The Dinosaur Project
Despite having a title that sounds
like a mediocre current affairs show featuring Dave Hughes and a
Velociraptor, The Dinosaur Project is a low budget release with
rather lofty ambitions. Presented in the now stale “Found Footage”
format, does this foray into the rather narrow field of dinosaur films
have the chops to stand shoulder to shoulder with such luminaries of the
genre as Jurassic Park?
In a word? No. Despite stretching the
budget to afford some beautiful scenery and competent, if not overly
impressive, CGI, The Dinosaur Project is hamstrung by the clichés
and tropes of not only “Found Footage” films but also that of
“Adventure” films in general.
The film’s biggest Achilles heel is
its predictability; from the opening ten minutes you’ll be able to spot
all of the familiar character archetypes, particularly the character
that inevitably has a breakdown and turns on his fellow crew. Literally
from the first scene this character appears in you know that he’ll end
up snapping and you find yourself just waiting for the “twist” to happen
so you can get it out of the way.
Unfortunately much of the film is a
plodding mess, with some incredibly cheesy moments, such as one
character’s supremely pointless self sacrifice or another character who
decides to inexplicably go Rambo armed only with a boom mike. The cheese
factor extends to the dialogue and most of the performances, with only
Matthew Kane as the young Luke Marchant standing above the daytime soap
delivery of many of the performances.
The plot is Jurassic Park-Lite,
following members of the British Crypto-Zoological Society as they
venture into the Congo in search of the Mokele Mbembe, a cryptid that
bears striking similarities to a dinosaur long thought extinct.
Consisting of world renowned explorer Johnathan Marchant, his sponsor
Charlie, local guide Amara and her helicopter pilot husband and medic
Liz, the group helicopter into the jungle in an attempt to track the
creature down. Along the way they discover that Johnathan’s son Luke has
stowed away in an attempt to get closer to his emotionally (and
literally) absent father.
After a collision with a Pterodactyl,
the crew find themselves stranded in a jungle filled with hostile
carnivores that have broken through an apparent gateway to another
dimension, a taboo place known only to the African natives who have
tasked Amara to ensure that the expedition doesn't stumble across it.
The POV filming style is competently
handled but the picture is much too clean to afford the film the look of
truly found footage. Despite supposedly switching between multiple
cameras, there just isn’t difference in image quality to believably
present the film as being patched together as found footage; it all
looks like it was filmed with the one camera and had some budget effects
added in post production.
The characters are thinly drawn and their motivations are dubious at
best; Amara’s presence being particularly superfluous, with no attempt
to explain her agenda. Also, Johnathan is clearly cribbing his fashion
style from Alan Grant. But easily the worst part of the film is turning
the vicious, spitting
from Jurassic Park into the equivalent of a Dino-Lassie, complete
with Disney eyes.
The Dinosaur Project
is not entirely without merit, but I don’t think Universal will be
casting furtive glances over their shoulders when they finally get the
ball rolling on Jurassic Park 4.
The Dinosaur Project
has an incredibly detailed and vibrant image that highlights the beauty
of the jungle and its surrounds. Icon’s transfer can’t be faulted in any
respect there’s no evidence of artefacts or strobing and the colour
tones remain consistent throughout. On the other hand, The Dinosaur
Project is supposed to be a film composed of found footage, so the
glossy sheen of the picture serves to detract from plausibility
somewhat. This is more of a production issue rather than an issue with
the transfer, of course, which really is of impeccable quality.
Audio is handled by a
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, as per usual. Dialogue is
delivered clearly and sound levels are consistent throughout, with no
crossing over of channels. The roars of the dinosaurs and ambient sounds
of the jungle are particularly well handled, although some scenes lack
“weight”, so to speak.
There are no additional features on this release of The Dinosaur
Project, unless you count an audio test.
There’s really only one word to
describe The Dinosaur Project: Daft. Daft’s not a word I
generally use but it seems most fitting here. Despite some beautiful
visuals and an intriguing premise, The Dinosaur Project is an
amalgamation of a myriad of influences, borrowing liberally from Land
of the Lost, the aforementioned Jurassic Park and many, many
more. The end result is a generic trek through old ground that, even at
a scant 83 minutes, manages to wear out its welcome.
There’s no question that the audience
is starting to tire of the found footage concept, but recent entries
like Chronicle show that a decent concept and considered
execution can still equate to a great film. Although a straight-to-video
release on our shores, The Dinosaur Project did do exceptionally
well in the international market, showing that there’s clearly an
audience for this kind of film; unfortunately, I can’t count myself
amongst their numbers, finding it to be a disappointing realisation of a
potentially rich premise.