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I'm not normally one for film reviews, but seeing as most of the 3D films here are going without reviews - and I can find very few to read before I buy - I've decided to jump in. For me, watching a 3D film is a family night activity - so I choose ones I think the children will enjoy - or in some cases, such as this one they choose the film. My sons wanted this after seeing the picture as I browsed Amazon. Both of them love dinosaurs, and pterosaurs, but we really do not have as many books and films with the flying reptiles as we do with land based dinosaurs, and the picture on this film is cracker.
I had been considering this Bluray for some time anyway. It is only £7.25 on Amazon new and it has some excellent reviews - and one very poor one. It features David Attenborough who has been known as the voice of the BBC's wildlife programmes for many years. I had mistakenly assumed this was a BBC production, so of course expected a high standard of research and credibility. This is in fact not connected to the BBC in anyway - it was produced by Sky 3D, but it if I didn't know better I would think I was watching a BBC documentary. This is very well researched and informative and an absolutely outstanding documentary. My sons were both interested in this, and we all learned quite a lot about fossils, Mary Anning, and the evolution of flight.
As much as we all enjoyed this though - this film was obviously made for adults, not children, and at times they did find it a bit dry. My oldest has more than an average interest in fossils and paleontology, but many children may grow very impatient with the long narratives which show only a few fossils, landscapes and humans. There is some beautiful scenery here, some type of jungles, the Jurassic coast and a a fossil pit which - if I recall correctly was the Solnhofen Limestones Beds of Germany. Both of my children did feel that this film did not have enough pterosaurs, and would have very much preferred the narrative over scenes of flying reptiles as opposed to looking at Mr Attenborough speaking. I have to agree with them in this - the narrative was fascinating, but I feel quite a bit more animation could have been worked in. I did not time the scenes with pterosaurs,as that would really take from the fun of watching the film, but I would guess that the animated segments make up less than one third of the viewing time.
When we did see animated scenes though they were breathtaking. This is really intense 3D - if you want things popping out of screens that look as if you can reach up and grab them - this is the film for you. My youngest son did actually get up and reach up to catch one of the pterosaurs at one point - it is truly stunning. This is both the best and the worst 3D I have seen on our 3D TV, surpassing even Sharks 3D in some short colourful segments. The 3D is incredible - but at times it seems a bit off. I found text burred and quickly gave up trying to read anything, and I did find some segments of the animated film sequences had slight blurring as well. I have watched a few full length features without eye strain, but 15 minutes into this - I did feel eye strain and ended up with a rather sore head by the end. I found myself closing my eyes for more and more of the talking scenes - and just watching the incredible scenes of flight. There are sequences where swarms of insects do look so real you could almost start itching them imagining the swarms of flying bugs and the pterosaurs swooping and diving through the jungle is truly an exceptional sight. I just have the feeling that this represents the cutting edge of 3D technology and as with any new a developing technology the odd bug still exists in the process.
This film begins with a short clip of a modern gliding lizard and then goes on, in a story like narrative to explain how scientists believe flight developed in early reptiles. The films switches between fossil evidence, computer reconstructions, simple narrative and 3D animation. The main creatures featured are Dimorophodon, Darwinopterus, Tapejara and Quetzalacoatus. It's hard to say which creature was the most fascinating. Dimorphodon is is featured on the cover and the acrobatics of this creature as well as strange appearance are fascinating. Darwinopterus is aptly named as he shows a linkage between the early smaller pterosaurs who were unable to walk properly due to flaps of skin which served as wings and the later flying giants with were far more mobile on land as well. Tapejara you simply have to see to believe with a large crest and sail like wings which scientist believed allowed him to effortlessly harness the winds and race across the surface of the sea like a sailing ship. Finally Quetzalacoatus is the size of a small plane, and none of the earlier material I had come across showed what seemed to be a viable method for this massive creature to become airborne. This film presents an exceptionally plausible theory and if you are interested in the evolution of flight for any reason - this alone makes the purchase worthwhile.
I am glad I bought this. I did have some problems with the 3D, but you do have the option of watching this in 2D on the same disc. This is the only extra though. There is no making of or extra scenes, but I really don't care for these anyway. My sons did both enjoy - and I feel that they both learned something - especially the oldest. I do feel that if he had not already read so many other books on dinosaurs and paleontology that some of this would have been over his head though. I would very strongly recommend this for adults and older children. For younger children I will only recommend if they have some background in the subject and are able to sit quietly through some dry narrative. I will note that this film does not show any real bloodshed or gore - so there isn't really anything to frighten a child, but it does show some creatures die and become fossils. The whole premise of this film is the evolution of flight - so if you do not wish to teach your children evolution - this film would be a very poor choice.
But - after speaking to my seven year old - he does recommend this move for other children. he says it has some "really cool bits" and the 3D is "awesome". He does say that it has too much people and not enough pterosaurs, a point seconded by my 4 year old, but both boys say they enjoyed it, they will watch it again, and I should buy them more films like this.
I am really wavering between a 4 and 5 star rating due to the short segments where the picture blurred and the eye strain involved. I do feel the very educational nature of this programme, the low price and the stunning 3D combine to make this a product I would recommend - and that perhaps a few bugs can be forgiven a technology in its infancy so I giving this a full 5 stars - but I would prefer 4.5 and will mention that if you are sensitive to eye strain with 3D - this might not be the best choice. I would also not want children watching this over and over again, but imagine once every few weeks will do them no harm.
The running time for this programme is 70 minutes. I viewed this on a passive 3D TV, but of course it can be viewed on passive or active 3D. A 3D compatible TV, Bluray player and glasses are required.