Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Film Review: The Dinosaur Project (2012)

The Dinosaur Project (Review)
United Kingdom/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...the first two acts are actually decent... the third act slips into a different genre..."

After several reports and eyewitness accounts of the so-called Mokele Mbembe, a mythical creature, a group of explorers and cameramen set out into the Congo to confirm its existence...

The Dinosaur Project follows this group, mainly expedition leader Jonathan Marchant (Richard Dillane) and his son Luke (Matthew Kane), as they record their experience -- this is a found-footage film. Anyway, Jonathan and the group set out into the Congo via helicopter with Luke somehow hiding in the storage since he wasn't invited on the trip. The helicopter crashes and the group must find a way to survive until they find a safe way out or until rescue arrives. Well, it turns out there are some dinosaurs in the area, some innocent and some lethal, which adds to their adventure. The third acts loses some steam and becomes a huge cliché, and the ending leaves unanswered questions.

The Dinosaur Project is an interesting premise with decent execution. First and foremost, the found-footage style adds little to the film. On one hand, it makes it distinct from films like Jurassic Park. On the other hand, it adopts many of the found-footage flaws we've grown to hate; the many cuts, the shaky cam, the malfunctioning cam, the blurry or lost footage, the "too dark to see" footage, and all the bad stuff. Also adopted from the genre: the stupid and annoying characters. Luke is supposed to a technology genius, but his actions are illogical, irrational, and downright stupid. There's another character who comes off as annoying, as well, and he's also responsible for sabotaging the ending. Piggybacking off of that, the final act loses its momentum and becomes dull. It also leads into a different genre; the typical serial-killer/slasher genre many modern horror films slip into.

However, the story itself and some of the execution was surprisingly decent. The Dinosaur Project often feels like an exhilarating adventure, there are moments where I had a nostalgic-like feeling, like the first time I saw Jurassic Park. There are some moments where it feels like a genuine adventure with suspense and tension, and a feeling of discovery. I'd say the first two acts are actually decent with its use of these elements. Like I said, the third act slips into a different genre, but the first two really kept me hooked despite the dreaded found-footage style.

By found-footage standards, the acting was good. Despite disliking many of the characters, Richard Dillane and Matthew Kane do well as the leads. Peter Brooke was good, too, but he's completely off during the final act. The computer effects were surprisingly great; from the cover, the film looks like it was produced by The Asylum, but it has better production values than that. The art style was also great, the film often looked... beautiful? I feel odd saying it, but I thought it often looked amazing. Director Sid Bennett's biggest flaws are using the found-footage style ineffectively, and failing to end the film is a more satisfying way; otherwise, the film develops a great sense of adventure for the bulk of its short runtime.

Overall, The Dinosaur Project is a good SciFi/Adventure film. It feels like a genuine adventure during most of its runtime; but, the found-footage style is unnecessary and detrimental, and the final act is mediocre at best. I love Jurassic Park, I though Dino Crisis was great, and The Dinosaur Project is simply good; if you're the same for the first two, maybe you'll find something good in The Dinosaur Project.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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