Studio: Image Entertainment.
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 40 Minutes
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.78:1
Audio: English, Spanish, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The Film: 3.5 out of 5
IMAX films designed more to educate than wow aren’t quite as appealing as the more visceral, intriguing narratives to be found in the incredible films produced by Filmmaking Company MacGillivray-Freeman (responsible for incredible short documentary films such as To Fly!, The Living Sea, Dolphins and Everest.) But they do hold their own sense of wonder.
Dinosaurs Alive! follows enthusiastic paleontologists to some mesmerizing locations, including the dunes of the Gobi Desert, and the fossil rich New Mexican hills, where these incredibly talented individuals search and uncover the fossilized remains of creatures that walked, and in some cases dominated, the land millions and millions of years before humanity took hold on the planet. The mere idea of Dinosaurs is a magnificent one, filled with incredible possibilities, history, revelation, and wonder. The story of the paleontologists is partnered with the story of the creatures they uncover; how these dinosaurs may have lived, bred, and behaved. The story of several particular dinosaurs are told, imagined through the technical marvel of computer generated imagery (CGI), showing us how they may have met their end to have been so quickly killed and preserved all those millions of years ago to be kept enough for the paleontologists to discover them in our time.
Michael Douglass provides the narrations for the story and his steady delivery and his straightforwardness with a hint of excitement works well with the material. The characters of the story-the human ones-aren’t completely comfortable being filmed, but that is to be expected (and is appreciated, honestly), but help take us through the steps of discovery, and hypothesis, nicely.
The main selling point of this feature, filmed specifically for exhibition in IMAX theaters, is the C.G.I recreations of the dinosaurs themselves – and that is the source for the greatest disappointment. Perhaps in 3-D, as it was presented when in IMAX theaters, it would have been more impressive, but in 2D, its weaknesses can be seen. While the clarity and quality of the recreations are a fine accomplishment, something is amiss in how these creatures are moved about within the frame, and within the confines of the story. The sight of the scale model dinosaur, replete with full skeletal structure, walking against a black background allowing us to see how the bones and joints would naturally have moved (thereby presenting evidence of how they would have stood, walked, run, and hunted) is stunning visually, and stimulating intellectually. But when these remarkable creatures are interacting against natural backgrounds, in the sandy dunes of what became the Gobi Desert, or the once tropical location of what is now the dust of New Mexico, the final product is uneven. Despite being beautifully rendered, the movement is not smooth, and as such, pulls us out of the moment.
Educationally, Dinosaurs Alive! succeeds in piquing curiosity, and even affirming even more the remarkable notion that dinosaurs may exist today in some ways as modern day birds (the film reports on the connection between the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous beasts – flightless – and the many avian marvels of today). This film will not wow or impress, but will satiate a child with an interest in dinosaurs – though the lack of excitement in the CGI scenes may wane the interest a little for repeat viewings.
The Video: 4.5 out of 5
Originally filmed in 1.44 :1 aspect ratio, Dinosaurs Alive! is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition widescreen 1.78:1 image. The results of IMAX’s improved image quality over that of other forms of film provide this release with a super sharp image, with bold and bright colors that leap off the screen at times. The rich yellow and gold of the deserts and rocks are vivid and lush. The contrast found is just excellent. A speck of dust and debris here and there are surprisingly welcome, reminding that IMAX is a film stock, and that the image has not been ‘messed with’ to remove that film look.
The Sound: 4 out of 5
I love the audio tracks that accompany films originally intended for IMAX theaters. This film is provided with English, French and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound tracks, and it really delivers. Michael Douglas’ narration may be at a lower level than it needs to be on occasion, but the clarity of the sounds, from flapping wings, to prehistoric growls, is distributed perfectly through the speakers with excellent fidelity.
The Extras: 3.5 out of 5
Making Of (HD) - (26:41) – This detailed documentary of the making of Dinosaurs Alive! is presented in High Definition and is well worth watching. The effort of lugging the heaviest camera on the earth into some remote locations and trekking to the destinations needed to tell the story are captured in interviews with the crew. We also follow production through the completion of filming, behind the scenes in completing the final product.
Meet the Creatures (HD) - Select one of 12 dinosaurs to read more about and even watch a clip of the creature from the film.
Dinosaur Quiz – This quiz using your remote tests your knowledge about dinosaurs. There are 10 questions (9 of which I got right – so good luck beating me J)
Is Dinosaurs Alive! among the best of IMAX films available in Blu-Ray today? - No. But is it worth having in your collection if you are a fan of such films, or love stuff about dinosaurs? – Probably. While this film didn’t necessarily capture my imagination, or appeal to the sense of wow and wonder that I have come to expect with such films (a recent visit to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City to watch the spectacular journey through the stars narrated by Whoopi Goldberg reminds me of why these films are so incredible), I was pleased with the story, the characters, and the nature of what I learned. Educational? – absolutely. Fun? – not so much.
Overall 3.5 out of 5