Just watched the Walking with Dinosaurs movie. It is beautifully made, but oh boy was the talking dino’s every bit as bad as I had expected. To get a taste of it, watch the trailer above.
Ever since hearing the concept of Walking with Dinosaurs – the original series, that is – I absolutely loved it. I was one of those boys with a thorough fascination for dinosaurs. Think Tim in Jurassic Parc, except maybe a little less annoying. And no, I had not read scientific publications by famous paleontologists. But I did read every book about dino’s that could be found in the children’s section of the local library.
That was well behind me when the original Walking with Dinosaurs was announced, but being a man, you never really grow out of that sort of thing. WwD was to be like a documentary. No being chased by a T-Rex in a Jeep (no, not that way way, silly), but David Attenbouresque observations, aided by the latest and greatest CGI and animatronics.
The actual series did not fail to deliver. Of course, epsecially the close ups looked fake, even back then, and being spoiled with today’s CGI (I rewatched the whole thing recently on Netflix) also the computer generated sequences look a bit dated, but it’s still interesting to watch.
So, all in all, the 2013 movie had quite something to live up to. And, in terms of video quality, it does look gorgeous. 14 years later, it really does look realistic. No more feeling that, eventhough you’re supposed to be looking at some prehistoric creature, you’re really looking at some colored rubber on a metal frame. Especially striking was the glittery skin on the Gorgosaurs, as if the T-Rex from Jurassic Parc hired the most festive tux it could find (this sounds tacky, but it really isn’t).
That’s where the praise ends, though. Because gone is the original WwD formula of documentary-like story-telling. I probably would have loved this movie if it was made like the beautiful Earth, which shows that a nature documentary can be made feature length. Instead, though, it was turned into something more akin to Babe, the talking pig, although they did resist the temptation to have the creatures lip-sync (although that could not have made it mcuh worse). Its’s a rather corny feel-good story, with an underdog hero that rises to the occasion. To make matters worse, the whole thing is wrapped in a completely unnecesarry present-day thing with a rebelious teenager who, after having been told said corny story by a crow, suddenly does think his paleontologist uncle is pretty cool after all.
How wonderful it could have been, when that executive who did have some sense (they did exist, right? RIGHT?) was able to convince those responsible for this highly commercial choice and was allowed to hire the likes of James Earl Jones (see the link to the Earth trailer above) or Jeremy Irons (see this clip from the wonderful The Last Lions to get an idea) and turn this into the beautiful tribute to the orignal series it should have been.