Film review: Dinotasia

Werner Herzog narrates this animated documentary

Dinotasia (PG) Directors: Erik Nelson and David Krentz Narrated by Werner Herzog **

Fate has conspired to prevent reviews of Werner Herzog’s previous couple of documentaries and now this page catches up with its favourite investigative Teutonic misanthrope in unexpected circumstances – providing snippets of insight to a child-friendly Walking with Dinosaurs copy, cobbled together from a Discovery Channel programme, Dinosaur Revolution.

In the late 80s Alan Clarke made TV drama Elephant, a caustic comment on Northern Ireland, which consisted solely of random unexplained shootings. Dinotasia is structured like a kiddies’ remake, only with a little context. At regular 10-minute intervals Herzog briefly intones on the soundtrack as captions inform of the period and present-day location and then an animated vignette follows involving walking, fighting, eating, death and dismemberment.

I guess Herzog must have been attracted by the possibility of a project about his favourite theme “the savage indifference of nature” that was aimed at a younger audience. Still, you have to wonder how he felt about uttering lines like: “Time is more than a river, it is a fathomless ocean that separates us from what was,” or “although coincidence has no soul, it provides a kind of mercy”.

Though the film tries to present itself as serious documentary (the blurb says it is based on “cutting- edge palaeontology”) a lot of Herzog’s speeches suggest a film that isn’t taking itself too seriously. When it comes to the extinction of the dinosaurs I’m pretty sure that even cutting-edge palaeontogists don’t refer to this as “The Great Dying”.

For an adult it gets tedious pretty quickly but through a child’s eyes maybe it translates as Dinosaurs: The Good Bits. Certainly for my seven-year-old dinosaur-obsessed nephew fresh off a 24-hour flight from Oz it was enough to keep him awake and transfixed. Though when pushed he conceded the animation wasn’t the best.