Thursday, July 19, 2018

The feathered dinosaur movement has a kids movie

I watched this awful movie with my kids on Monday night. It was a moment of growth for me.

Long story short: I tried to watch something legitimate, I really did. We didn't watch Paddington 2 because I thought my wife wanted to watch it with us, and she was in Sydney (turns out she didn't care), and we didn't watch Captain Underpants because it turned out Netflix had only an original TV series, not the movie from last year.

In scrolling through the other Netflix options, my younger son, who is in a bit of a dinosaur phase, saw a movie called Dinosaur Island that he wanted to watch. I surprised myself by agreeing to the choice.

Normally I'm a bit of a dictator in these scenarios. If I'm going to watch a movie with them before bed, I want it to be something I want to watch, figuring that they'd be forced to accept my choice if the alternative is to, you know, go to sleep. Now, I'm not talking about something age inappropriate or legitimately boring to them; I'm talking whatever theatrically released animated movie we can find that I happened not to have caught, or even one I did catch but am glad to revisit. Not some straight-to-video Pokemon movie or whatever other crap might catch their fancy.

On this particular night, I surprised myself by accepting whatever other crap.

And Dinosaur Island certainly was crap. I guess I don't see a lot of truly awful children's movies, but this was one. It was an easy choice to give it only a single star on Letterboxd. The production values were bad, the acting was bad, the story was bad. Just bad all around.

But there was one really interesting thing about it: The dinosaurs have feathers.

First, a little plot.

This kid from present day Australia (I had no idea the movie was set in Australia or made by Australians when my son chose it) is on a plane to America (reasons unimportant) when it gets caught in some kind of electrical storm and crash lands on an island. Thinking Lost? Yes, this movie is a lot like Lost, if Lost had a cast comprised only of two bland children, a bunch of poorly represented native people, and dinosaurs. The kid is, inexplicably, the only person from his plane who seems to be anywhere, and the actual plane is nowhere near where he wakes up on the beach. But there is another person there, a girl, who arrived under similar circumstances, only from the year 1955. It sounds cooler than it actually is.

Also on this island, there are dinosaurs. And they have feathers.

Now, the feathers alone are not crazy. In fact, as I learned for the first time only about three years ago, scientists now believe that most dinosaurs had feathers. Dinosaurs and birds have a lot in common, so why wouldn't dinosaurs have feathers? In fact, I think it's taken as kind of an undisputed fact nowadays.

A fact that Hollywood has been slow to adopt. So fixed is our idea of what a dinosaur is supposed to look like that nary a movie I have seen has incorporated feathers into its depiction of dinosaurs. In fact, this very summer we have had a massive dinosaur movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, where feathers remain conspicuously absent from the leathery hides of the dinosaurs on screen.

So the crazy thing is that this little throwaway kids movie, made for a buck fifty, about time travel, decided to get all realistic up in this bitch.

The name of the director, Matt Drummond, is all over the credits. It's definitely a Matt Drummond Joint. I guess it's hard not to have your name all over the credits when you not only wrote and directed the movie, but you also shot and edited it. He's also the VFX supervisor and, of course, the producer. It's definitely a Matt Drummond Joint.

So I can see Matt Drummond taking this movie ten times more seriously than anyone else involved in it, especially the financiers, who just want to make a quick buck on it and have done the cost-benefit analysis on the profit margin for a children's movie with a minuscule budget. And I can see Matt Drummond, with a worrisome and slightly insane smile in his eyes, making the aspect ratio of a camera with the thumb and forefinger of his hands, and then spreading his arms wide in a magician's "presto" gesture that is the international symbol for something visionary. And I can see Matt Drummond saying "Picture this ... the dinosaurs have feathers."

And then the financiers groaning.

If you are trying to make a quick buck on a children's movie with a minuscule budget, you don't want some guy who takes himself entirely too seriously getting the idea that the dinosaurs should be as realistic as possible. The dinosaurs do look okay, considering. But all the movie needed them to do was look like a credible facsimile of the dinosaurs we are accustomed to seeing not in Jurassic Park, but at least in its many knockoffs. It didn't need them to have feathers.

Yet feathers they have.

And I have to say, it really bothered me. Perhaps because the idea of dinosaurs with feathers bothers me. It's kind of like telling me Pluto isn't a planet anymore. "I've grown up with dinosaurs who have scaly, reptilian skin, and now you're telling me dinosaurs looked like drag queens at Mardi Gras wearing feather boas?"

I don't have anything against drag queens, mind you. I just don't want them sharing their feather boas with a T-Rex.

So this movie that was bad anyway became worse because of one man's silly and misplaced insistence in presenting "realistic" dinosaurs. And his reasons for doing it, or at least what I imagine them to be: that this is going to be the movie's calling card. That this is going to distinguish his dinosaur movie from all those other dinosaur movies.

Well, it does do that I guess.


Wendell Ottley said...

Sorry you had to sit through this one. My kids are way beyond that age so I was able to scroll by that on Netflix and just keep going. I did chuckle a bit as I did. Can't say I'll ever stop on it...even to see dinosaurs with feathers.

Derek Armstrong said...

No, and it's not like you get the dinosaurs with feathers in the first five minutes or anything. You're wading through 20-30 minutes of other sub par material.

Funny that you even noticed it, though. There are so many offerings on Netflix these days that if it's not one of the big things they're promoting, I'm genuinely surprised when two people notice the same thing!