Judge Daniel Kelly is a T-Rex of the DVD critic world—big, loud, and not very bright.
Our review of IMAX: Dinosaurs Alive! (Blu-Ray), published October 8th, 2009, is also available.
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Everybody digs dinosaurs, it's virtually impossible not to. Something about the fact these monsters actually roamed the same Earth as us is intoxicatingly fascinating. Kids especially find these creatures to be overwhelmingly fantastical and interesting. As a result, the entertainment industry has always exploited the awe and terror dinosaurs inspire, the likes of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor having even entered the league of great movie villains, and not just the history books that detail their existence 65 Million Years ago. Dinosaurs Alive! is a fact-based film that was designed for IMAX theatres, mixing paleontological dig footage with CGI Dino recreations, all narrated by Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct). As educational fodder for children it works okay, but adults are likely to be infuriated with the picture's lack of depth.
Running at a slight 40 minutes, Dinosaurs Alive! splits its focus between Palaeontologists and the beasts they're studying, deploying a mix of CGI dinosaurs and real life footage and interviews from leading scientists in the fossil-finding field. Part of the problem with Dinosaurs Alive! is that in trying to cover both those bases satisfactorily in such a short duration, it ends up doing both aspects a disservice. The modern day science displayed feels superficial and lacks the depth that dino nuts are likely looking for, whilst the prehistoric digital recreations are overly brief and generic. Children probably won't be fazed by these aspects, though the same can't be said for adults, especially those with an affinity for dinosaurs. The movie rehashes facts and tit bits that most dinoholics will have heard many times before, whilst the CGI creature sequences lack the inventiveness of, say, Walking with Dinosaurs.
On DVD, the IMAX effects are hard to detect, and the actual digitals are only slightly better than one might encounter on your average videogame. If you have to see Dinosaurs Alive! I'd advise seeking out an actual theatre that's still showing it (though it's probably not that easy to find, it was initially released in 2007) for at least in that setting the CGI effects will be in their designed environment. The movie showcases a lot of gorgeous scenery where dinosaur remains have been found, including large swathes of the Gobi desert, so at least the modern day landscapes are fully exploited. The narration from Michael Douglas is perfectly fine; he's no Morgan Freeman, but his vocals lend respectability to the facts and situations presented in Dinosaurs Alive!. Also I will give kudos to the filmmakers for trying to diversify the species they examine throughout the feature. The documentary attempts to provide facts and stats on dinosaurs you might not be to familiar with. Instead of the T-Rex, Triceratops, and Brachiosaurus we're all used to hearing about, Dinosaurs Alive! examines animals like Oviraptor, Seismosaurus, and Tarbosaurus. This adds a little flavour to proceedings and should certainly help young dinosaur fans expand their knowledge of the prehistoric world.
The DVD comes with a few extra features, the most impressive of which is a solidly executed and unusually organic making off. This feature runs for a respectable 26 minutes and seems to genuinely convey what it was like to work on the movie, paying particular attention to the hazards and difficulties of shooting in IMAX. Also included are a few dinosaur facts files and a trivia quiz, both of which should appeal exclusively to kids. The extras possibly bump the disc up to the status of rental; certainly kiddies with an affinity for history should be contented. However if you're looking for real dinosaur thrills, just pop in Jurassic Park, and if it's rewarding prehistoric-based learning you crave, then go buy Walking with Dinosaurs. In comparison to those two titans of dinosaur-themed entertainment, this just feels like sloppy seconds.
Give it a rental for dino obsessed kids. Give it a miss for anyone else.
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