Dinosaurs. Possibly one of the best things ever to study at school and watch cartoons about. Also extinct. Sadly, writer/director Sid Bennett attempts to bring them back to life on screen via a gateway and we all learn a lesson; that some things should be left well alone.
A backpack containing over 100 hours of footage is found in the Congo. We discover that it belongs to an expedition team from the UK, and that the footage explains what happened to them. The British Cryptozoological Society, along with their celeb-wilderness expert Jonathan and a TV crew set out to the Congo in search for Mokele Mbembe, a mythological creature believed to be related to dinosaurs. Africa’s very own Loch Ness Monster. Unbeknownst to the crew, Jonathan’s 15 year old son Luke has decided to join the team and sneaks onto the helicopter. Coincidentally, he is both handsome in a Robert Pattinson career ahead of him way and a whizz with technology. Any smart girl knows that the male species are not capable of having BOTH of these gifts.
En route to the alleged location of the mythical creature, the crew’s helicopter gets attacked by Jurassic-like birds and crashes. The survivors stumble across a deserted settlement where they camp for the night… only to be greeted by mysterious pre-historic creatures.
Despite the creatures portrayed in the film allegedly being as closely depicted to creatures that existed, and alongside a BAFTA award-winning effects team, the end result is not a patch on Jurassic Park, which was made almost twenty years ago.
Unlike the Hollywood blockbuster, which in its day offered the most up to date effects, amazing actors and current interpretations of how dinosaur’s would have looked and behaved, The Dinosaur Project is lost on many levels; The most obvious hurdle is the budget, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a good movie. Most low budget films happily reflect their B-movie status with casting and purposefully include scenes with naff scripts, and dodgy lighting. If this film had taken that route instead of taking itself so seriously, it may have been far more enjoyable. Initially, I felt intense disappointment at discovering the running time was 82 minutes. However, about two minutes into the film, I realised this was a blessing.
Neither is this film a match to fellow handycam/ found footage attempts such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. The acting is extremely wooden and the characters are picked directly out of the stock box. The film should’ve focused on developing its characters further, despite the 82 minutes running time. Ultimately, most of them met with unhappy endings, but the prominent relationship throughout – that of the father-son bonding with Jonathan and Matt – was often staid and too generic.
Admittedly, the film locations are stunning, and I completely adore the fact that Matt ended up gaining a pet dinosaur named Crypto. I mean, who knew they enjoyed candy and shared most of the characteristics of my mentally challenged golden retriever?
The Dinosaur Project is a very promising story with an ending perhaps set up for a sequel. I would say I wouldn’t be going to see it, but then I’d never know what happened to Crypto.