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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Edition No 894 

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FLYING MONSTERS 3D

SYNOPSIS:
Sir David Attenborough explores the enigmatic pterosaurs who lived - and flew - 220 million years ago, some of whose wingspans were the equal of a glider. Attenborough works with scientists to understand the evolution of the pterosaurs, in locations as diverse as New Mexico, the Jurassic Coast of Lyne Regis in Britain, an ancient pterosaur landing site in southern France and a fossil pit in Germany where near perfect pterosaur specimens have been found.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's one thing watching a science fiction movie with its clutch of exotic creatures, but it's quite another watching a documentary in IMAX 3D that puts us within touching distance of a flying pterosaur the size of a giraffe 220 million yeas ago. There is this exotic flying monster, and just ahead of it is a modern glider carrying a pilot and acclaimed naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who is talking to us as we hover above and behind the dual flying objects.

This technically complex and slightly dangerous scene is worth all the effort, because it illustrates in an instant just how large some pterosaurs were. The danger, by the way, isn't from the pterosaur colliding with the glider, although it seems a possibility. The danger is from the camera-bearing helicopter and the glider making contact. The pterosaur, like all the others flying across the giant screen, is a CGI creation, overlaid to footage of spectacular rainforests, mountains, lakes and sea.

The use of 3D enhances several scenes, but is not overused; it's a good choice for such a film.

The 84 year old Attenborough is remarkably lucid and as excited as ever about these extinct animals as he shows us how and why they flew at all. It was a time when the dinosaurs were beginning to dominate the planet, and before birds had evolved. Perhaps these lizards kept extending a fold of skin on either side which was used to help them glide as they jumped from tree to tree - much as some lizards do today. All it took was a few million years and the flaps grew stronger, bigger and skeletons developed to carry them.

We see their natural habitats, but Attenborough also joins scientist Doug Lawson in New Mexico, whose animated computer model wireframe of the largest pterosaur, the Quetzalcoatlus (which he had a hand in discovering) jumps out of the computer screen (in desk size) and struts about the lab to the amusement of both men. Clever stuff.

But there is more than the odd wireframe version of these creatures: we see extraordinary animals with massive heads, some with fin-like extensions, all vibrantly coloured and long necked, having to use the elbow of their wings to walk.

While Flying Monsters is a terrific teaching aid to get students interested in paleontology and natural history, it is also a fascinating trip in time, with a suitably informed guide to explain what we see.



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CRITICAL COUNT
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Mixed: 0

SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH INTERVIEW

FLYING MONSTERS 3D (G)
(UK, 2011)

CAST: Documentary

PRODUCER: Anthony Geffen, Sias Wilson

DIRECTOR: Matthew Dyas

SCRIPT: Sir David Attenborough

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tim Cragg

EDITOR: Peter Miller

MUSIC: Joel Douek

RUNNING TIME: 40 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 11, 2011







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