Directors: Neil Nightingale, Barry Cook
Cast: John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, Skyler Stone, Karl Urban
Plot: When the leader of a herd of Pachyrhinosaurus is killed by a deadly Gorgosaurus, two brothers fight for dominance over the herd.
I loved the Walking With Dinosaurs show, when I grew up. It was essentially approached as a wildlife documentary, although fictionalised, seeing as it turned out to be pretty tricky for the producers to find any modern day dinosaurs to film for the day. Therefore, the show was able to hit the perfect balance between story and education. The narrator taught us about our favourite dinosaurs, as well as some unheard of ones, but also added an action punch to it. The movie is meant to be an extension of this, but in truth, it is a hollow shell of the great show it is based on. Gone is the factual side of things, the dinosaurs are given voice actors and we are left with a fairly rote story that unfolds precisely as you expect it to. A pale imitation that as lost the charm of the source material to such an extent, if it wasn’t for sharing the name of the show you wouldn’t realise there was even a connection.
It could have worked, don’t get me wrong. While I disagree with the directors’ and producers’ changes to the original series, there is a market for it. Dinosaur and Land Before Time are wildly successful tales of dinosaurs and I wouldn’t consider any of them bad movies. However, there are so many stupid mistakes made along the way. For one, the writers’ idea of being educational is basing the story around dinosaurs no one has heard of. In theory, it could have worked. You can come along for a dinosaur movie and come away with a new favourite dinosaur. However, all Walking With Dinosaurs does is remove any desire to watch this movie. Having an established dinosaur is a little liking casting Tom Hanks or Cate Blanchette in your movie – it draws people in. It is pretty basic marketing. The original series knew this, because while it did make the lead dinosaurs of one episode the Leaellynasaura, a creature that has never been publically discussed in any form of pop culture, it also included lengthy dissections of Stegasaurus and Tyrannosaurus, because we get a thrill from seeing dinosaurs we know. Hell, Steven Spielberg took a gamble on introducing the unheard of Velicoraptors to a wider audience with Jurassic Park, but he also included the T. Rex to draw people in to his film. And now the raptors have over-taken the Tyrannosaurus for the most popular dino. Walking With Dinosaurs throws Pachyrhinosaurus and Gorgosaurus at us, expecting the mere fact they are dinosaurs to mean something to us. They are basically weak relatives to the Triceratops and T. Rex – a little like replacing Jason Statham for Ed Skrein in a Transporter movie: nobody cares. And the narrative is so stapled together that there isn’t even an interesting story to follow here. A herd leader is killed by a nasty dinosaur and there is a battle for dominance by two warring dinosaurs. Because there is no reason to even try and be subtle with this stupid plot, a female love interest is thrown in to personify the trophy waiting for the winner of this power struggle. There aren’t many fictional dinosaur movies out there, so why do they all seem to have identical plots?
But hey – the film is fairly pretty (it is meant to be watched in 3D so a lot of the resonance of a cinema watch is sadly lacking), so maybe it could work as something to stick the children in front of, while you busy yourself. However, it does so many frustrating poor things as well as having no imagination that it isn’t even bearable – it is actually just a quick way to wind someone up. The sound editing is appalling. Because dinosaurs don’t actually speak, the directors get stuck figuring out how they can vocally communicate in a way that carries the story. The series used a narrator to tell their stories, but Walking With Dinosaurs don’t trust their audience to have the patience for that. They have their dinosaurs communicate in the way you would expect them to – roars and grunts. However on top of that, they have the voice actors speak over the cacophony of noise. Almost as though there is a dinosaur translator on hand to help get us through the movie. It just doesn’t work. It almost looks like the entire movie is out of sync with lips moving and the wrong sounds coming out of it. At worst, it is hard to figure out which character is which. When the two brothers have a head-butting contest, you will struggle to remember which is the good guy or the bad guy. At best, it is just annoying, because film-making really should be better by this day and age. And just to make you really regret spending time and money on watching this load of crap, the lead character is an annoying bird that flies around narrating the story in a South American accent. Hey, animated dinosaur movies can be racist to Hispanics too! The comic relief is appalling, ruining any chance the audience has got into sinking into the story. My god-daughters are usually glued to the TV screen. This movie made them go outside and get some fresh air. At least, that makes one good thing this movie has contributed to my life.
Final Verdict: Before this movie, I thought it was impossible to make a bad dinosaur film. Walking With Dinosaurs proves me wrong, crushing my heart along the way.