Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Movie Review - Dinosaur (2000)

Dinosaur is a Disney animation featuring the voice talents of DB Sweeney (The Cutting Edge), Hayden Panettiere and Julia Marguilies (ER), among others.  All the voice cast do their job extremely well, but back in 2000 it was the realistic 3D visuals that blew audiences away.

The movie starts with a long introductory sequence of a dinosaur egg being stolen, then being lost, and through many misadventures finding itself in a distant land.  In this distant land, there are no dinosaurs - so when the egg hatches, the young dino - Aladar - is a complete outcast (and in fact in danger of being eradicated completely at first).  In true Disney style, he grows up among lemurs and other creatures, and finds a family for himself among them.  When a deadly comet impact threatens the life of the herd, Aladar finds himself out of place again, but in a different way - however, then they come across a group of dinosaurs, and Aladar realises that he is not the only one.  The dinosaur troop have their own ways though, their own tough and ruthless leader, and their own mission to get to safety - a sort of promised land where they can all be safe.

As you might guess, being a Disney movie it follows a very predictable pattern - young creature loses family, finds new family, tries to escape danger, meets new friends and foes, has a rivalry with one of them and falls in love with another of the new friends, big showdown at the end, true love prevails, everyone's happy except the evil dude who's sent packing.  (The evil dude in this instance is "Kron", voiced by Samuel E. Wright.)  There are few surprises here, but although the storyline feels very familiar and as a result rather predictable, it's well developed and there are some good characters.  The action sequences, despite the fact that you likely know what's going to happen, have a real energy to them.  James Newton Howard's music score (for which he won a Saturn award) is suitably stirring has a suitably epic feel to it. 

Without taking anything away from the music or voice acting however, Dinosaur is all about the visuals.  The prehistoric world has been created with such loving attention to detail that it's impossible not to be rather mesmerised by it; the creatures themselves look superb and are very well animated.  Back when it was released it looked simply amazing; even now, a decade on with computer animation having advanced so much, it's a splendid visual feast.

Aesthetically it's great and the story, particularly a scene near the end, seems to have a little more bite than you'd expect from a Disney movie.  There are a few scenes that might be a bit scary for little children, but on the whole it's a nice family movie.  Adults will find it too predictable but there's enough humour in there to compensate for that, at least most of the time.  For some reason this seems to be one of the least well-remembered / well-loved Disney animations, but I enjoyed it - though I certainly wouldn't say it's one of the very best. 

Co-Directors Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag hardly did any other directing work between them and mainly worked in the art department of various films, which perhaps explains why Dinosaur looks so amazing but has such a generic storyline.  It seems to provoke strong reactions in many people, and while quite a few folks on Epinions agree with my assessment, as many thought it was an awful movie.  Ce la vie!

The movie provides this inspiring thought for the day:

"Some things start out big, and some things start out small, very small. But sometimes the smallest thing can make the biggest changes of all."

Random Trivia
  • At an official $130 million (unofficially $200 million) it is the most expensive movie released in 2000.
  • Originally, Aladar's name was Noah.
  • The backgrounds in the movie are actually superimposed photos of exotic tropical locations such as Tahiti and Hawaii.
  • The original screenplay featured no dialogue at all, but Michael Eisner of Disney insisted they include it.  [It might have been quite interesting to see a movie with no dialogue, but Disney were probably right in concluding that they would lose their target audience by doing so.]

See also:

 CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

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