Written by: Simon Moore, based on the books of James Gurney
Directed by: Marco Brambilla
Starring: Tyron Leitso, Wentworth Miller, Katie Carr, David Thewlis, Alice Krige, and Lee Evans
- Interview with Composer, Trevor Jones
- Making-Of Featurette
- Dinosaur Data
- Saurian Alphabet
- Travel Through Dinotopia
- 3-D Motion Photo Gallery
- Cast and Crew Information
- Deleted Scenes
- Tips and Tricks for the Dinotopia Game Boy Advance game
- 26’s Maze Game
- Hidden Footage
- Dino Facts and Sounds for Kids
- Skybax Pilot Game
- Trivia Game
Released by: Artisan
Rating: NR, suitable for audiences 12+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Buy it.
[ad#longpost]Tired of movies about sex, drugs, and violence, with the only difference being which of that trio is emphasized? Never fear, Dinotopia is here. Yes, it’s very whimsical, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing when grounded by fine character acting, an interesting plot, gorgeous settings, and stunning computer graphics.
The mini-series tells the tale of two brothers, Karl and David (Leitso and Miller), who must confront not only being cast ashore into a strange world they can never leave, but the death of their father in the plane crash itself. Never have two brothers been more different: Karl is reckless and independent, while David is quiet and more bookish. Too bad they share the same taste in women. Dinotopia itself is a lost island where humans live in relative peace (or at least truce) with dinosaurs, learning the ways of peace and selflessness from their saurian friends. It’s a kind of utopia, where crime is, if not unknown, very rare. The liberal tenets of serving others and pacifism are enforced with acculturation–what Karl will call brain-washing. But it can’t be denied that while carnivore dinos are always a problem, that’s about the only real problem the Dinotopians have–no war, no hunger, and plenty of joy and peace. But all is not well in Dinotopia–the mystical source of their power, the sunstones, are failing all over the island, and no one seems to have any idea what to do, other than breaching the sacred World Beneath. But that’s just too deadly and unspeakable…isn’t it?
The plot is pleasantly complex without being so confusing that your children will be constantly confused. It’s basically a coming-of-age story, but several characters are doing the growing up at once. It’s also an epic of sorts, with a culture finding out that it must bend a bit or die. Fans of the book by James Gurney might be disappointed to learn that the plot of the mini-series is not based upon that of his book, but favorite character names will pop up as ancestors of current characters, and all else about Dinotopia is the same.
Interesting philosophical questions are raised by Dinotopia. At what price, peace? When are citizens asked to give up too much of themselves for the greater good? Is any sacrifice too great to ask someone to make for society as a whole? What exactly is evil, and how does it differ from “mere” selfishness? What is this thing called “brotherhood” really about? And what would you do to save your culture, your home, or someone you loved?
The acting is surprisingly solid. Tyron Leitso as Karl and Wentworth Miller as David both nail the disparate personalities of the brothers, without just being two strangers. David Thewlis as the villain Cyrus Crabb is delightfully complex and ambiguous–is he evil or isn’t he? Alice Krige as the Matriarch is by turns chillingly fascist and warmly in tune with the earth. Meanwhile, Marion (played by Katie Carr) is lovely, but also wise, strong, and almost too perfect. One of the most enjoyable, “alive” characters is actually a computer construct–Zippo the saurian librarian, voiced by Lee Evans.
There are, however, a few failings in the series. There are a few logical quibbles, such as why Karl is so quick to trust Crabb, why the T-rexes are running in packs, and why the original bus convoy just abandons the brachs, but these are relatively minor and nothing that a normal suspension of disbelief wouldn’t cover. It would, however, have been nice to have had a tidier resolution to some of the plot threads, such as the love triangle between the brothers and Marion or punishment for Crabb regarding his abuse of Zippo, but perhaps Dinotopians don’t believe in punishment. If the ending weren’t quite so abrupt, it would have been a better film overall; perhaps four hours should have been pushed to five.
The list of features on this two-disk set is absolutely amazing. Just about anything you could want is on here, from the complete Saurian alphabet (footprint language) to deleted scenes to a cute maze game. The behind-the-scenes interview with the composer is interesting and enlightening, and given the importance and beauty of the music, it’s lovely to hear from Jones on this score. The photo gallery and trailers are also nice to look through, especially for fans who didn’t think four hours was quite enough. The only thing missing is a commentary track with someone (maybe with a paleontologist) but given the wealth of features on this disc, it seems shameful to ask for more or even just different features.
Anyone who has ever loved dinosaurs will love Dinotopia. Where else could you see a triceratops senator or see someone ride a pterodactyl? You might cheer or be chilled by certain aspects of Dinotopian society, but you’ll love the adventure, character growth, and the sheer look of the place. You’ll feel as if you are there, and what more can you really ask of a storyteller?