Sunday, December 22, 2013

Walking with Dinosaurs 3D: A Personal Movie Review from a Non-Movie-Critic Paleontologist

So last night I saw “Walking with Dinosaurs 3D” in theaters.

One word: Phenomenal.

This was, by far, one of THE most gorgeous animated animal movies I have ever seen (especially in terms of dinosaurs). The animation was incredible. The amount of intricate detail that was put into creating each animal was unreal. And what’s even more amazing is the amount of variation they put into creating each individual of a species while still making it recognizable as that species, so they can tell one individual (or character) from another. Even the fluid movements of each animal were realistic and the combination of that with the visual appeal of beautiful real-life landscapes worked perfectly. Hands down.

I also thought they did a good job introducing most of the dinosaurs, with a little snippet on each taxon that showed up (a few being Pachyrhinosaurus, Gorgosaurus, Edmontosaurus, an ankylosaur of some sort, Troodon, and Alexornis—oh, and a pterosaur), although, I wish they would have spent more time talking about each one like they did with Gorgosaurus. He got a little more informative attention for some reason. (And did anyone notice they didn't introduce Parksosaurus at all?? Poor guy. I like Parksosaurus!) I will make a note to say, however, that it did feel slightly awkward because I could never tell if I was watching a movie or a documentary. It was sort of this weird purgatory between the two and it made me a little uncomfortable, but once you get past that feeling, it is REALLY an enjoyable movie.

Now, I’m not going to go too much into the details of the story, because it is pretty much more or less the same storyline you always see in a dinosaur movie (which, let’s be honest, what else do they really have to work with?). Cool looking plant-eating dinosaurs (in this case, the AWESOME Pachyrhinosaurus [perfect choice, by the way]) are migrating from one place to another from season to season. They, of course, keep running into carnivores along the way that the herbivores can’t actually communicate with for whatever untold reason. Also, the main character, Patchi the Pachyrhinosaurus, starts off a small, dinky runt and apparently turns out to beat out the bully and become the biggest badass dinosaur that ever walked the face of the earth.

That said, I mainly want to get into the discussion of the fact that there were voiceovers:

Sorry to most of my paleontologist colleagues out there, but I LIKED the voices.

Not to say it wasn’t annoying from time to time and some of the dialogue was pretty much the cheesiest thing ever. BUT, nevertheless, it was good that they put it in. Why? Because that is how movies work! If you’re going to have a movie that is an hour and a half long, dialogue helps keep the attention span. Not only for kids. For EVERYONE. If someone doesn’t pay attention for even a couple minutes to a certain interaction two dinosaurs have with each other that is important to the story line… that’s it. The rest of the story is gone. Dialogue helps that keep moving to keep you on track.

Let me put it this way. How many of us loved Land Before Time as a child? (And I’m talking about the original; not the crappy 50 other ones that were made.) I know I loved it as a kid. And guess what? That stuff was nowhere NEAR accurate, and yet it made me love dinosaurs that much more! And they talked. A LOT. It’s a kid’s movie. Walking with Dinosaurs 3D is pretty much just a prettier, more accurate version of Land Before Time (with a debatably less fun storyline). Name me one GOOD animal movie that was at least an hour and a half that didn’t have dialogue in it and we’ll talk. (Oh, and it can’t have any humans in it talking either. OR written dialogue, like in a silent movie, because guess what? THAT’S STILL DIALOGUE.)

Now, some people complain that their mouths weren’t moving and they were somehow telepathically talking. Well, I’m sorry, but it’s much better than them having lips and talking, like in Disney’s Dinosaur from years ago. Dinosaurs don’t have lips. We all know this. (SCIENCE!) So, again, just to make the movie run along better, dialogue helps it keep going. (Also, Homeward Bound was fantastic, and they were talking telepathically. So it's okay!) Now, maybe they could have had a narrator talking, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. I know I laughed quite a few times and the people around me laughed as well throughout. It was funny! (Again, in a cheesy way, but still… THAT’S OKAY!)

So, to sum up: GO SEE IT. Paleontologists and non-paleontologists alike. It’s a great and fun movie for all ages. And to a lot of my colleagues out there who don’t like the dialogue, it’s just for fun. It’s a movie. It has nothing to do with the fact that they underestimate how smart kids are in understanding a storyline with no dialogue. It is just a matter of attention span. It’s human nature to zone out from time to time. Words help keep you in check in most long stories. They didn’t just make this movie for us paleontologists to be pleased with. They made it for everyone. And pretty much everyone I talked to who is not a paleontologist and who IS a movie lover agrees with how it was done. So just embrace it and have fun with it! After all, this movie is going to influence so many more kids to get into the field and into science in general!

Because, let's face it…What better way is there to get kids interested in science at a really young age than exposing them to DINOSAURS?!

Peace out. I need to get back to writing my dissertation now. Hah!
~ Ali


  1. The ankylosaur is Edmontonia. When they decided they were going to put names on top of everything, they chose to just give it the generic "ankylosaur" instead, because they felt "Edmontonia" was too similar to "Edmontosaurus". (Victoria Arbour and I pushed them to use Panoplosaurus", but they didn't want to for some reason.)

    And yes, poor Parksosaurus (or "those green guys", as the call them.)

    1. Ah, I THOUGHT it was Edmontonia, but was confused as to why they didn't name it and figured it was an unnamed species I hadn't heard of. Ha! Thanks, Tom!

  2. I dunno, I saw the trailer. If I didn't know better, I'd say the voices made my ears bleed as I tried to unhear it.
    The older trailer where there were no voices looked incredible. But once I heard the voices in the new one all the excitement just dissipated as I cringed.