Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Living Dinosaurs? pt. 1

Well hello everyone! I’m glad you came to read today’s article. So let’s get started with – as usual - updates!

First, as usual, updates are first. “The King on a Cross” play that I wrote is coming along exceedingly great. As you might recall, the play itself is going to be held twice this month – one time on the 29th and the other on the 30th. Exact times are still to be determined. However, we could still use “behind-the-scenes” people, so if you are interested in helping out, please email me at We’d be glad to have you!

If you read last week’s article, you will recall that I was really close to finished the fourth episode of my stop-motion series called “Planet of the Dinosaurs,” called “Asian Marvels”. Well, as of this past weekend, I started on the fifth episode of the series called “The Life of a Tyrant Lizard King.” This pushes the series to about 33% finished. I expect to finish taking pictures for the fifth and sixth episodes of the series by the end of March and (Lord willing), the series will be ready for viewing sometime in April. I can’t wait! I am still working on another clip from the series to show you. I should have one to show you next week (sorry for the delay!)

Now, I normally don't write movie reviews because I don't go to the movie theater much and by the time they come out on DVD everybody already knows about them. But, there was one movie that hardly had any information on it (even the information they had on Wikipedia was rather skimpy!). So today's article is part of a two part topic. So here it goes, my first movie review:

A theatrical poster for The Dinosaur Project (PHOTO CREDITS)
The Dinosaur Project theatrical poster (PHOTO CREDITS)
On the 1st of this month, my latest Netflix movie came in the mail. It was entitled The Dinosaur Project. (I would have brought this up earlier, but I was requested to write on another topic as Easter approached) Now I heard about this movie in late 2012, so naturally I was pretty excited to get it. This film is about an expedition made by about eight people who take a journey to the heart of Africa’s jungles to prove the existence of a large beast that might live there – Mokele-mbembe, “. . . Africa’s Loch Ness Monster, but much more plausible,” as one of the film’s characters puts it, which might be a living dinosaur or dinosaur-like animal. The explorers going on this journey are: the leader, Jonathan Marchant, the medic, Liz Draper, their sponsor organizer, Charlie Rutherford, their local guide, Amara, who is skeptical on the existence of dinosaurs in the Congo. These explorers are accompanied by a two person camera crew, Jonathan’s son, 15-year old Luke, who had stowed away to be on the expedition, and the helicopter pilot. Once they arrive in Africa and start flying over the jungles, everything goes on without a hitch . . . until they run into a huge flock of what they call “birds” (but they aren’t birds, instead they are flying reptiles called pterosaurs). These “birds” swarm the chopper and cause it to tumble down into the jungle below. Now the group is trapped in the jungle. As the group struggles to survive, it turns out that the dinosaurs living in these jungles are weirder than ever, certain people in the group aren’t what they seem, and there’s more than dinosaurs to worry about out there! The interesting thing about this movie was that it was filmed from the perspective of “lost and found” footage of an ill-fated expedition. So many of the shots in the movie are shot from small cameras that are stuck on shirts or backpacks and others are from the camera that the camera crew has. Now here’s my take on this movie: I found the film to adventurous and thrilling. But if you decide to watch it, please note that despite the picture on many of the film’s theatrical posters, there is no T. rex in it. In fact, there aren’t very many of the dinosaurs the general public is familiar with. I have a list of the creatures in the film (in order of appearance):

  • Giant “Birds”: (actually a pterosaur called Pteranodon)

  • Unidentified Bat-Like Reptiles: these strange reptiles also go unidentified. Their bodies and wings resemble that of a bat or pterosaur, but their heads look more like a giant weasel. In the film, these creatures hunt in packs and despite being able to fly, they prefer running and don’t hunt over water...
  • Unidentified Dinosaurs (“Cryptosaurus”): while these animals are carnivorous, the babies are rather docile, even friendly, toward humans. The younger ones love to play in the water. The neck frill is used to scare away potential predators and if the babies like you, they might “spit” a special liquid on you so their parents won’t see you as food. At first I thought they were ornithopods, but ornithopods probably weren’t as home in the water as much as the dinosaurs in the film and they didn’t have neck frills. The ornithopods I had in mind (such as Leaellynasaurua and Hypsilophodon) weren’t as large as the adults in the movie. This species was probably made up by the movie-makers and so for the sake of names, I have dubbed it “Cryptosaurus”, meaning “Secretive Lizard”.

A few of the film's characters trying to attach a camera to "Crypto"  (PHOTO CREDITS)
  • “Mokele-Mbembe”: this large reptile is one of the few animals that actually gets identified in the movie. It has a long neck and is a plesiosaur, probably of the genus “Elasmosaurus”. While the one spotted in the movie can stick its neck high out of the water, real plesiosaurs couldn’t do this. Also, in reality, some scientists actually think that mokele-mbembe, if it exists, is a sauropod or long-necked dinosaur.

A pair of Elasmosaurus
  • Unidentified Water Reptile: while on a river, the group is attacked by an unidentified water reptile. The creature isn’t seen from a very good angle, so I can’t really say what it is. All I know is that it has a mouth full of teeth and a bad attitude! During the beginning of the film, it is said that plesiosaurs like mokele-mbembe were often found near pliosaurs, large plesiosaurs with short necks. So maybe this Unidentified Water Reptile is a giant pliosaur such as Liopleurodon.

As for the movie itself, there are great actors and the creatures are very realistic. I enjoyed the movie, but I only wish that it were a bit longer (it’s roughly 1 ½ hours long), had more dinosaur scenes with more identifiable dinosaur species and a more conclusive ending. Yes, the ending was a little abrupt. It is also unclear at times if some characters have died or simply disappeared and might still be alive. I found out after I got the movie that it was rated PG-13, but considering the rating, it was very mild for a PG-13 movie. As far as I could tell, there was no “sexual references”, only a few “choisy” words (the only ones I remember are maybe two or three barely audible, "Oh my G*d!" and maybe two da*ns) and not at all gory. Also, a BIG surprise for a dinosaur movie, there weren't many mentions of evolution and millions of years (maybe only a few times). The only blood I saw was just the scares that the characters had, and while they looked realistic, they weren’t gory either. If you consider watching this movie, I’d recommend parents should watch it first before letting their young ones watch it because some of the creatures might scare some kids. Overall though, while this is no “Jurassic Park” substitute, it was still a great enjoyable movie, and I’d recommend it to all dino-lovers!

Thank you for reading this article today. Be sure to stop by next Thursday for more facts about some of the amazing stuff that our world is packed with! Till next week, chow!

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