Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: The Dino King (2012)

The Dino King (aka Speckles the Tarbosaurus) (Review)
Han Sang-ho/2012
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...if this film had zero dialogue, I think it would've been much better."

During the Cretaceous period, a young Tarbosaurus named Speckles is born, and faces a life of hardship and loss, and ultimately hope...

The Dino King is a fairly straightforward adventure film. The story follows Speckles from the age of one and up to his adult life. As a young dinosaur, Speckles and his family are attacked by a vicious tyrannosaurus named One-Eye, which devastates his life. After these devastating events, Speckles attempts to survive on his own, but faces other dangerous predators and a recurring appearance from One-Eye – I suppose you can call One-Eye his arch-nemesis. Anyway, that's basically all of The Dino King – Speckles' sad life and how he deals with it. The ending was decent – not bad, not amazing, simply decent.

I guess you can best describe The Dino King as the life of the most unfortunate dinosaur. I mean, Speckles doesn't have a shred of luck, whether he's one year old or twenty. It does feel a little repetitive and it also feels uninvolving; I was interested in the story, particularly because of the setting and because it has some shades of The Lion King, but it just didn't hook me. It's a sad story, indeed, but I was able to shrug it off with ease – and I should not have, I should have been able to take this film seriously and should have been fully engaged.

I think this is due to the narration. I watched the English dub, by the way. The characters in this film do not have voices. They grunt and shout, but they don't speak like one would expect from an animated film. Instead, the voice overs work as narration for Speckles' many thoughts. And, it just seems so childish and unnecessary; almost like I was watching some Dora the Explorer or Blue's Clues, or anything on Nick Jr. (are those shows still being produced? That might be an outdated reference.) In fact, if this film had zero dialogue, I think it would've been much better. There are some decent action scenes, though. And the use of music and a few epic sequences creates a grand sense of adventure at times.

I did not enjoy the voice acting. I mean, do I need to clarify any further? It takes you out of the zone, it stops you from fully engaging with the film. The visual effects are decent, at least for people with the right expectations. The computer graphics are far from Avatar, but satisfying enough. They do stick out like a sore thumb due to the use of real-world environments and 3D, but they work. The music is great; it's a very epic and adventurous soundtrack, it really help buildup some scenes. Writer and director Han Sang-ho is decent; I think his largest mistake was the unnecessary narration, but the film also suffers, albeit less severely, from some pacing issues and a slightly uneventful and repetitive story.

Overall, The Dino King is a mediocre film. I think it would have been a much better film if the runtime was cut down and if the narration was removed completely; now that I think of it, it probably would have been a surprisingly decent short film. Otherwise, this film does not offer much to the genre. A few decent action sequences, and a genuinely sad moment or two – that's what you are getting. My score is a 4/10, this might be a 5/10 (which is decent on my scale) if you're watching this with children 8 or older.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence. Some frightening images for young children.

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