Dir. Sid Bennett,UK, 83mins, 2012
Cast: Natasha Loring, Matt Kane, Richard Dillane, Peter Brooke
Review by Matthew Rodgers
Jurassic Park has a lot to answer for. Scratch that. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find influences as far back as Sunday lunchtime classic The Land that Time Forgot (1975), featuring the inimitable Doug McClure, that have led to the genesis of this found footage dino-romp.
Recent TV-flop, Terra Nova, has taught us one thing; it takes more than a few decent special effects to get peoples interest in B.C. beasties these days. Kids are no longer wowed in the same way that they were when that iconic Brachiosaur took a bite from the tree in 1993. And based on this, the Dinosaur Project is an unmitigated failure, using not only the stale first-person video technique, but backing it up with below-par effects and largely irritating lizard bait characters.
Chronicling an expedition to find a creature rumoured to exist amongst the indigenous people of the Congo, our band of intrepid/annoying scientists are the subject of the videos made by Luke (Matt Kane), a stowaway on the adventure led by his father (Richard Dillane), that is abruptly downed by a flock of unidentified, maybe prehistoric birds. The deeper they go into the jungle, the more Lost World the terrain and its inhabitants become, turning this Walking with Dinosaurs into a well-intentioned, low-rent survival horror.
The influences are obvious; Bennett has TV documentaries on his CV and the shaky-cam reality is evidence of this. It suits the low-budget limitations and also allows for a more PG skewed take on the action, with most of the dino-attacks happening off-screen. Intentionally or not there are also a lot of Spielberg riffs, unavoidable considering he was the director that bought dinosaurs back to life.
The main character dynamic is a father-son relationship which echoes that of Jurassic Park III (not the instalment to begin with as a template of success), both with something to prove to one another. It’s a little bit soap opera, but then you don’t go to watch a movie called The Dinosaur Project for its weighty subtexts and familial strife, it’s because of the inevitable monster mash.
And although 65million years (and probably dollars) away from Stan Winston’s genius creations and even those CGI dino’s used in a faux BBC documentary, they still carry a clunky charm which suits the ramshackle nature of the entire thing. They may have been better off going for the Gareth Evans (Monsters) approach of showing almost nothing, but for the intended audience of plastic model carrying, Natural History Museum visiting oiks, this will be toothless fun.