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The Dinosaur Project
UKScreen Rating:

The Dinosaur Project – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Marchant (Richard Dillane) is some kind of a cross between David Attenborough and Indiana Jones. His latest mission is to head deep into the Congolese jungle in search of Africa’s version of the Loch Ness monster.
With his local guides, camera crew and trusty sidekick Charlie (Peter Brooke), he sets off by helicopter in the hope of making a discovery which will see him go down in history.
As they’re approaching their destination, they discover that Marchant’s reprobate teenaged son Luke (Matt Kane) has stowed away in the hold.
It’s too late to turn back, but when they’re forced to ditch into the forest earlier than planned, they have no choice but to let Luke join the team.
The deeper they get into the forest, the more they feel like they’ve stepped back in time – millions of years in time – as they encounter beasts they hadn’t seen outside a museum since Jurassic Park.
The last thing they need as they struggle against the odds to stay alive and make it back to civilisation is for rivalries within the group to tear them apart – in the very way that the claws of the forest-dwelling creatures they’ve disturbed are trying to do.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

For what’s clearly a low budget British zoological science fiction thriller, this is remarkably ambitious and from a technical point of view tremendously efficient.
It’s not giving away too much to say that our protagonists find themselves being targeted by a variety of dinosaurs – the clue is in the title – and each looks every bit as real as those we’ve seen in recent dinosaur shows on TV.
The problems here are elsewhere; on the narrative side, both in terms of relationships or incidents which feel neither believable nor coherent; on the scripting side, there is dialogue that feels forced or unnatural; on the acting side, many of the performances would feel more at home on chidren’s television than in a big screen film that’s asking to be taken seriously.
Perhaps more frustratingly, this is the latest film to be presented to the audience as a “found footage” production, of the type used from Blair Witch, via Cloverfield to Paranormal Activity.
Firstly, this relies on the fact that a television crew is following Marchant on his quest – and on the fact that Luke is a bit of a gadget freak and just happens to stick mini cameras on everyone that record remotely on a hard-disc.
Secondly, if the conceit is that someone has found their footage and edited it together, the urgent nature of the editing of this film doesn’t work; most scenes end abruptly – as they would – with the picture suffering digital break-up or the camera being knocked to the floor, for example – surely an editor, working with found footage, wouldn’t edit these bits into the film.
The film is not tremendously original and when things start going wrong, we don’t feel particularly sorry for the characters – they’re looking for something related to the dinosaurs, yet they’re surprised and unprepared when they find dinosaurs; it’s not like Jurassic Park, where it all comes as a surprise.
But the dinosaurs themselves are convincing enough to make the film enjoyable, as long as you don’t take it as seriously as it takes itself.

Opens 10 August 2012

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