Friday 20 December 2013

Review: Walking With Dinosaurs - The 3D Movie

World of Blackout Film Review

Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie Poster

Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie
Cert: U / 87 mins / Dir. Neil Nightingale / Barry Cook

If you can put up with...

• The anthropomorphisation of wild animals to a level which almost completely disassembles any educational value the film is supposed to have.

• A mortifyingly clunkly present-day framing device, which I'm guessing is the easiest £25 Karl Urban has ever earned, although still probably not the most embarrassing.

• One of the worst film titles in cinematic history, irrespective of the producers' wish to tie it in with the existing TV series, presumably decided upon by a range of names being attached to a dartboard and 'chosen' after an afternoon in the pub whereby the dart landed on an option which wasn't good enough to be pinned to the board and was in fact just a memo lying on someone's desk from a studio exec who had little to no interest in the project.

…then you'll probably enjoy WWD:T3DM*1 on some level. The animation is, for the very most part*2, outstanding, the 3D adds a nice depth, and the pop songs inserted into the orchestral score aren't too jarring. However, the film does seem torn between wanting to be a factually accurate introduction to basic palaeontology, and a family-friendly adventure flick. And let's be honest here: you can't do both (this is a very, very blood-free Cretaceous period*3).

The thing is, the film does have a decent stab at covering all the bases. In isolation the story about Patchi growing from the runt of the litter into the leader of the herd is well told, and the chain of events is more believable in itself than the voiceover and narration work would suggest. But, the continued breaking of the fourth wall will prevent all but the youngest of viewers from becoming emotionally involved. Because the four speaking characters have their dialogue overlaid and aren't lipsynched*4, there's a feeling that the film could work without the voiceovers and a sporadic third-person narration, but even then the narrative would seem dumbed-down, and you'd be wondering why the dinosaurs, or the Pachyrhinosaurs at least, are exhibiting very human behaviour. The voicework, in and of itself, is well performed, but seems more suited to a more cartoon-based format, than photorealistic CGI. I guess, in all honesty, I expected a trailer like the one above to translate into a real emotional-button-pushing tear-jerker, and it isn't really. The BBFC card's "Contains mild threat" tells you all you need to know.

Of course, I say all this as if an animated, U-rated, dinosaur film wasn't aimed at young children, but the points still stand. Fantastic for what it is, Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is a great achievement, but it could have been an amazing film. I should have loved it because I think that trailer looks fantastic, but only ended up quite liking it. I mean this in no way as an insult, but WWD:T3DM is really aimed at a young, undemanding audience.

Come for the dinosaurs; stay for the animation.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Pretty much.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Sometimes, when the film wasn't trying to outsmart itself.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
If you're under eight years old, yes. And no, that's not meant disparagingly.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Animation geeks will want to check it out at the cinema, everyone else can get away with the BluRay, I reckon.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
With the best will in the world, I shouldn't imagine so.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
Did anyone else think that the film's final shot of hundreds of terrified dinosaurs gawping at the sky as an asteroid burned through the Earth's atmosphere towards them was a little too much for a young audience?

*1 Yes, WWD:T3DM is what all the cool kids are calling it. I've checked.
*2 I don't want to piss on anyone's cornflakes, especially after my gripe-list at the start, but I noticed that (occasionally) not all of the dinosaurs were leaving footprints in the loose ground they were on. I know, 'what the hell do I know about CGI', you're right, but it does help in 'weighting' the animals unless we're meant to believe that they were huge because of their gas-bladders. Look, it's just a small thing. Forget I said anything. Seriously.
*3 And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the blog's first ever menstruation joke! (albeit unintentional and only noticed just before publishing). Well okay, it'd work better if it a) didn't include the word Cretacious, and b) was actually a joke, but since that'd make no sense, you're stuck with it. Be sure to tip your waitress, I'll be here all week.
*4 Yeah, I'm talking about Karl Urban... BOOM!

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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