Much like your average child, growing up for me was full of invention and fantasy, of devising clever ways to defeat the boredom. And one of the things which always captivated my imagination was the fact that massive monsters once roamed the planet. I used to love collecting those plastic toys from Taiwan and always enjoyed reading illustrated books about the enormous lizard-like creatures. As an adult, dinosaurs continue to fascinate. Only now, the interest has grown into the science and study of the extinct giants, and I enjoy watching documentaries about natural history and the latest theories of how they might have lived.
As Michael Douglas, the narrator of 'Dinosaurs Alive!', puts it, these creatures never cease to amaze us. Indeed, it seems that every time one theory could be a factual possibility, a student of paleontology comes along to disapprove it with another theory based on the latest physical evidence. And this new short documentary from IMAX is mainly focused on this very fact. In a very stoic and unexcited tone, Douglas tries to inform viewers with lots of information about the extraordinary creatures. Unfortunately, since there is so much to cover, a movie with less that 40 minutes of runtime can only skim the surface.
After a quick introduction clearly designed for 3D effect, the film explains that the Gobi desert of Mongolia and the Badlands of New Mexico are hot spots for fossil hunters. The Indiana Jones-like explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, a leading figure for the study of natural history, made some of the most important discoveries in the Asian continent, like those that confirmed dinosaurs laid and nested eggs. Today, paleontologists continue to further our knowledge and our understanding of the animals, uncovering more evidence to suggest many of the fearsome giants definitely evolved into our modern-day birds.
Well, enough with the educational aspect of the piece, which isn't all that bad but feels more like a quick overview. Folks interested in this sort of museum fare (consider me one such patron) are mostly looking for some dinosaur action, and 'Dinosaurs Alive!' does provide a few glimpses of survival during the Mesozoic era. The CGI dinosaurs are, of course, not up to the standards of Hollywood blockbusters, but they're actually not that bad and fun to watch. The animation is very well integrated with live-action photography, but they are a few times when the creatures appear very much like cartoons. Although used for comical effect, the scene with a Seismosaurus relieving itself looked pretty cheap.
While it may pale in comparison to 'Walking with Dinosaurs', 'When Dinosaurs Roamed America' and 'Dinosaur Planet', 'Dinosaurs Alive!' still serves as an easy 40 minutes of entertainment. IMAX has produced better short films than this, but fans of their documentaries are sure to enjoy it nonetheless.
Though this short documentary on dinosaurs is considerably lacking, the picture quality of the Blu-ray is lovely and stunning. Taken from the original 65mm print intended for a 3D presentation, the 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer framed in 1.78:1 aspect ratio is, of course, spectacular and razor-sharp. The highly-detailed image displays such a wealth of visual delights and crystal-clear clarity. Most all the photography is of the desert, so every nuance and characteristic of the rocks, pebbles and fossils are well-defined and distinct. The color palette is vivid and richly saturated, looking exactly like the sort of material many would expect of hi-def video. Contrast and brightness levels are also spot-on and accurate, giving the entire picture a wonderful three-dimensional appearance.
Unfortunately, the video does comes with a couple of drawbacks, keeping the Blu-ray just shy of perfection. There are a few frames scattered throughout in which film grain suddenly spikes and a couple of scenes that noticeably soften. There are some instances of ringing in distance shots as well. Ignoring some of these issues, this high-definition presentation of 'Dinosaurs Alive!' will wow and astonish.
On the audio side of things, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack accompanying the doc is also enjoyable and satisfactory. Only, it's not highly active or blow-your-socks away type of stuff. The narration is key and beautifully delivered with room-penetrating clarity. The other two channels in the soundstage arrive with a few random sounds and a good mid-level to give the mix welcoming warmth. Ambient effects are occasionally employed to envelop and immerse the viewer into some dinosaur action, but it's more loud and flashy than discrete or convincing. Low bass adds a heavy punch to those same scenes. Overall, the track offers entertaining and adequate enjoyment of the feature.
Image Entertainment brings 'Dinosaurs Alive!' to Blu-ray with a small yet entertaining collection of bonus material.
'Dinosaurs Alive!' with Michael Douglas as the impassive narrator, tries to cover a wealth of information in less than an hour, and it's not a rousing success. It does, however, make for an easy watch on a Sunday afternoon. This Blu-ray edition of the 3D documentary boasts excellent picture quality and a good audio presentation. The package, unfortunately, is lacking in the supplemental department. Still, fans of IMAX documentaries might want to give this a spin.