On paper, a documentary about dinosaurs seems a great use for 3D Blu-ray technology. Sharp teeth, dimensional heads and bodies, long tails wiggling toward viewers. The recipe’s there for success, especially when you’ve got Michael Douglas on board to narrate the whole thing for 39 minutes. The problem with potential is that only the ones dedicated to achieving it ever do. And Dinosaurs Alive! has commitment issues.
Things open just fine, much as Image Entertainment’s other 3D Blu-ray movies have, with a dimensional menu and a fossil that looks surprisingly realistic as dust blows over it to reveal more of the bones than originally seen. From there, it goes downhill fast. Most of the documentary focuses not on CG dinosaurs and Jurassic Park-like sequences but on real-life imagery such as fossilized bones, museum interiors and paleontologist expeditions. This wouldn’t be a problem had those real-life scenes not struggled so mightily with crosstalk “ghosting.” Shortly after this intro, we see a museum filled with people walking through a dinosaur exhibit. The background, foreground and center of the frame all show dozens of visitors, which has the potential to really give viewers a sense of being there. But the crosstalk in the foreground is so bad that it’s hard to focus on any one thing at all.
Fast-forward two minutes, and a similar thing happens when the camera moves from a CG scene of the Seismosaurus to a real-world museum sequence in which the camera pans from inside the fossilized Seismosaurus’ ribs to outside its body. There is so much crosstalk in this scene that I actually had to remove my active-shutter glasses and close my eyes for a moment not to get ill. I’ve not experienced something this extreme before, although the 3D TV manufacturers always caution viewers against potential vertigo, but this sequence was just unwatchable.
In fact, of the film’s 39 minutes, only a small handful of scenes warrant viewing in 3D. Maybe that’s why the film can be had for only $17 at Amazon as of this writing. By and large, Dinosaurs Alive! focuses more on exposition and scenery than it does intriguing re-creations of the past or 3D-friendly scenes. The film’s definitely educational — I actually found some parts really enjoyable from a historical standpoint — yet it doesn’t really make sense to hold out for the 3D version of Dinosaurs Alive! when most of the film doesn’t even take advantage of the 3D technology. And, when it does try to use 3D, the presentation often remains inexplicably flat or suffers from crosstalk. Honestly, you may as well just watch the 2D version that’s also included on the disc.
You’ve got to give the film credit for trying to give viewers a sense of depth; the filmmakers try to provide a sense of depth in its “most 3D” scenes by putting people, dinosaurs or other elements in the extreme foreground. The problem is, whenever there’s anything in the extreme foreground, the ghosting is just too distracting to let people even get a sense of that 3D depth. The scenes with paleontologists in the Gobi Desert are particularly encumbered by this, which is really too bad, because those sequences also hold the most promise for making the educational aspects of the film really come alive.
Ironically, it’s one of the bonus features, a 26-minute making-of feature, that ultimately proves to be the most consistently educational piece on the disc. This feature talks a lot about the challenges of filming in 3D IMAX in a remote location, and had I not already watched a similar piece on the Grand Canyon Adventures IMAX 3D Blu-ray, this might have been a more interesting aspect of Dinosaurs Alive! It’s fascinating to learn some of the nitty-gritty details about 3D IMAX, such as how many rolls of film go into a camera, and that it costs about $11 per second to create a 3D IMAX film. It’s also intriguing to see just how much information about the Gobi Desert is included in this feature, because that info would’ve done wonders to ratchet-up the educational aspects of the feature film itself. Another tragedy with this bonus feature is that it’s a standard 2D presentation yet shares many of the same outdoor/scenery shots that the 3D version has — and they don’t look much different. Talk about validating my comment earlier about not needing to bother watching the film in 3D.
I had great hopes for Dinosaurs Alive!, both because I’m really jonesing on the 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray technology and because I’ve got a four-year-old son who’d probably get a kick of out seeing dinos in 3D. But with more focus on paleontology and archaeological digs than on dinosaurs running around, this isn’t a movie suited for kids. And with crosstalk this distracting in all but a handful of scenes, it’s really not a 3D Blu-ray that I can recommend for adults, either.
If you’re still interested in checking it out, you can get the film pretty cheap from Amazon by clicking here: Dinosaurs Alive! 3D Blu-ray.
- Score: 5.8
- A few scenes perform well, but they’re few and far between, and the crosstalk in most other sequences is just too bad to warrant a watch.
— Jonas Allen