Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet 3D (2015)

A fight for survival…

70 million years ago, in Alaska during the Cretaceous period, a young Pachyrhinosaurus (a herbivore similar to a Triceratops) is born. Over its adventurous life, it will encounter the relentless carnivores of the Gorgosaurus species (a member of the Tyrannosaur family), befriend an Alexornis (a rooster like creature) and face environments fraught with danger.

Did you see Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie (2013)? Well, guess what? You’ve seen Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet then.

Prehistoric Planet is literally the 2013 movie shortened, cut down to half its length from 87 minutes to 45. The narration of John Leguizamo, Ice Age (2002), has been replaced with the more observational voice-over of Benedict Cumberbatch, Penguins of Madagascar (2014), the romantic subplot between the central dinosaur ‘Patchi’ and his childhood friend Juniper has been reduced, while the bookends that featured Karl Urban, Star Trek (2009), have been completely dropped. But here’s the question. Why?

'I feel like chicken tonight ...'
‘I feel like chicken tonight …’

When Walking with Dinosaurs began as a TV series in 1999, the intention was to create a documentary type show that melded cutting edge CG and puppetry effects with an objective style, akin to the ever-famous nature television specials of David Attenborough. It actually felt as though we were watching dinosaurs simply ‘existing’ within their natural habitats as opposed to being heavily dictated by narrative arcs.

Seeing as dinosaurs have always inspired awe and fascination amongst youngsters, it wasn’t all too surprising that in 2007, when the telly show evolved into a stage show (featuring life-size puppets), it was largely geared towards said audience. Any violence was brief and quickly alleviated by moments of childish humor.

From the success of the theater show, Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie eventually arrived in 2013, aimed solely at the under 10 crowd. The dinos ‘talked’ without moving their mouths, gross-out gags were peppered throughout and the overall tone was bright and fluffy. While pretty unappealing to anyone else, the film successfully nabbed its target audience, enjoying a healthy home media life.

So once again, why does the abridged version dubbed Prehistoric Planet exist? I can only deduce that classic reason — ‘money’. It must’ve cost little else other than an editor, a willing Benedict Cumberbatch and an IMAX endorsement. The biggest issues I have with this are that the film has been sold on the premise of being something completely new, while also being largely unsatisfying as both a documentary and a narrative.

Love is in the Air
Love is in the Air

At around the midway point, I was strongly reminded of the Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 4D ride at Warner Bros. Movie World in Australia, where scenes felt out of context and others lacked development. While this trimmed length will likely work best for restless kids, the haphazard momentum will probably bore the parents.

In terms of presentation, I can safely say the picture includes enough pop-out effects to justify the ‘3D’ tag (as per the original cut) and of course, dinosaurs always look great on a big screen (IMAX Melbourne Museum, where I viewed this, is actually the second largest in the world).

Look, there’s enough factual information and action beats in this one to inspire excited conversations with children, which could work as a decent prelude or epilogue to exploring the dinosaur exhibits at the museum next door. For everyone else though, this is probably a pass with the time better spent re-watching the original television show.

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by Steve Ramsie

Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet 3D is currently playing at IMAX Melbourne, Australia