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Walking with Dinosaurs (2013)

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Walking with Dinosaurs (2013)
2013 - Walking with Dinosaurs 3D.jpg
What has Fox done to Walking with Dinosaurs?
Genre: Comedy
Family
Adventure
Directed By: Neil Nightingale
Barry Cook
Produced By: Mike Devlin
Luke Hetherington
Amanda Hill
Deepak Nayar
Written By: John Collee
Starring: Justin Long
John Leguizamo
Tiya Sircar
Skyler Stone
Cinematography: Steven Poster
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 14th, 2013 (Dubai Int'l Film Festival)
December 20th, 2013 (United States)
Runtime: 87 minutes
Country: United States
United Kingdom
Australia
India
Language: English
Budget: $80 million
Box Office: $126.5 million


Walking with Dinosaurs is a 2013 adventure film directed by Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale. The film stars John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, and Skyler Stone. Part of BBC Earth's Walking with Dinosaurs brand, the film was an international co-production with Reliance Entertainment, BBC Earth Films, IM Global and Evergreen Studios, with photorealistic dinosaurs animated by the Sydney-based visual effects studio Animal Logic, and released on December 20th, 2013 in the United States by 20th Century Fox.

Plot

A Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (Justin Long) must survive while growing up with his best friend, an Alexornis named Alex (John Leguizamo) his older brother Scowler, (Skyler Stone) and his love interest Juniper (Tiya Sircar).

Bad Qualities

NOTE: This will mostly focus on the edited version that resulted from executive meddling by 20th Century Fox.

  1. The Elephant (or Dinosaur) in the room, the voices:
    • Originally, the film was meant to have no dialogue and portray the dinosaurs as real dinosaurs, which would have been a very good idea, but Fox decided to add voice-overs to be a Land Before Time and Dinosaur-esque film. The voice-overs are very annoying as they never shut up.
      • To be fair, some sources suggest the film was supposed to have standard narration, though it still would've been better than this one.
    • Speaking of the voice overs, the dinosaurs' mouths don't move when time they talk. They could have just delayed the film so that they can animate the mouths.
      • However, the voice-overs were meant to be a compromise to keep the dinosaurs realistic without making them talk. So this could be understandable.
    • While Justin Long and John Leguizamo did decent jobs voicing their characters, the other two voice-actors, Tiya Sircar and Skyler Stone, either don't put any effort in at all or are unbearable for the most part.
      • During the thin ice scene, when another Pachyrhinosaurus falls through the ice, Juniper's "Oh no!" lacks any emotion or shock.
    • The need for the dinosaurs to talk also resulted in very poor editing. Some shots are either reused, edited into another background or even reversed. This is especially noticeable in that montage after Patchi first meets Juniper, which obviously wasn't supposed to be in the movie.
    • All of the editing makes it very unfaithful to the original BBC miniseries.
  2. Annoying fecal matter jokes and endless references that feel out of place on the levels of Ice Age: Collision Course.
    • Speaking of which, the humor and dialogue also kills any peril and emotion we'd feel for the characters due to the voice-overs not taking any of the situations seriously.
      • The majority of the dialogue isn't even related to the story and is just self-aware jokes about dinosaurs, such as being aware of the incoming extinction of the dinosaurs and an ironic joke about mammals going extinct, making it feel more like a bad parody of the original BBC miniseries.
      • Patchi and Alex having a conversation about carnivores distracts the audience from the former being taken from the nest by a Troodon.
      • Patchi and Scowler just won't shut up during the forest fire scene. It gets annoying to the point where you question whether you should care if they make it out alive or not.
      • Alex and Patchi keep talking over a scene of a Quetzalcoatlus being caught and killed by Gorgon. The joke about Alex jinxing the Pterosaur doesn't help.
      • During the Gorgosaurus attack scene, the writers decided it was a good idea to have Patchi and Juniper make a joke about smelling fear, which leads to a terrible peeing in fear joke about "stepping in some fear".
      • That joke is followed by a brief moment when the film literally rewinds to see if Patchi dived into the river after Juniper. It's more annoying than funny and just wastes time.
      • During the Chirostenotes attack scene, Patchi gives them the "skinny-necked pecky things" nickname, which gets really annoying after a while.
        • And they brought that joke back later in the film. It wasn't funny the first time!
      • Patchi's "take that, random tree" line, which he says during scene where he is meant to be heroic, but the line ruins it.
      • During the scene where Gorgon attacks Scowler, Alex lands nearby to feed. But the film treats that as Alex attempting to save the day only to get distracted, which is just stupid.
  3. Pointless scenes of children reading title card introductions of the dinosaur species, even if they were supposed to be in the movie from the beginning.
  4. Patchi and Juniper's love relationship, even before the movie was edited, is forced and cliched.
  5. The voiceovers ruined the characters:
    • Alex is an overbearing narrator who lacks every quality that made Kenneth Branagh's narration in the original miniseries so memorable.
    • Patchi, though the most tolerable of the four main characters, is the film's typical zero-to-hero protagonist.
    • Scowler, Patchi's brother, is a completely unlikeable jerk. Throughout most of the movie, he does nothing but push him around and pick on him like the runt of the litter. The point of no-return for his character was when he literally disowned Patchi, his own brother.
      • He even seems to be aware of this near the end of the film, especially summed up when he says to Patchi "You don't owe me anything, bro".
    • Juniper serves no purpose for about two thirds of the movie. As said earlier, Patchi's love relationship with her just feels forced and cliched.
  6. Several scenes feel like they were taken from other Dinosaur movies:
    • The death of Bulldust uses the "parent is killed by a predator" trope that was spawned by The Land Before Time, which already borrowed it from Bambi.
    • The ending where Patchi and Juniper have kids is taken right from the ending of Dinosaur.
      • On the topic of Dinosaur and The Land Before Time, both movies share a similar history of being edited before release, especially with the aspect of the dialogue.
    • The scene where Patch and Scowler fight is also similar to Dinosaur, only without the heroine character intervening.
  7. Most of the Dinosaurs have title cards for introductions explaining the scientific name, meaning of the name, and diet. However, even though it's marketed a lot, the Parksosaurus barley get any acknowledgement whatsoever.
  8. Some scenes might be too frightening for a kids movie:
    • Even with the voices taking out the tension, the forest fire scene is way too terrifying, especially when you put the Gorgosaurus into the equation. This is most likely the reason the film was rated PG in Australia for "Some Scary Scenes".
    • The moment where Patchi, defeated by Scowler and left for dead, willingly accepts being eaten alive by scavengers is also quite intense for something edited to appeal to children. He thankfully gets back up after some pep talk from Alex, though.
  9. Though the paleontological aspects are more accurate than even the original BBC miniseries, there are still some errors that are hard to not notice if you care about realism:
    • The Gorgosaurus is plagued by two problems: firstly, it was found in Canada, not Alaska. Second, it should have feathers, though that error was a result of the conclusion being made while the rendering was in it's final stages.
      • The former was corrected in the Prehistoric Planet 3D version, with the animal being referred as Nanuqsaurus instead.
    • While beautiful to look at, the Alaskan backgrounds are out-of-place considering it's common knowledge that grass wasn't widespread during the Mesozoic.
    • Alexornis was found in Mexico, not Alaska.
    • The troodon is a dubious genus of dinosaur and is no longer considered a valid dinosaur genus, due to it's only evidence of existing coming from a single tooth that more likely belonged to stenonychosaurus or latenivenatrix -- although this movie was made before the debate occurred, so this is slightly excusable.
      • The "troodon" is also covered in the wrong type of feathers. Like all other troodontids (who are closely related to dromaeosaurids, who are also feathered), it would've been covered in contour feathers and flying feathers (near its arms, specifically). In this film, it is incorrectly shown with a hair-like downy plumage.
    • The theropod dinosaurs are often (but not always) seen with pronated/backwards facing wrists, which is physically impossible. Theropods would've instead had supinated/inwards facing wrists like they were clapping, as theropod fossils (with the arms found) had supinated wrists.
  10. After the forest fire scene, Bulldust is never mentioned again until the climax, making his death seem pointless. What makes this problem worse is when Patchi says "Worst migration ever" (terrible Simpsons reference by the way) only after Scowler ruins his chances of talking to Juniper, which happened after their father's death.
  11. Despite the film causing a resurgence in the Walking with Dinosaurs franchise, some can blame it for killing it off a year later, though this could be a result of Jurassic World's popularity.

Good Qualities

  1. Beautiful and breath-taking animation on the dinosaurs, almost looking life-like by Animal Logic. Some can even say this looks more realistic than Industrial Light & Magic's work on Jurassic World, which came out two years later.
    • The visual effects earned Animal Logic a nomination at the AACTA awards for Best Visual Effects and Animation, only for the studio to win the award for The Lego Movie.
  2. Thankfully, the original and much better version of the film was released on the Blu-Ray 3D as the "Cretaceous Cut". It features no voice-overs and inappropriate humor, though the terrible editing is still present.
    • The version subtitled 'Prehistoric Planet 3D', a 40-minute IMAX nature-documentary edit narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, is much closer to the miniseries.
  3. Some feel-good moments.
  4. Though mostly pointless, there are some cute moments with Patchi and Juniper, especially in the dialogue-free version.
  5. Though annoying, the characters aren't all terrible:
    • Patchi, though annoying, is a decent protagonist with some likeable moments.
    • Depending on your point of view, some of Alex's lines can be worth a chuckle. But the key word is some.
    • The characters that don't talk are the best characters in the film:
      • Bulldust, Patchi's father, is arguably the best character.
      • Gorgon is an intimidating predatory villain on the lines of Sharptooth from The Land Before Time.
      • Major and Patchi's mom are also likeable.
  6. The voice-acting is sometimes kinda good. John Leguizamo's performance is probably the highlight of the voice-acting overall.
    • According to interviews, the voice actors had a fun time voicing the characters for several reasons.
  7. Beautiful score by Paul Leonard-Morgan, even if it was written for the version with dialogue.
    • On a side note, the film can be credited for making Live Like A Warrior by Matisyahu popular for it's usage in the end credits.
  8. Decent plot with several memorable scenes:
    • The opening sequence, complete with the beautiful cinematography and music, is a great start.
    • The scene where Alex introduces himself and his world to Ricky before the Cretaceous adventure starts.
    • The scene where the migration begins.
    • The last few moments of the forest fire scene are quite a tearjerker, especially with the death of Bulldust.
    • The scene at the Winter Grounds is beautiful, coupled with specular landscape shots with the Aurora Borealis and the usage of Ends of the Earth by Lord Huron.
  9. The second half is arguably the best part of the entire film, with less jokes and actually tolerable dialogue.
    • The big standout is the scene where Patchi has to fight Scowler, his brother.
  10. Even though it's frustrating for older audiences and hardcore fans of the franchise, it can appeal to children who love Ice Age and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Reception

Walking with Dinosaurs 3D received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics and audiences upon release, with many praising the special effects but criticizing the dialogue and voice-acting. The website Rotten Tomatoes scored the film with 23% based on a survey of 77 reviews assessed as positive or negative, with an average score of 4.41/10, saying, "Walking with Dinosaurs boasts painstaking visual brilliance, but it's unfortunately clouded by a clumsy script that's dominated by juvenile humor." Metacritic gave an aggregate score of 37 out of 100, which it said indicated "generally unfavorable" reviews. It surveyed 21 critics and assessed 10 reviews as negative, six as mixed, and five as positive.

Mark Adams of Screen International said Walking with Dinosaurs worked as "a kids' film for young dino fans". Adams commended the 3D special effects as "immersive and impressive" but thought audiences may be frustrated at "its rather simplistic story". He said, "The film's attempt to make its story broad and accessible at times sits uneasily alongside the spectacular computer animation." Michael Rechtshaffen, reviewing for The Hollywood Reporter, also approved of the effects, calling them "first rate". The critic however complained that the added dialogue was "needless" and that it was "safe to assume that the overlay was added after the fact" by studio executives. Rechtshaffen said, "Although the plotting... follows a safely predictable course... It's that forced, unnecessary and largely unfunny dialogue—save for Leguizamo's spirited way with words—that comes up distractingly flat."

The Hollywood Reporter stated the film's global box office performance was disappointing in context of the production budget and marketing costs, grossing US$36.1 million in the United States and Canada and US$90.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of US$126.5 million on an $80 million budget.

Trivia

  • Justin Long previously collaborated with executive producer Tim Hill and 20th Century Fox on the live-action Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise. John Leguizamo also voiced Sid the Sloth in Blue Sky Studios' popular animated franchise, Ice Age, with the second film's screenplay and story written by dialogue-contributor Gerry Swallow. Many could assume this as the reason both were casted in the film.
  • Animation director Marco Marenghi previously worked on the original Walking with Dinosaurs miniseries.
  • Character designer David Krentz was also involved in the original Walking With Dinosaurs miniseries, Dinosaur Revolution, and Dinosaur (2000).

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