives, the fate of the village he set out from, potentially the entire world under Thugee domination – all are at risk unless Indiana Jones steps up. “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom” is Indiana Jones at his most heroic, and he’s had to go through fire and blood to become so. There’s no standing back while the McGuffin melts the bad guys’ faces off, or ages them spectacularly or…does whatever happens at the end of “Kingdom of The Crystal Skull” – here Indy goes toe to toe, fist to fist with Mola Ram and his magic fingers not just for the sake of the village’s sacred stone but for his life, the lives of his friends and the lives of all the children held prisoner by the Thugees as he dangles from a collapsed rope bridge above a river teeming with hungry crocodiles.

I’m not trying to say “Temple Of Doom” is the best Indiana Jones film, an honour I think will always belong to “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” but it is my absolute favourite and my best, and that’s a hill rope bridge I’m prepared to fight and die on.

9/10 

Ready Player One (2018) Review

Ready Player One is a curate’s Easter egg of a movie

As Easter eggs go, “Ready Player One” is akin to one of those ones that come in a super-fancy package, with an intricate box and plenty of gold foil. Unfortunately, for large parts of the movie, it’s just as hollow and disappointing as one of those fancy eggs that promise all manner of delights and then don’t even have a bag of chocolate buttons inside.

In the year 2045, much of humanity seeks to avoid the destitution of the real world by using the virtual reality environment of the OASIS to work, rest and play. Following the death of the OASIS’ creator, a game built into the system reveals itself, a competition that will bestow on the winner a phenomenal fortune and control of the OASIS itself. Wade Watts (Tyler Sheridan) and his friends set out to solve the puzzles and claim the prize before the indentured players of IOI (Innovative Online Industries), a ruthless and amoral conglomerate run by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), can do so.

Given the metatextual nature of its Easter-egg-driven plot, “Ready Player One” is breathtakingly tone-deaf and lacking in self-awareness, not just of its in-world setting but also its real-world timing. It represents quite possibly the worst screenplay Spielberg has ever directed, burdened as it is by Ernest Cline’s sincere belief that pop culture simply stopped at some point in the mid-nineties. You can sense Zak Penn is trying his best but this, like “Fifty Shades Darker”, is another case in point of the author having too much involvement in the finished screen adaptation. It almost beggars belief that the same guy who co-wrote the insightful witty and wryly self-deprecating “Fanboys” is responsible for this, its grotesquely smug and indulgent antithesis.

The tiny yolk at the centre of this curate’s egg of a movie is actually a pretty decent story but its surrounded by so much cloudy albumen that it dulls the taste, leaving nothing to savour. The movie, visually and verbally, is swamped by so much crap it’s like a very special neckbeard man-cave arrested development episode of “Hoarders”. I should be slap bang in the centre of the target demographic for this kind of nostalgia but after about ten minutes of the relentless, guileless battering of reference after reference after reference, it was just pissing me off. Sure, Chucky and Freddy Krueger are fun references, but considering the real-life present day audience for this film, where are the more recent cultural touchstones? In some ways, its heavy-handed ‘look! look! ‘member this?’ overkill brings to life the movie cross-over car crash of our nightmares, the absolute worst case scenario we feared might consume the MCU.

Throughout all of this, we have master Director Steven Spielberg furiously polishing this turd of a script, like a demented cinematic curling sweeper, and its thanks to his skill and flair that the film succeeds despite the weight of its own self-reverence. There’s a particularly impish aspect to his restaging of significant portions of “The Shining”, itself a kind of next-level reference to Spielberg reworking Kubrick before in “A.I. – Artificial Intelligence”, and his mastery of visual storytelling and action set pieces is uncompromised even by the “Avatar”-like dependence on fully CGI’d environments and performances. Licensing issues often manifest by conspicuous absences from the fanboy feast on offer. It’s a WB film, so Marvel is downplayed and even the DC references prefer to go for pre-DCEU iterations, particularly the sly “Superman” joke which homages Christopher Reeve’s iconic portrayal of the character. “Star Wars” is probably the most obvious absence but don’t be surprised or disappointed if many of your favourites (from life or from the novel) don’t make the cut on screen. The cast are solid but almost incidental in a pseudo-cartoon like this but, if nothing else, the film underlines how clumsy and awkward VR technology still is in terms of an entertainment medium.

Although it may not sound like it, I did end up enjoying “Ready Player One”  – and I, possibly hypocritically, look forward to watching it at home so I can pause and savour all the little details I might have missed – but my enjoyment would have been stronger and quicker to establish itself if the movie had had the confidence to leave all the in-jokes and references in the background where they belong and trusted the audience to spot them while it got on with telling its story in a more compelling and comprehensive fashion. If nothing else, though, “Ready Player One” finally gave us the closest thing we might ever get to the “Iron Giant” sequel all right-thinking people have longed for.

The Post (2018) Review

It may be a timely reminder of the vital importance of a free and independent press but despite the zeitgeist-harnessing subject matter, there’s something that never quite stops the presses about Steven Spielberg’s “The Post”.

When explosive details of a cover-up spanning three decades and four presidential administrations come to light, the New York Times is the first to break the story. But as the government musters its full powers to prevent and further embarrassing leaks, it falls to Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and The Washington Post’s editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) to decide whether to risk their freedom and the future of the newspaper and publish the papers.

Between the lead actors and Director Spielberg, there’s an effortless confidence on display here that could easily, in an unflattering light, be taken as smugness. Of course, Streep and Hanks are terrific in their roles, he as the brash, publish-and-be-damned newsman, she as the thoughtful but determined publisher beset by self-doubt and the doubts of the men who comprise her board of directors. There’s a straightforwardness to the narrative which Spielberg handles effortlessly and, save for a handful of electric scenes, there’s a sedate pace which saps the drama.

Superficially, it’s a somewhat ordinary movie. There are no visual flourishes or arch camera trickery just a thoroughly faithful recreation of the time period of the story – it’s quite something to see how newspapers came together to be printed back in those days. Beneath the surface, though, there’s an entire world of subtly and nuance as Spielberg uses light, colour and costume to season the visuals to perfection. The understated aesthetic is a deliberate and understandable move: the power of “The Post”, the importance of it, is in its message, not its medium. It is a warning to the present day from not so long ago.

Hopefully, it’s that cautionary example that will stay with you long after the film itself has faded. It’s a supremely well-made and well-acted movie but remarkable only in its unremarkableness despite the talent involved. It speaks to the quality and skill of all those involved when something which is undeniably very, very good still somehow feels a little bit disappointing.

7/10 

The BFG (2016) is a scrumdiddlyumptious too-good-for-summer treat.

Shining like the most gloriumptious bottled dream, “The BFG” bestrides the lacklustre summer blockbuster season like a magical Colossus of Rhodes. A welcome big-screen return for the wonderful imagination of Roald Dahl and an even more welcome return for the Spielberg of old, the master of childlike wonder and spellbinding fantasy.

When orphan Sophie is kidnapped in the dead of night by a gigantic cloaked figure, she fears the worst. But it turns out she has been befriended and rescued from her lonely life by the Big Friendly Giant, who catches dreams and brings them to the good children of the world. When the other mean giants discover the BFG is hiding a ‘human bean’, Sophie and the BFG hatch a plot to deal with the horrible giants once and for all.

As you’d expect from Spielberg, “The BFG” is a feast for the eyes and thanks to the late, great Melinda Matheson’s warm and witty script, Dahl’s gift for blending darkness and light into a frothily affecting story has never been better realised on screen (only an anachronistic reference to ‘Ronnie & Nancy’ feels oddly out of place). Mark Rylance’s motion-capture performance is utterly perfect and the effects work is beautifully intricate, giving substance and credibility to the idea that giants could walk amongst us without being detected.

Unfairly overlooked and far too good for the crowded summer blockbuster slugfest, “The BFG” would have been better suited to a festive slot in December where audiences could have escaped the winter chill to bask in the warmth of its storytelling. Beguiling and sweet, this gentle movie captivated both Cragglings, capturing the attention of a three-year-old and ten year old as easily as it entranced their parents.

10/10 

A good man goes to [prevent] war in Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies (2015)

In these troubled times, America and the world could do worse than to look to the pages of history for some salutary lessons on how to deal with the current volatility we live with. It is serendipitous, then, that Steven Spielberg’s magnificent true-life drama “Bridge Of Spies” arrives in cinemas this week to provide the small ray of hope that good, honourable people can make a difference.

When a U2 spy plane is shot down over Soviet territory, the pilot is taken captive and informal contact is made to tentatively propose a prisoner exchange: the pilot Francis Gary Powers in exchange for Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet agent who has been arrested and imprisoned in America. Unable to be seen to be negotiating, the CIA asks insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) – who was coerced into defending Abel during his espionage trial – to undertake the negotiations for them.

Although the trailer may give the impression of a ‘ticking clock thriller’, “Bridge Of Spies” is actually a richly entertaining, expertly crafted drama. Hanks is, of course, an old hand at the principled everyman character but it’s his quiet conviction and humble authority which gives the drama much of its potency as Donovan’s belief in justice drives him on in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. In the hands of other actors, this could have easily become a showy, grandstanding role but Hanks and Spielberg keep it low key to tremendous effect. Mark Ryland is likewise superb as the slyly placid Abel, deftly portraying a man hiding his keen intelligence behind the banalest of facades. There’s a wonderful rapport between the two actors infusing the men they’re playing with a bond of honour and mutual respect.

Spielberg, working from a script by playwright Matt Charman and polished by the Coen brothers, reigns in his usual visual flourishes and instead aims squarely and successfully for authenticity. He skillfully recreates the post-McCarthy Cold War atmosphere of paranoia and fear as well as the shifting, capricious and barbed political and diplomatic manoeuvring required to pull off the exchange. Counterpointing Donovan’s tireless defence of Abel’s rights with the cruelty and brutality of the construction of the Berlin Wall provides a historical perspective on the present day.

“Bridge Of Spies” is an absorbing film from a master director showcasing a note-perfect performance from Hanks and a gripping true-life insight to the slightest of thaws during the iciest period of the Cold War.

10/10 

Lincoln (2012) Review

Lincoln sees Spielberg and Day Lewis explore Honest Abe’s finest -and final – hours

It would appear the general scholarly consensus is that “Lincoln” is a reasonably accurate retelling of the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life and in particular his efforts to get the 13th Amendment through the House of Representatives, which is a relief after 2012’s ludicrous vampire-slaying take on the early life of the 16th President of the United States Of America.

As has already been recognised by an Oscar, Daniel Day-Lewis is flawless as Abraham Lincoln, a performance so rich in conviction and subtlety that he completely convinces as a quiet, thoughtful and principled man aware of both the immense power he wields and the responsibilities he bears.

Despite his mesmeric performance, the film suffers from a slow, hesitant start and even though Spielberg starts proceedings by briefly throwing in one of his now almost obligatory chaotic battle scenes, the whole affair feels quite sterile and distant. At any moment you half expect the smooth rich tones of, say, a Morgan Freeman voice-over to begin and a dry but handsomely staged history documentary unfold before you.

The film really sparks into life once the President’s ambitions and motives are made clear and it becomes a race for numbers to get the amendment through congress, bringing some of the wonderful supporting cast into play. Nobody, however, injects more life into this film than Tommy Lee Jones, who comes damn close to stealing the picture right out from under Day-Lewis as the morose and cantankerous Republic Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a man with his own, more personal motive for helping the President. David Strathairn also impresses as Lincoln’s confidante and seemingly closest ally Secretary of State William H Seward while James Spader adds some much-needed levity to the proceedings as the roguish Republican lobbyist William Bilbo.

With the dependable but unspectacular Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and an oddly disengaged turn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, the real glimpses of the family man behind the presidential façade are provided by the interaction between Lincoln and his younger son Tad, played charmingly by Gulliver McGrath.

The rest of the cast reads like a who’s who of American character actors who embrace their characters’ virtues and follies superbly and it’s a credit to all involved that the final vote on the amendment carries with it a genuine sense of suspense and tension despite the historically famous outcome.

Although the film reaches a natural, satisfying and triumphant climax following the passing of the amendment, the film is unable to resist the temptation to linger on for the most famous moment of Lincoln’s life: its end. This results in a drawn-out, largely unnecessary coda that skips in fits and starts over the three months between the amendments passing and that fateful trip to Ford’s Theatre. The moment arrives and is done with a clever bait-and-switch approach that shows us nothing of John Wilkes-Booth or his actions but instead leaves it to Gulliver McGrath’s Tad Lincoln to embody the tragedy and heartbreak of an entire nation. The fact that he does so magnificently almost make the gratuitous last half hour of this two and a half-hour film worthwhile. Almost.

“Lincoln” succeeds through the power of its amazing cast, propelled by the committed performances of the lead players and supported by lavish attention to period detail. The missing element for me is Spielberg. The film is handsome and well-made but it feels like Spielberg’s most anonymous picture to date. There is precious little sign of him in the fabric of the film and almost nothing of his usual visual flair. If this were directed by almost anybody else, I’m sure I would have scored it higher, but I expect more from Spielberg. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s a reflection of his past body of work that a film so exceptionally well crafted as “Lincoln” still feels a little bit of a letdown.

Jurassic Park (1993) Review

Even twenty years later, a visit to Jurassic Park has lost none of its thrill

I tend to shy away from reviewing films based on the technical merits of the aspect ratio but the 3D IMAX re-release gave me the irresistible opportunity to review 1993’s “Jurassic Park” and, coincidentally, make it seven times I’ve seen it in the cinema. It’s my personal record for seeing a film on the big screen. Of course, I’ve seen it dozens of times since on VHS, DVD and Blu Ray. It’s one of the films I’ll always upgrade to the latest format.

Cards on the table, I was a huge dinosaur nut as a kid. Loved them – couldn’t get enough. Although I was 19 when Jurassic Park came out, you better believe I was there at the earliest showing I could get to. I can still remember the genuine feeling of awe as I saw, for the first time ever, truly realistic dinosaurs walking, breathing, coming to life right in front of me.

“Jurassic Park” is also, for me, a film that marks the end of an era. It was the last film Spielberg made before he lost his innocence making “Schindler’s List”. “Schindler’s List” changed him both as a person and a filmmaker and he’s never been the same since. He lost something in the change, a sense of swashbuckling, joyous abandon that he’s found it impossible to recapture after confronting the darkness of Oskar Schindler’s story. But before he irrevocably grew up as a filmmaker, he took us for one last trip to an island far, far more exciting than Neverland: Isla Nublar, 120 miles west of Costa Rica.

For “Jurassic Park”, Speilberg assembled with a cast that’s pretty hard to fault. Sam Neil is excellent as reluctant hero Alan Grant and while Laura Dern’s Ellie Satler lacks any real chemistry, Richard Attenborough’s jolly charisma more than makes up for it. Jeff Goldblum is at his most Goldblum-ish here and his amusingly annoying turn as Ian Malcolm makes it nigh-on impossible to believe he would end up being the leading man of the sequel. Add to this the best performance by children since “E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial” and you’ve got a near-perfect blend of wonder, action, thrills and special effects. While many liberties were taken with the source novel (and later recycled into the two lesser sequels), the core story is lean, propulsive and exhilarating. It’s expertly paced and the score by John Williams serves it well.

Expanded to the IMAX screen, “Jurassic Park” increases in majesty and spectacle, showing more than ever before a master at the height of his powers. While IMAX serves “Jurassic Park” well, the 3D is less successful. There are occasions, especially in the early scenes where the 3D places awkward landscape elements into the foreground, distracting from the rest of the frame.

It’s in the set pieces that “Jurassic Park” really delivers in IMAX. The T-Rex attack on the two Jeeps is magnified into a viscerally intense, terrifying spectacle which proved too much to handle for the seven-year old I saw it with. Looking at it anew, it really is a masterpiece in delivering and sustaining real, prolonged threat and danger on screen. Once the T-Rex has lumbered off, the film belongs to the velociraptors who quickly work their way through the rest of the disposable cast, including a pre-mega stardom Samuel L Jackson and a brilliant subtly reptilian performance by Bob Peck as Game Warden Robert Muldoon, doomed to fall prey to the “clever girl” he so fears and admires.

Ironically for a film which set new standards for the power and use of technology in movie making, it’s the computers that really date Jurassic Park now. From Dennis Nedry’s Apple MacIntosh workstation to the children’s excitement at the tour jeep having an “interactive CD ROM!”, to the graphic interface used to fix the phones and door locks, the computers and other technology seem as clunky and out of date now as the massive tape spools and blinking lights of movies in the 1970s. But it’s a minor gripe in a film so full of sights and sounds to savour.

The film builds to a thrilling and satisfying climax and I always enjoyed the fact that, in the finale, the T-Rex actually ends up being the hero and saving the survivors from the raptors, cementing its reputation as the world’s coolest dinosaur by far. “Jurassic Park” is a perfect example of the summer blockbuster, and I won’t rule out seeing it an 8th time on the big screen if I get the chance.