Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 7th, 2009
“For more than 150 million years dinosaurs roamed every corner of the planet. Only a very few left evidence of their existence, their fossilized bones. And, those bones have never ceased to fascinate us.”
The box art to the new IMAX Blu-ray release of Dinosaurs Alive is more than a little bit misleading. The package elicits an image of thundering prehistoric beasts engaged in all sorts of primeval activities. And why not? It’s the stuff of our youth’s imaginations. Has there ever been a more fascinating true story than dinosaurs? But, if you’re expecting, or worse hoping, to get a high definition experience somewhat akin to the Walking With Dinosaurs specials, you’re apt to be more than a little bit disappointed. And that’s actually a bit of a shame, because there are wonders to behold here, just not that kind. Instead the documentary takes you to the places where these stories once unfolded so many millions of years ago. There you’ll encounter these beasts, though not in the flesh, but in the bone. Paleontologists invite you along to some of the most fruitful dinosaur graveyards. There the past is uncovered one brushstroke at a time. And while incredibly fascinating in itself, it’s not exactly the high drama I was expecting.
“Dinosaurs came in amazing shapes and sizes. Some were the largest animals ever to walk the earth. Paleontologists, the scientists who study prehistoric life, are discovering more dinosaurs now then ever before. And, this fossil evidence has allowed them to reconstruct not only their strange skeletons, but also their lives.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some CG dinosaur segments, and they are incredible. It would have been great to get the 3D version many IMAX theaters had when the film was making the circuit. There are some very neat animations here, but often the designers appeared to take a lot of creative license. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the film comes down rather heavy on the “dinosaurs were birds” theories.
But enough of what is not there. Let’s talk about what is there. If you’re patient and willing to take the time to watch this thing, I think you’ll be happy you did. Not only follow these paleontologists to the sites, but get a close-up look at the discoveries as they’re being made. From dinosaur embryos that solve age old mysteries to a location once deluged by a mudslide, preserving intact a snapshot of a day millions of years ago. The information offers insight not only into the appearance of these amazing beasts but what their habits and even social orders might have been. What the film lacks in action it more than makes up for in the educational department. Its 40 minute running time might even be short enough for those restless young ones to learn a thing or two about those magical mythical beasts of the past.
Finally, the whole thing is narrated, unfortunately, with a decided dryness by Michael Douglas.
Dinosaurs Alive is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1 codec. Because of its short running time you get a respectable bit rate even on this single layered disc. The picture is about as flawless as you can get. Colors are quite natural and bright at times. The texture on the dinosaurs actually reveals flaws in the CG work. There is no compression artifact to be found, as black levels are superb. It’s a class A image presentation all the way. Remember that this is IMAX, and the master print was 70mm. The difference is quite dramatic.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track isn’t near as majestic as the image. There aren’t any flaws; it’s just that most of the audio is the narration and so the presentation is controlled from front and center. Occasionally the CG reenactments offer a little extra sub. I imagine this is where the theater experience might have been far better.
All of the extras are in HD.
Making Of Documentary: (26:41) Go behind the scenes with the film crew for this amazing journey into the past. This is all about the locations and the IMAX camera equipment used.
Meet The Creatures: Take a look at the CG creatures created for the film. There’s info about the real beasts and full 360 degree scrutiny of the CG models.
Dinosaur Quiz: Answer questions about the creatures.
I wished I’d been better prepared for what this film had to offer. Unfortunately, marketing is about building expectations even if they might not be accurate. The old adage applies here, in somewhat modified form. You can’t judge a Blu-ray by its cover. But what you can do is catch “a mysterious glimpse of life and death in the Age of the Dinosaurs”.