DVD Review: Dinotasia

Posted on August 16, 2012 by UK Editor

Review by Ben Bussey

Dinosaurs are cool, aren’t they? Doesn’t it just beggar belief that these big Godzilla-type creatures that we’ve seen chasing hapless humans through jungles and cities in B-movies for time immemorial really did walk the earth once upon a time? That’s the real secret to the endless appeal of dinosaur movies, I think; that, however absurd the idea is, on some small level it’s credible that we could co-exist with these extraordinary creatures. (And with that sentence every scientist worth their salt is probably spitting their tea.) Of course, the operative word here is co-existence. The pleasure we take from the King Kongs, One Million Years BCs and Jurassic Parks is seeing human beings on the run from those big bastard lizards, hunting or being hunted; that’s exciting. Take away that human element, however, and what do you have left? You can either humanise your monsters in a cutesy way, and wind up being The Land Before Time or Disney’s Dinosaur; or you can play it straight and strive for scientific accuracy, and invariably end up with a nature show along the lines of the BBC’s Walking With Dinosaurs.

Or, if you do it with considerably poorer CGI, you wind up with this little oddity.

I’m rather confused by Dinotasia. My interest was picqued by the press release, bigging up the presence of Werner Herzog as narrator – and highlighting his description of the film as being “to Walking With Dinosaurs as The Wire was to Z-Cars” – and an endorsement from palaeontologist Mark Witton, proclaiming it “probably the closest I’ve seen to what we think dinosaurs really looked like.” The key problem – and I’m not being petty here – is that these dinosaurs look like they belong in a late 90s PC game. There’s a lot of talk about modern movies resembling overlong video games, but this is the only instance for me when, once the opening sequence ended, I really expected a menu page to come up inviting me to start playing. But no, there’ll be no Lara Croft dodging these dreary dinos. A shame, really. Proceedings would’ve been considerably enlivened if she’d been present, if only to run into walls occasionally and make that wonderful grunting noise.

Perhaps the sub-par visuals could have been overlooked if only there was any kind of interesting filmmaking going on, but there too Dinotasia falls flat. It’s perhaps a little surprising that the BBFC were happy to pass this with a PG, given there are a fair few bloody scrapes and heads bitten off, but I guess the classifiers felt these could overlooked given that even a small child wouldn’t mistake these things for real. Maybe there’s some passing amusement to be taken from Herzog’s narration, spewing melodramatic platitudes with the same kind of zombie-like indifference as Harrison Ford’s voiceover in Blade Runner, but that’s about it. Nature show lovers may dig it, but the rest of us – young and old alike – are almost certain to be bored out of our brains and wondering what on earth this film has done to get a DVD release, rather than just being buried in the listings of the Discovery channel where it really belongs.

Dinotasia is available on DVD, download and on demand on 27th August, from Revolver.