Ambitious it may be, but Sid Bennett's found-footage dino saga too often opts for throwaway gimmicks over robust storytelling.
A British Jurassic Park? You certainly can’t accuse The Dinosaur Project of lacking ambition. Nor can you fault the pixel-perfect execution of its CG antagonists. And neither is there any scrimping on locations, with South Africa doing a fine job standing in for the Congo. The poster campaign is pretty cool too.
But while the filmmakers have expended palpable effort on getting the bells nice and shiny and making sure the whistles all blow in tune, the nuts and bolts of The Dinosaur Project have been left to rust and corrode. The result is a film that occasionally looks pretty sleek, but one that is ultimately something of a non-starter.
The story follows grizzled explorer Jonathan Marchant (Richard Dillane), a gaggle of disposable scientists and a very edible film crew into the Congolese jungle to verify sightings of an African Loch Ness monster – a Lagos Ness, of you will.
Tagging along is his tech-savvy teen son (Matt Kane) who exists to mine some tired generational conflict and – via his bafflingly comprehensive array of spy cameras and hard drives that would put MI6 to shame – saddles the film with a found footage component that is not only pointless, but is dropped every time it becomes narratively cumbersome.
The rest plays out like Spielberg’s Lost World meets the Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of the same name meets Hollyoaks, as the rapidly dwindling team encounter prehistoric beasties of all stripes and temperaments as they bimble their way to a hidden dinotopia.
Had it adhered to the boilerplate, The Dinosaur Project may have been more successful, but there’s too much in the mix for an 82 minute film. Too much scheming within the ranks, too much teen angst, too many unresolved plot strands. The tone, too, lurches all over the place, as if the dino design came first and the script was forced to make some breakneck maneuvers to accommodate them all.
Technically the film is solid, but the flaky dialogue, rote performances, uneven pitch and poorly conceived and executed found footage device detract from director Sid Bennett’s clear facility for staging a scene.
This would be a very easy film to pick on, but while we would in no way urge you to seek it out, it is at least a halfway decent British tilt at something a little out of the ordinary that might have worked if it weren’t so desperate to please.
A British Jurassic Park? Not something we’ve been holding our breath for, but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
The dinosaurs do the business, but they are let down badly by the human element.
With none of the ludicrous fun of a SyFy Channel movie and not as accomplished as Sky1 Bank Holiday fodder, The Dinosaur Project wouldn’t even cut the mustard on TV, let alone on the big screen.