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Speckles the Tarbosaurus

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Speckles the Tarbosaurus
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South Korea's Lion King with Dinosaurs?
Genre: Family
Adventure
Drama
Directed By: Han Sang-Ho
Produced By: Kim Won-Bum
Song Lack-Hyun
Kim Hyun-Cheol
Choi Oh-Shin
Written By: Lee Young-Kyu
Han Sang-Ho
Starring: Lee Hyung Suk
Goo Ja-Hyeong
Sin Yong-woo
Cinematography: Kim Byung-Il
Distributed By: CJ Entertainment
Release Date: January 26, 2012 (South Korea)
Runtime: 89 minutes
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Budget: ₩7 billion
Prequel: Tarbosaurus: The Mightiest Ever (chronologically)
Sequel: Dino King: Journey to Fire Mountain (chronologically)


Speckles: The Tarbosaurus (점박이: 한반도의 공룡 3D in Korean, released in the United States as The Dino King) is a 2012 3D South Korean computer-generated epic adventure drama film directed by Han Sang-Ho about a Tarbosaurus named speckles, who lived in the Korean peninsula during the Cretaceous Period. The film was released on January 26, 2012 in South Korea and June 18, 2013 on DVD in the United States.

Plot

A lonely Tarbosaurus named Speckles grows up into a world surrounded by dangers and must fight the One-eye'd monster that once orphaned him.

Bad Qualities

  1. While not offensively a rip-off, the film has noticeable similarities with The Lion King.
    • The main character loses his parent to a villain who takes over the land and he grows up to take his rightful place as king of the land.
    • There is also a scene where Speckles family is killed in a stampede caused by One Eye. Sound familiar?
    • Speaking of the stampede, Speckles' Mother gets thrown off the cliff similar to how Mufasa dies.
    • A number of elements are also borrowed from other Dinosaur movies, such as The Land Before Time and Dinosaur.
    • On top of that, the opening hunt scene took some elements from Dinosaur Planet, specifically the episode Little Das' Hunt.
      • It's also worth noting that One Eye looks every similar to the Tyrannosaurus from that same episode.
  2. A very problematic English dub that makes this already mediocre film even worse:
    • The voice for baby Speckles in the first act of the movie is frustrating the listen to, and much like another Dinosaur movie, he never stops talking.
    • Even when he's grown up, and voiced by C.D. Barnes (Eric from The Little Mermaid), the movie cannot decide if he's narrating the story or talking in the story itself. It gets very confusing, especially in the action scenes.
    • Also like Walking with Dinosaurs 3D, the lips don't move, although this could be attributed to the film's original Korean dub.
    • Speaking of the Korean dub, most of the other foreign language dubs (Hindi for example), many of the main characters speak and even minor ones such as a Torosaurus. Yet, in the English dub, only Speckles talks.
  3. Inconsistent special effects; while the animation mostly looks very good by South Korean standards, there are times when it looks very obvious that the dinosaurs are rendered by computers.
  4. One Eye is portrayed pretty unrealistically for a Tyrannosaurus, as he is an evil, sadistic monster who kills solely for pleasure. In reality, Tyrannosaurus were simple-minded predators and they certainly didn't kill solely for pleasure.
  5. The film can be very inappropriate for kids. The most notable example of this is during the mating season, where One Eye actually tries to rape Blue Eyes onscreen. Nevermind the fact that they're different species, this is quite a stretch for a kids' film. Even if South Korean censors or cinema standards are most likely different from western equivalents, this is still inexcusable.
  6. The characters are mostly bland and forgettable:
    • Speckles is basically Simba as a Dinosaur.
    • Blue Eyes is the generic love interest.
    • Speckles' mother is the parent who dies in the first half.
    • Speckles' children are just there for a happy ending.
  7. The film's paleontological accuracy is remarkably outdated and even mangled even by today's standards:
    • Tarbosaurus was native to Asia, but fossils were only found in Mongolia and Western China, not South Korea.
    • Tyrannosaurus fossils were only uncovered in North America, not Asia. The better substitute would've been Zhuchengtyrannus which was actually found in the Chinese province of Shandong, not too far away from Korea.
    • A Tylosaurus wasn't as big as a Tyrannosaurus.
    • Similarly, other dinosaurs like Torosaurus and Ankylosaurus were also not found in Asia.
    • The film can't even decide when it's set. Apparently, it takes place 80 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period, but Speckles says that the Cretaceous Period was coming to an end when a volcano erupted in Eastern Asia. Actually, the Cretaceous Period ended 15 million years later when a meteorite impacted the planet. To makes this more confusing, the dinosaurs apparently survived beyond this "end of the Cretaceous Period", making even lese sense.
  8. Before the therapod Dinosaurs run, there are various shots of their toes curling back, which is just weird let alone too cartoony.
  9. Plot Hole: Why didn't the Velociraptors go after the Pukyongosaurus carcass only for the same carcass to disappear in the same sequence.

Good Qualities

  1. The animation, while inconsistent, is impressive by the standards of South Korean cinema. The designs also look cool, with obvious Anime influence.
  2. While cliched, the story does have stuff going.
    • The death of Speckles' mother, while too similar to Mufasa's death, is admittedly sad.
    • Blue Eyes' death is a real tearjerker.
    • The climax fight at the Korean coast is tense and exciting.
  3. Beautiful and epic music score by Lee Mi-Sung. It works especially well in the emotional scenes such as "Life and Loss & A Difficult Choice.
  4. One Eye, despite his unrealistic portrayal, is a threatening villain nonetheless.
  5. While mostly a mess, some of the paleontological accuracy is better than other dinosaur movies.
    • This film also introduces many Western audiences to Asian dinosaurs, such as Pukyongosaurus (which actually was found in Korea).
  6. It can be entertaining for kids, even if it's not the most most appropriate.
  7. While it is a weak movie, it's better than another South Korean dinosaur movie Dino Time.
  8. The Hindi dub is better than the English dub, as the narration is more consistent and other characters (Speckles' mom, Speckles' sisters, Quicks, One Eye, Blue Eyes, Speckles Jr, etc.) actually talk.

Reception

Despite mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and audiences, the film attracted over 1 million admissions in 2012, becoming the second most successful local animation of all time. It was released to 37 territories and generated additional revenue through IPTV and DVD sales.

Trivia

  1. The documentary Tarbosaurus: The Mightiest Ever, also directed by Han Sang-Ho, serves as a spiritual prequel.
  2. A sequel, Dino King 3D: Journey to Fire Mountain, was released on October 14, 2017 in South Korea and August 24, 2019 in Australia.