Friday 4 December 2015

Dinosaur Island (2015) - Movie Review I go through the archives and go after the films that slipped my grasp when they were first released, I find myself asking the big question about why certain films were released in the first place. Those supposed-to-be straight-to-DVD Tinker Bell movies? Pointless, but I can chalk that up to Disney probably owning at least half of my country by now. That awesomely awful Hitman film? Gamers make up a bigger percentage of the audience than most people think. The Quarantine Hauntings? Local productions always get proper releases. This time around, however, I am completely lost for an answer; not even that last one justifies this. I’ve seen actual straight-to-TV productions get cinema time at my local (which I don’t review because life’s too short), so I know that the bar for entertainment specialised for kids isn’t that high. I never realised until today’s film exactly how low that bar really was. Brace yourselves for the bottom-of-the-barrel.

The plot: After some unexpected turbulence on a plane trip to see his father, Lucas (Darius Williams) ends up stranded on a remote island, one where dinosaurs still roam the land. With the help of 1950’s palaeontologist Kate (Kate Rasmussen) he hopes to make it off of the island and back home before he becomes lunch.

The acting is similar to that found in most made-on-the-cheap children’s television. Williams has all of one mode, being surprised at everything, Rasmussen’s British accent is the kind of over-exaggeration that would make even Dick Van Dyke cry foul, Nicole Yardley is badly dubbed to the point of making me think of the likewise bizarre ADR from Twilight Of The Ice Nymphs, and Pat Drummond as Lucas’ teacher is every single stereotypical “this is most unorthodox” school teacher you’ve ever seen, right down to being unnecessarily mean to the children he’s teaching. I’m sure there’s more than a bit of hypocrisy in me complaining about someone else doing that but, then again, I’m not the one getting paid to do it.

The story, admittedly, has some nice ideas behind it; that being of the time-displaced island full of dinosaurs that, seemingly at random, gets planes and ships coming in from various time periods. In the right hands, this could’ve been amazing. They could’ve had a Space Marine team up with an Amazon and a Neanderthal to fight dinosaurs, along with so many other things that would fire up the imagination of the kids who would be the only ones watching it. However, even for a film that is roughly 75 minutes long, it seems more content to fill up its running time with padding and, whenever they do get into some interesting notions concerning the island like the native tribe that inhabits it, it just whizzes past them in favour of showing off more dinosaur effects. Hell, they could’ve gotten some jokes out of how apparently the only adult in that tribe is also the only one locked in a cage, but somehow didn’t.

The writing hardly helps matters, as this is pure grade-F spoilt army rations if I ever heard it; you know, the kind of dialogue you would only use if it was a matter of life or death, and even then it’s so nasty that you’d most likely wish for the latter. How bad is it? “I have a theory that we are in a place between places.” Yes, that is an actual quote from the film; if you are capable of making Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull sound better by comparison, chances are you should have given writing duties to literally anyone else. It’s either spouting off scientific information on the dinosaurs and/or rock formations, sometimes doing it so fast that I don’t even understand half of it, or ‘banter’ that is so badly developed that I’d swear that they weren’t even written down in the first place and just improvised on set.

While the designs for the dinosaurs themselves are perfectly fine, and I’ll even admit that the forest full of plants with eyes is legitimately kind of creepy, the effects work for them is hazardous to your ocular health. Whether the weird proportions, the stiff movements or the horrible integration with the live-action footage, this is just about the cheapest I’ve seen in a while. This is dangerously close to Pan levels of cheap, it’s that horrendous. And let’s not forget the scene which features Lucas and Kate actually riding one of the dinosaurs, which somehow looks worse than most green-screened YouTube shows that I’ve seen.

However, in order to understand why all of this really doesn’t bother me, I need to discuss the idea of ‘mockbusters’. Mockbusters are films that are essentially made just so that they can cash in on a popular film that’s out at the time. This is usually done by coming up with a name that is just close enough to sounding like the original film, but not to the point of incurring a lawsuit. That way, the less informed people getting rentals from their local video shop (the few that exist, anyway) might possibly kind of be fooled into thinking they’ve gotten the official film and not a rip-off. Maybe. The Asylum, a studio I’ve mentioned on this blog before, are the frontrunners of this trend with works like Transmorphers, The Da Vinci Treasure and Avengers Grimm under its belt.

Given the recent release of Jurassic World, and the fact this film actually came out first in February (a pattern followed by some of the more unfortunate mockbusters), this film becomes rather hilarious when looked at as a mockbuster of the Jurassic Park franchise. As a bit of unintentional comedy, which works especially well when put directly in comparison with those films and their pioneering effects work, this almost reaches good from the opposite side. I say “almost” because, for as many hilariously bad pieces of dialogue that are made, there isn’t really any character worth latching onto for the duration nor enough engaging set pieces (legitimately or not) to really make this work even in that capacity. It’s more boring than anything else which, for a film that features a prehistoric bird that sounds like R2D2 and crystals that repeat the audio recording of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, is the biggest surprise about this entire production.

All in all, this is horrendous but at least it’s a potentially entertaining kind of horrendous. The acting, writing, effects and overall production values are like something that should be condemned to the lower levels of straight-to-DVD release purgatory. It’s quite horrible but, with the right mindset, it is also hilarious; yet another addition to the list of films reserved for those who actively like making fun of the films they watch.

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