Dinosaur 13 (Blu-ray Review)

Dinosaur-13An incredible true story 66 million years in the making, Dinosaur 13 “is a tale of plucky, underdog success, ‘the stuff that dreams are made of,’” (McClatchy-Tribune News Service) and arrives on Blu-ray this week from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The documentary is also available on Digital HD and On Demand. The Dinosaur 13 Blu-ray features a new director’s cut of the film along with bonus material that includes deleted scenes plus numerous featurettes that provide more insight into the restoration and research completed on SUE along with a prior Larson excavation. The “awe-inspiring” (Variety) documentary will leave you feeling pretty bad or this group of paleontologists and pretty peeved at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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When renowned paleontologist Peter Larson and his team from the Black Hills Institute made the world’s greatest dinosaur discovery in 1990, they knew it was the find of a lifetime: the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. But during a 10-year battle with the U.S. government, powerful museums, Native American tribes and competing paleontologists, they found themselves not only fighting to keep their dinosaur, but fighting for their freedom as well.

While this documentary presents this story to be a huge case and full of extensive national news coverage back in the 1990s, I can’t say I really remember any of it at all.  And considering some of the heat of this battle happened during the same time Jurassic Park opened and became a phenomenon, I’m surprised that I don’t remember it and wouldn’t be shocked if it was some big news ordeal.  After seeing this story from the eyes of this documentary, its shocking the American public didn’t turn on the FBI or something.

The documentary comes pretty much fully from the side of the paleontologist’s argument, with only one person from the side of the defense in the case of this dino bones mishap speaking.  And he doesn’t really have much to say.  Honestly, with all that’s presented here and the logistics behind this case, coupled with video evidence shown throughout the film, I don’t really know how anybody from that end of the spectrum could defend themselves.  This case seemed that it derived from a misunderstanding, then some pride in overdoing it, and then people trying to make something out of what was pretty stupid and trying to justify their actions.

Dinosaur 13 is a pretty solid, well documented and spoken tale about a group of paleontologists that had the chance of a lifetime and an absolute dream come true stumble upon them, only to have the FBI step in and take it all away from them forever.  It starts with such wonder and excitement, but then starts a spiral into a pretty unsettling and depressing little story.  One thing I think they should have included in this story is the piece on “Sue” (the name of the T-Rex bones) today from the bonus features that show the people from the Chicago Field Museum discussing their care and work on her.  This documentary leaves you to they are faceless and uncaring about the bones.  Aside from that, this is a pretty engaging and interesting documentary.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail: This documentary comes with a mix of different sources for the video in the film.  The modern stuff, interviews/reenactments/location shooting features a nice crisp and sharp picture with plenty of richer detail.  In the mix is also home videos which feature some of the rougher image quality due to tracking and other worn out features.  Also, archival news video from the 90s is shown plenty to varying degrees of quality.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and natural.  They help to define the interviewees and define the location shooting displayed in the film.

Color Reproduction: Colors are solid, natural and bold.  A lot of the footage takes place in some desert type land so it doesn’t offer itself in the way of a grand color palette.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and detail is solid in all the footage shot for this documentary.  Wrinkles, stubble, freckles and the like are all nice and visible.

Noise/Artifacts:  The modern interviews and footage is for the most part just fine.  VHS sourced video and archival news footage come with its share of tracking and other distortions.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  This a clean track featuring some crisp audio in the modern footage and interviews.  The audio from archive clips and home video comes with its share of dating.  The film really didn’t need to have a 5.1 track as its all interviews, old footage that wasn’t 5.1 ever and a voice over.

Low Frequency Extension: Maybe a little bit of score, but I didn’t notice much of anything.

Surround Sound Presentation: Once again, there’s really not much of anything in the way of surround for this documentary.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp, loud and clear audio.  Very clean and focused.

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Dinosaur 13 also comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 3:48)

The Continuing Story Of “Sue” (HD, 17:45) – What should have been the end of the documentary or mixed in somewhere there.  The people from the Chicago Field Museum get to talk about “Sue” and share their care and enthusiasm for their showcase.  In the documentary they are very much a non-entity leading one to think they just don’t care.  This serves as a nice little epilogue.

Fossil Whales Of Peru (HD, 5:44) – An old and short documentary.

Complete Auction Of Sue (HD, 10:19) – The entire auction, start to finish.

How To Build A Dinosaur (HD, 1:49) – Shows how the people from the film build a dinosaur in their warehouse.

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Dinosaur 13 is a tale of an exciting revelation, a dream being snatched away from people and a bittersweet resolution.  Its a story that is definitely worth your time to take a gander, or if you remember the event in the news you’ll get a much more in depth look on what really happened.  This Blu-ray comes with a good audio and video presentation as well as a nice selection of extras to compliment the feature.  I’m not sure this is one you need to rush out and buy (I’m weird on that with most documentaries as I don’t find a whole lot of rewatch value in a lot of them; great ones or just solid), but you should definitely see it if you get the opportunity.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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