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Posts Tagged ‘dinosaurs’

31 Monstrous Failures #3: Tyrannosaurus Rex

October 3rd, 2011 No comments

In that long-lost age prior to CGI, movie producers had three means of bringing “live-action” dinosaurs to the screen. There was the man-in-rubber-suit method popularized by Godzilla and kin. Then there was stop-motion animation as employed by Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen. But if you didn’t want to spend months meticulously photographing articulated models, and you hated the smell of latex, there was one tried-and-true recourse: actual reptiles.

An ambitious effects artist might glue some weird horns or frills to a monitor lizard to make it look more dinosaurish (emphasis on the -ish), but at least one unmodified iguana showed up in the 1940 D.W. Griffith-produced One Million B.C.

The funny thing was that, despite growing up a dyed-in-the-mammoth-fur dino nut, I never minded the lizards very much. If I squinted my eyes real tight, I could just about imagine the photographically-enlarged caimans to be honest-to-goodness prehistoric monsters.

But no amount of squinting would allow me to accept it when some actor pretending to be a paleontologist began identifying those horny toads as official, familiar dinosaurs. Submitted in evidence: producer Irwin Allen’s 1960 remake of The Lost World, and its ersatz…

Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Nope, sorry, not buying it.

I don’t care that it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous explorer Professor Challenger making the call. This…

…is not a baby T. Rex.

And this…

I don’t know what the hell this is. But it’s not a Brontosaurus.

I’m just saying.

Extinction Event

June 15th, 2009 No comments

British broadcaster ITV has cancelled its sci-fi drama Primeval after three successful seasons. (The third and apparently final set of episodes is currently airing on BBC America.) It’s a strange move, considering recent reports of a big-budget Warner Bros. film adaptation and even a possible international spin-off series.

According to the report in The Guardian, it appears that the show may have become too expensive for the commercial channel on which it aired in the U.K. I can see why; the producers of the series also made the various Walking with Dinosaurs shows, and they leveraged their digital effects assets into creating some truly stunning CGI monsters both prehistoric and futuristic to stomp around contemporary London.

Primeval‘s premise–in which time anamolies randomly open to spew forth a variety of deadly creatures–is compelling, but the scripting is aggressively stupid. We’re meant to believe that the people best equipped to detect temporal wormholes and combat dinosaurs are a paleontologist, an assistant zookeeper who may or may not bother to wear pants when opening her front door, and a kid in a pork pie hat. Who only sometimes remember to bring weapons. We’re also supposed to accept that the team has managed to keep all of this, up to and including a mammoth appearing in the middle of a crowded highway, out of the press in an era of ubiquitous camera phones and social media.

I forgot that the series was back on and missed the first three episodes of the new season, but it appears that they’ve killed off the paleontologist and gotten rid of the hot public relations officer. Sadly, Pants-Free Girl and Pork Pie Hat are still around.

The overall plot, in which the batshit-insane ex-wife of the now-deceased paleontologist has been using the anomalies in pursuit of some unknown goal, has never quite coalesced for me. There was a bit of weirdness at the end of the first season in which the timeline was altered, giving the heroes a new base of operations and somehow replacing one of them with a new character who, despite having a different last name and presumably different parents, is played by the same actress. To my knowledge, they’ve still never explained that one. And now it looks as if they never will.

Sorry to see you go, Primeval. As a drama with a “plot” and “characters,” you weren’t much, but you certainly were a prehistoric treat for every dinosaur-obsessed schoolboy.

I Love You, Godzilla

November 11th, 2004 No comments

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Godzilla, king of the movie monsters. Through 27 feature films–with the 28th, Godzilla Final Wars due later this year–the reptilian titan stomped his way across Japan and straight into my heart.

My love affair with Godzilla began as an outgrowth of my early interest in prehistoric animals. By the time I’d reached kindergarten, I’d memorized many dinosaur names and already had plans of becoming a paleontologist. So, what could be better to a young fan than the biggest dinosaur of them all?

In addition, there was certainly an appeal to the notion of putting on a rubber reptile suit and stamping through a model of Tokyo. Even back then, I was aware that there was a sweaty Japanese man inside Godzilla, but that didn’t diminish my infatuation.

It was difficult being a young Godzilla fan back in the ’70s. In the days before VCRs, I had to depend upon the vagaries of Chicago UHF TV station schedules to catch Japanese monster movies, sometimes well after bedtime. Other times, I had to convince my dad to take me to a drive-in or a kiddie matinee. (I have to admit a certain grown-up guilt over forcing him to watch so many lousy movies.)

Furthermore, information about Godzilla wasn’t readily available. Sci-fi film books tended to be dismissive of the Japanese efforts, and even the groundbreaking fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland offered maddeningly incomplete or inaccurate articles.

Things have largely improved as I’ve grown up. Numerous books, magazines and websites have fully detailed the history of Godzilla’s friends and foes. Vinyl toys of virtually the entire Toho Studios bestiary have been imported to U.S. specialty stores, finally satisfying the frustrated eight-year-old within me.

On the other hand, the movies themselves rarely show up on TV anymore, and usually only on obscure cable channels I don’t receive. DVD releases have been spotty; many Japanese monster films are still MIA and others have been produced as low-quality discs.

Thankfully, there’s been some improvement on that latter front. Sony recently released three of the ’70s Godzilla flicks on DVD, and more are coming soon.

Watching Godzilla vs. Hedorah (aka Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster) again last month took me back 30 years. As an adult Godzilla fan, I’ve tended to look down on the period in which the Big G–who began as a clear metaphor for the destructive power of the atom bomb–served as a kid-friendly defender of humanity. However, I have to admit that there’s something very compelling about this kinder, gentler monster who rises from the ocean depths to combat the menace of pollution.

Last week brought the release of Godzilla: Save the Earth for the Playstation 2, allowing me at last to stage my own fantasy match-ups between (for example) Megalon and Megaguirus, Jet Jaguar and MechaGodzilla 3.

My inner eight-year-old approves.