Dinosaurs Alive! Blu-ray Review

It should probably be called “Paleontologists at Work!”

When it came to dinosaurs, I was one of those kids—the kind who could recite a string of facts, who had amassed a small library of dino-related books, and who would carefully scrape the caked mud off of the fake bones in his dorky junior paleontologist kit. Once, when my parents took me to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum to see a new dinosaur exhibit, I actually complained— about supposed factual errors I noticed—to a TV news reporter who was interviewing kids about what they thought of the museum. Yeah, I was a nerd. If I was still ten years old, Dinosaurs Alive! would be right up my nebbish alley. As a piece of IMAX edu-tainment, it caters to kids (and adults too, I guess) who are interested in paleontology—not just angry prehistoric beasties duking it out dino-style. The name Dinosaurs Alive! is a bit of a misnomer—yes, dinosaurs have been brought to life here via the wonders of CGI, but the focus is more on the work of the researchers who piece together the lives of these fantastic creatures.

Like Sea Monsters—a similar IMAX film that landed on Blu-ray a few weeks ago—Dinosaurs Alive! juxtaposes footage of paleontologists doing their thing at dig sites with short vignettes, starring CGI dinosaurs, that explore the lives of the animals being studied. We follow preeminent paleontologists Mike Novacek and Mark Norell, along with their team of hopeful grad students, as they unearth both ancient behemoths, like the 120ft. long Seismosaurus, and more diminutive creatures like Effigia, a new species recently discovered by PhD candidate Sterling Nesbitt (I bet this dude has his thesis in the bag). From the so-called “Flaming Cliffs” of China’s Gobi desert to New Mexico’s renowned Ghost Ranch, we witness the more exciting elements of field work, namely, the discoveries and the bag ‘n tag plaster casting process. Periodically, we jump back in time to the 1920s to hear testimony from famed dino hunter Roy Chapman Andrews—purportedly the inspiration for Indiana Jones—who brought a Hollywood cinematographer along to document his digs. Actor Michael Douglas narrates the proceedings with a kind of laconic, matter-of-fact lack of enthusiasm, but I appreciate that he never gushes or sounds over-awed.

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