Discovery Channel // 2001 // 344 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // July 31st, 2011
Enter a world unexplored by the modern man...a world filled with mysterious giants that fascinate us to this day.
To put it simply, humans are fascinated with dinosaurs. Whether it's their unusual and foreign appearance, size, diet or some other quality; there aren't many of us whose interest isn't at least slightly piqued. Now extinct for millions of years; dinosaurs still hold prominent places for authors, historians, filmmakers and average joes. It was likely the 1999 BBC TV miniseries Walking With Dinosaurs that brought dino science and CG recreations of the beasts into our homes, spawning a new niche of documentary filmmaking.
Always a leader in developing documentary content for the small screen, Discovery Channel has focused series like Clash of the Dinosaurs, Dinolab, and Dinosaur Planet, as well as many other standalone documentaries, on the subject of dinosaurs. This spring, Discovery released Dinosaur Collection, gathering an assortment of shorter features together for the first time, spread across two discs as follows:
* When Dinosaurs Roamed America
Narrated by American actor John Goodman (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), this feature-length documentary adopts a day-in-the-life approach, taking a closer look at several dinosaur species in their own environments, facing challenges and threats just as any wild species might.
* The Valley of the T-Rex
World-renowned paleontologist Jack Horner challenges contemporary conceptions of the T-Rex and takes viewers to the Hell Creek formation in Montana.
* "Monsters Resurrected -- "T-Rex of the Deep"
Have you ever heard of a Mosasaur? As long as a Greyhound bus and weighing eight tons, this ocean-faring behemoth was earth's top ocean predator and possibly even the most dominant predator that has ever lived on our planet.
* Clash of the Dinosaurs -- "The Defenders"
Supported by detailed CGI creations, scientists weigh in on the defensive systems developed by many dinosaurs to protect them from, and alert them to, predators.
* Clash of the Dinosaurs -- "Generations"
Examines how the processes of both evolution and natural selection helped dinosaurs to become some of the most successful creatures that have ever walked the earth.
* Dino Lab and Dino Lab II
Episodes of the Discovery Channel series that are set in a fictional laboratory where living dinosaurs are examined by contemporary scientists.
While each of the documentaries take different approaches to the content and presentation, there is a wealth of dinosaur info to be found here. Not surprisingly, T-Rex gets more than his fair share of screen time, but viewers will also be introduced to many other species. Despite variations in delivery, not surprisingly, every documentary relies heavily on CGI representations of dinosaurs, environments and occasionally both. Despite strong narration by John Goodman and a wealth of information, the CGI approach used in When Dinosaurs Roamed America doesn't fare as well as the others. While the real footage of locations is solid and the CGI dinosaurs are impressive, when married together, the blended image just doesn't work and the illusion breaks down. On the other hand, when CGI is used to create both the dinosaurs and the environments, as it is in Monsters Resurrected for example, the result is often quite breathtaking. Likely a cost-saving measure, don't be too surprised to see the odd recycled CGI scene or element here and there as well.
Each of the episodes included with Dinosaur Collection follow a similar format to the Discovery Channel sister release Earth Collection: on-screen experts talk, CGI dazzles and represents, and narrators expound. Much of the content included on this release may be familiar, but don't be surprised if you learn something brand new.
Viewers will find a bit of a hodge-podge with the A/V presentation delivered here. The 2.0 audio presentation suits the overall documentary style, but a more dynamic mix might have been nice, especially to accompany some of the more grand CG vistas and add further weigh to the CGI giants appearing onscreen. The release includes episodes in both anamorphic and non-anamorphic widescreen, which may prove annoying to some viewers, but it's not a complete deal-breaker. There are no extra features of any kind.
There likely aren't many viewers of any age group who haven't seen at least some dinosaur documentaries over the years, so there may not be much new here. But if your only experience with dinosaurs is through books or museums, Discovery Channel's Dinosaur Collection may be right up your alley, especially knowing that you're not on the menu!
Review content copyright © 2011 Kent Dixon; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Discovery Channel
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 344 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: When Dinosaurs Roamed America
* IMDb: Clash of the Dinosaurs
* IMDb: The Valley of the T-Rex
* IMDb: Monsters Resurrected