Judge Victor Valdivia's first rule of Jurassic Fight Club: Don't talk about Jurassic Fight Club. Otherwise, you'll get eaten.
The ultimate battle for survival.
Anyone looking for evidence of just how schizophrenic History has become need only look at this DVD set. Jurassic Fight Club: The Complete Season One has some genuinely clever ideas and some great historical content, but also suffers from the repetitive reality TV bent that has begun to infect History recently. This is a great idea for a show: Can forensic science be used to examine how certain dinosaurs died? It's reasonably entertaining, but at certain spots it's hard not to think Jurassic Fight Club should have been much better than it is.
The format for each episode (except for two) is simple. The discovery of a paleontological find is explained, forensic analysis of each creature and bone is shown, and computer animation fills in necessary visuals (such as how big each creature is) and depicts the actual confrontation that presumably occurred. Jurassic Fight Club is actually a bit of a misnomer, as both dinosaurs and non-dinosaurs that fall outside of the Jurassic era are profiled. Here is a listing of the episodes on this set:
• "T-Rex Hunter"
• "Gang Killer"
• "Deep Sea Killers"
• "Hunter Becomes Hunted"
• "Raptor's Last Stand"
• "Ice Age Monsters"
• "Raptor vs. T. Rex"
Each dinosaur (or creature) is explained in detail, with its various strengths and weaknesses dissected, and then paleontologist "Dinosaur George" Blasing gives a description of how each battle could have taken place. Of course, there's no way to know for sure what actually happened, but it's possible to make educated guesses based on the evidence, such as bite marks and cracks on bones, or broken teeth. The formula is repetitive, but it does work, to a degree. Each episode is easy to follow, and the animation is impressive, with surprising depth and fluidity for a TV show. The show's producers also get extra points for not flinching from some of the more gruesome aspects of the era. Dinosaurs were really quite brutish and primitive creatures, and by showing them capable of such acts as infanticide and cannibalism the show paints a more accurate portrait than some shows that try to soften or even humanize them.
At the same time, the show does tend to go for simplistic TV-friendly content more often than it should. What with all the zooms, Matrix-style freeze frames, and rapid-fire editing, it becomes a bit tiresome to watch several episodes in a row. Furthermore, there should have been more variety in the creatures profiled. There are just too many episodes about T. Rex and Allosaurus. True, these were the predominant killers of their times, but after a while, even they become boring. The episodes on Megalodon and the Short-Faced Bear are genuinely interesting and informative, and just as exciting as the regular dinosaurs. Why didn't the show's producers try to find more unusual creatures like those? One or two T. Rex and Allosaurus episodes would have been fine, but the others feel like overkill to bring in viewers. That's not even to mention the two non-fighting episodes, "Biggest Killers" and "Armageddon," both of which are by far the weakest of the set. Both merely rehash basic facts about dinosaurs that have been discussed in more detail elsewhere without adding anything new. In fact, both shows leave out some recent theories and findings about dinosaurs. Many scientists believe that Raptors may have had feather-like coverings or that T. Rex may have been more of a scavenger than a predator, but you won't see or hear any of that here.
The non-anamorphic 16:9 transfer is sharp and bright. There's very little archival footage, so most of the show is of a uniform quality. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is decent, but why not spring for a 5.1 Surround mix? Prehistoric monsters fighting would seem to demand more oomph in the audio.
The only extras are on the first disc, consisting of about 20 minutes of interviews with Blasing where he fills in a few details about dinosaurs, though nothing too earth-shattering.
Ultimately, Jurassic Fight Club is not guilty because it's of a higher quality than some of the schlock that History is peddling these days, but it's still not as good as it could have been. Unless you're a hard-core dinosaur buff, preview a few episodes before deciding to buy it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
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