Edith's Review of Dinotasia
Barely Even a Film
There is an episode of the TV show [i]Leverage[/i] wherein they are working in an office that is simultaneously the subject of a documentary. Peter Stomare plays "Gunter Hanzig," whom I spotted to be a fake Werner Herzog right away. I mean, it was incredibly obvious. However, it took Graham until the beginning narration of this to see it. Part of that, I admit, is that I've seen a heck of a lot more of Werner's documentaries than he has. He only sometimes pays attention when I'm watching them, and I've been known to watch them when he isn't home. I believe it's how I saw [i]Grizzly Man[/i], and I know it's how I saw [i]Encounters at the End of the World[/i]. Heck, I saw [i]Cave of Forgotten Dreams[/i] in the theatre without him. However, the fake-Werner's dialogue was more like the narration in this than it's like the narration of any real Werner Herzog documentary that I've seen, and I've seen a few.
Through the miracle of bad animation, filmmakers David Krentz and Erik Nelson take us back to the time of the dinosaurs. We see various species, each segment of which is accompanied by a brief declaration by Werner about how all life is fleeting or some such. Unlike in really Herzog documentaries, he never actually tells us anything helpful, such as the names of any of these species. There are brief title cards telling us where and when the segments take place, but I think we are either expected to already know the various species or else not care. Anyway, we watch them live and die--mostly die. As is generally the case with this sort of thing, we see few enough of the prey animals that we might suspect that there are a lot more predators than the ecosystem will support. These are never encounters between vast herds of prey facing a lone predator or a small pack; these are lone predators or small packs going up against at most a half-dozen prey, probably picking out the young, healthy ones at that.
As it happens, I was That Kid when I was little. I still have a couple of the books about dinosaurs that Mom gave me for Christmas when I was perhaps nine. (One is actually more a history of life on Earth, and though it's twenty-five years out of date, it's not bad.) This means that, while I may not know as much about dinosaurs as all the variants on That Kid who are nine right now, I'm still able to catch an error or two, and I'm bothered by the lack of explanation about practically everything. I would imagine the kids to whom this is most likely to appeal will feel the same way, and they won't even have the advantage of knowing who Werner Herzog is. They will, for example, spot the obvious fact that they basically just filmed current locations and stuck animated dinosaurs over them, a thing that bothered me about the Disney [i]Dinosaur[/i] as well. I mean, there's grass all the way through, and not nearly enough ferns, either.
On the other hand, nine-year-olds who are just interested in watching dinosaurs eat each other should do just fine. There's an awful lot of gore to this for no good purpose. It quickly becomes apparent that this should not be seen as an educational program. In part because of the paucity of the narration, we don't learn very much about how these dinosaurs lived. I mean, there are implications, and we do see dinosaurs nesting, but there is a lot more in the way of battling. Even the scene that's in theory about the asteroid that took the dinosaurs out (and at least it does show us that they evolved into birds!) includes dinosaurs going after one another. At great length and for no good reason. The moments shortly thereafter that are doubtless supposed to be heartwarming are merely laughable, and I found the rest of it boring enough that I probably missed bits that weren't actually various fluids spraying across the screen. I just paid enough attention to listen to Werner, really.
And, yeah, the animation is pretty lousy. There's a bit early on where there's a giant red blotch on the Moon that I assume is supposed to be foreshadowing for the giant red blotch that will take over the Earth and destroy most of the dinosaurs, but I'm pretty sure that's a serious anachronism. I'm pretty sure all those giant craters were formed long before there was multicellular life on Earth. So, yeah. It's not terribly good, and it's not terribly accurate, and it's not terribly informative. This is a bad combination all the way around, which makes it a crying shame that they went through the expense of getting Werner. I assume it wasn't much effort, given that Erik Nelson is a regular producer for Werner's films. However, they might as well have gotten him to write some narration while he was at it. Even if he just quoted from the [i]Popul Vuh[/i] some more, it couldn't have been worse than what they wrote for him. Or, come to think about it, much more out of left field.