For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Found Footage Movies, here’s a review of The Dinosaur Project (2012) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Tim of FilmFunkel for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Natasha of Life of This City Girl We will be reviewing our favorite Sci-Fi Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of January by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice Natasha!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
When sightings of a creature surface, who will tell the truth from bull?
Venturers who know about the cryptozoological.
They don’t expect to witness much, but what the seekers chance to find
Are dinosaurs alive and well and still with hunger on the mind.
Perhaps they should have brought a gun or mobile phones for everyone
Instead of just a bunch of cameras capturing them on the run….
MPAA rating: PG-13
Because the found-footage genre is mainly the realm of horror, I have had virtually no experience with this genre of shaky cameras and supposedly unchoreographed visuals. Like Rob, I sought out non-horror examples for this month’s Genre Grandeur and happened upon this little Jurassic Park-ish survival story. The Dinosaur Project definitely fits the genre, beginning with this message: “The following film has been compiled from more than 100 hours of high definition video footage, captured by the British Cryptozoological Society. None of the images have been altered or manipulated in any way.” Of course, no one really believes that, but approaching it from that mindset is supposed to increase the film’s realism.
The film begins with footage about the disappearance of a British expedition in search of Mokele Mbembe, which is essentially the Loch Ness monster of central Africa. Expedition leader Jonathan Marchant (Richard Dillane) leads the group because he has a cool adventurer’s hat that makes him look like Sam Neill from Jurassic Park. Also along are his resentful assistant Charlie, cute medic Liz, camera crew Dave and Pete, and African guide Amara. However, Jonathan takes cues from plenty of other “heroes with kids” by taking his teenage son Luke down to Africa with him and insisting he can’t come on the expedition. It’s no surprise that Luke (Matthew Kane) tags along and happens to have a talent with electronics, such as small cameras, the kind that somehow record continuously and are plentiful enough for everyone to wear even as they journey into a jungle of dangers.
It’s a rather hackneyed setup, but the actual use of the cameras is well-handled. Sure, it’s convenient that they happen to point in the right direction for the audience to get their bearings and recognize details that the characters don’t. Still, considering how many cameras the group brought along, I suppose it’s plausible that this much footage could have been gathered and spliced together. Sometimes the cameramen intentionally film and ask questions in documentary style; other times, Luke talks directly into the camera as a video diary or a farewell message to whoever should find it, which allows for some surprisingly decent acting on the part of Kane. There were times that my inexperience with found footage was revealed: at one point, I couldn’t believe that no one else had died since the number of people on screen hadn’t changed, but then I remembered that there was someone missing, namely the unseen person behind the camera. (It’s probably not a spoiler that people die, though not graphically.)
Of course, this is a dinosaur movie so how were the dinosaurs? Well, the dinosaurs are actually the best part. Instead of using the found footage style to keep images shaky and hide poor CGI, the dinos are actually rendered with convincing skill. They interact with plants and water seamlessly, and only occasionally is the CGI obvious. It’s hardly a nature documentary, but I liked how they slipped in a few real facts, such as the difference between pliosaurs and plesiosaurs and how one is more dangerous than the other. The dinosaurs are fascinating, but it does become frustrating when some characters are more stupidly curious or greedy than frightened. Have these people never seen Jurassic Park?
While I don’t have much to compare it to, The Dinosaur Project seemed to be a worthwhile foray into the found footage genre. While character motivations and actions were sometimes downright foolish and setbacks were unrealistically easy to solve, the “real footage” element was intriguing, and the first-person view added tension to certain scenes. It’s no Jurassic Park, and some may be annoyed by how one dino is practically cutified to help Luke (“Crypto” the super dinosaur!). It’s a good thought that not every cold-blooded reptile is necessarily unfriendly, but it decreases the attempted realism. The dinosaurs may look real, but I never believed the film was.
Best line: (Pete) “Did you see that?”
(Charlie) “What? What was it?”
(Pete) “In the trees.”
(Dave) “Oh, yeah, I see them.”
(Dave) “Look, they’re everywhere. Leaves, Pete. That’s what they are. Leaves.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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