Every child is fascinated by dinosaurs. Whether it is curiosity, fear or a healthy mix of both, any child that has walked into a museum and looked up at a T-rex skeleton did so with the widest of eyes. The amazement begins with the disbelief that such creatures ever walked the Earth and matures into wondering how they lived once we accept that these monsters did in fact exist. Paleontologists are probably those same children who never were able to let go of their fascination and curiosity. From the skeletal remains, many have tried to piece together exactly what these behemoths looked like and how they behaved. The point of the film Dinotasia is to explore some of these ideas in an entertaining and family-friendly way.
Welcome to the Discovery Channel’s attempt to go Disney with dinosaurs. Dinotasia does a very good job of showing how dinosaurs would have lived in terms of how the food chain works. At the same time however, it gets rather goofy in its story telling at times. With the focus often being on the carnivores, we see several different members of the saurian family. I am not going to lie; my dinosaur fascination has weaned and they all looked like T-rexes to me. That was the first shortcoming I saw in this film. There are no descriptions to be found explaining what the viewer is looking at. One of the most memorable scenes features a Allosaurus that got its jaw broken as a baby. It tried to overstep its bounds with a full grown Dinheirosaurus and got bitch-slapped for its trouble. Despite being left for dead by its mother, it manages to survive. As fearsome as this creature was in its day, it is hard to take it serious with a misaligned jaw. Comical moments like this abound in this film and the fact that Dinotasia is really a splicing together of episodes of Dinosaur Revolution only hurts it more. The original show’s narrator actually did explain what dinosaurs we were seeing and what was going on. The overviews that Werner Herzog gives just sound pretentious and promise a level of quality the show just does not have. Make no mistake, the film is enjoyable, but it tries to be more than what it is and that kills the experience a bit.
I have to laugh a bit when I think of the visuals presented in this film. There is low budget, and then there is Dinotasia. Oddly, there are moments of greatness that look very well done. The final fight between the rival Tyrannosauruses definitely is a bright spot. However, there are moments in this that graphically look less defined and detailed than season one of Beast Wars, and that came out in 1996! Even on the greatest of HDTVs, this is not going to be the blu-ray you write home about. Again, I think this has to do with the fact that Dinotasia is a repackaging of an episodic series that did not do so well. Somebody just said “we have to make some money off of this” and they did what they could.
Thankfully, the audio on this disc was top notch. From the roars of dinosaurs in battle, to the fierce thump of approaching footsteps, the sound is immersive from start to finish. The music is absolutely nothing special and I am sure some will disagree on that. The thing is that none of the music is memorable and none of it does anything for the scenes. If you have a good surround system then Dinotasia will not audibly disappoint you. Ironically, it may not keep you awake either.
Often when I watch the extras for a movie I say to myself “why didn’t they put that in the movie?” When I watched these “extras,”I found myself wondering why they even included them in the home release. With the exception of the extended Allosaurus scene there is nothing of worth here. I was a little confused here as well as I thought the Torvasaurus was the Allosaurus until I saw the original scene from Dinosaur Revolution. Note to the filmmakers: according to fossil remains, Torvasaurus is smaller than Allosaurus, so this fight was rather stupid. And there is my nerd out for the day. Watch that one extended scene and then skip the rest of the extras, especially the motion capture scenes.
After looking up the history of this program, Dinotasia feels like nothing more than a cash grab. It had the potential to be highly enjoyable but the attempt to humanize the dinosaurs made many things feel corny. There are times where you feel like you are watching part seventy-three of The Land Before Time and a few legitimate moments that feel like something out of Jurassic Park. Don’t let the kids try to fool you; this film is not the slightest bit educational. On top of that, there seem to be some historical incongruences. In all, you can probably still have some fun if you are with a bunch of friends and there is any amount of hard liquor present. Dinotasia is a film that tries to make a buck off of rehashing and summarizing a TV show that not too many people liked. Going back the Beast Wars comparison, Megatron said it best: