Judge Kent Dixon thought this was the film about those giant lizard things that crashed in the Andes.
Our review of IMAX: Dinosaurs Alive!, published October 15th, 2009, is also available.
A gigantic adventure!
What's so great about IMAX? First demonstrated at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan, the IMAX projection process uses a significantly larger negative that allows higher resolution and a larger projected image. Previously used almost exclusively for documentaries that toured the science center circuit, IMAX has been used more and more in major motion pictures. The technology allows directors to insert visually dynamic, high resolution scenes into standard films, as well as re-mastering existing films into IMAX format as was done with the two Matrix sequels, the Harry Potter film releases since 2004 and several others. The 2008 film The Dark Knight was the first Hollywood motion picture to include several scenes that were actually shot with IMAX cameras during production, opening the floodgates for more to come.
IMAX still lends itself best to documentary productions, taking the audience beyond the science and technology into immersive worlds of exploration and discovery. What better candidate for a big screen IMAX experience than some of the most fascinating and enormous creatures to ever walk the Earth? Sure, we're 65 million years late for the party, but since fossils were first discovered in Gloucester County, New Jersey in 1787, many of us have become fascinated by dinosaurs. What did they look like? Why did they all but disappear from the planet, long before we ever arrived on the scene?
Narrated by Michael Douglas (there's a joke there, but it's just too easy) Dinosaurs Alive! was released in 2007 in both 2D and 3D formats. As of October 2009, the film is still playing in 37 IMAX theaters around the world, so you may want to catch it in its intended theatrical environment first before purchasing it, to get the full effect and impact of the work that went into the production. If you're a dinophile or documentary fan, Dinosaurs Alive! is likely to be right up your alley. Archival footage of early archeological expeditions is superimposed over stunning landscapes as Douglas talks about the long history of archeology. Contemporary footage of digs in the Gobi Desert and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico is intercut with CG renderings of dinosaurs in their natural habitats. The CG doesn't always work, but it definitely has its moments, especially when placed in some of the more stunning locations seen in the film.
Dinosaurs Alive! crashes onto Blu-ray with a respectable package. The visual presentation ranges from pretty darn good to impressive, displaying solid clarity and definition. Whether CG or natural, colors are beautiful and true, remaining sharp throughout the film. On the audio front, Douglas' narration does the job, but comes across as a bit stilted from time to time. That criticism aside, the music, ambient sound, dinosaur roars and dialog make solid use of the DTS-HD Master Audio track, even giving the lower ranges the occasional workout.
Being the film geek that I am, I actually enjoyed the 26 minute featurette "'The Making Of' Dinosaurs Alive!" even more than I enjoyed the main feature. Enthusiastically narrated, The "Making Of" is an interesting primer on paleontology and IMAX filmmaking, while presenting an impressive chronicle of all the work and effort behind Dinosaurs Alive!. One impressive stat that stands out in my mind is that since it was shot in 3D, Dinosaurs Alive! used film stock that cost $1,000 per roll. In other words, shooting in 3D, the filmmakers spend approximately $11 per second of footage! Suffice it to say that in IMAX, there's no such thing as a simple shot.
"Meet the Creatures" presents short text blurbs on 12 of the creatures featured in Dinosaurs Alive!, along with direct access to the CG sequences in which the creatures appeared in the film. Finally, the "Film Trivia Quiz" feature presents 10 multiple choice questions based on facts from the film. It would have been nice to have had a filmmaker or paleontologist commentary track included here, but that really would have just been icing on a pretty decent cake.
If the study of dinosaurs and archeology are two things that you dig (sorry!), sink your teeth into Dinosaurs Alive! (and again!). It's a short but sweet Blu-ray presentation that doesn't disappoint.
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