Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Good Dinosaur

The Good Dinosaur, out now on BluRay and DVD, Pixar’s newest family film, shows us what life might have been like had the asteroid that killed out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago never actually made contact with the Earth. In this alternate universe, humans and dinosaurs live side by side, although dinosaurs seem to be the more advanced species. When Arlo the nervous Apatosaurus ends up miles away from home he meets Spot, a young human, and together they go on an exciting, if slightly surreal, journey home, facing many of their fears along the way.


Immediately you can tell that this is a Pixar film, and that’s a good thing. The scenery is beautiful and some of the animation is incredibly realistic. As all Pixar films do, The Good Dinosaur follows a formula – usually I would be one to complain of formulaic films, but their formula is so spot on every time that it really makes a good film. Sure, us adults might be able to predict what will happen, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, and for children it makes an easy watch. I’m not going to say it’s the best they’ve ever done, because they’ve made an incredible collection of films over the years (and how could any film beat Toy Story?!), but it’s pretty darn good all the same.


I found this film to be more emotional than most – there’s a lot of ‘show, don’t tell’ which is great, and the main characters are really well developed. Visual cues are used a lot more than usual to show concepts such as family death, and physical pain, but in a way that children can understand. There’s also a real Land Before Time feel for those of you that remember watching that as a kid – something that makes it all the more enticing for adults to watch as well as children.

I must admit that the content was much more surreal than I thought it would be, but actually really funny. Along the journey we meet a whole host of bizarre characters (such as a group of Western-style T-Rexes and an animal-hoarding Triceratops who looks weirdly like comedian Milton Jones), but every single little thing that happens feels meaningful, and gives insight into the story. So much so that by the end of the film you wish it could have gone on longer. I loved the repetition used of Arlo running away screaming at the end of every scene, and it just made it more accessible for kids who sometimes might struggle to relate to something that goes on for so long. I also thought the music was great, which had a real percussive feel to it and complemented the storyline perfectly.

For a Pixar film, it’s more hard-hitting than the others – it starts off with a death, and looks at many aspects of the natural world that aren’t so wrapped in cotton wool (fighting and eating other animals for survival being a couple). I didn’t see this as a bad thing though – although this may not be what you’d quite expect from a kids’ film, it was educational, and each scene had a reason behind it. Maybe some parents want  to shield their children from such things, but I thought it had a great way of encouraging different ways of thinking, and speaking to the viewers in real terms.


And that’s the thing I loved most about The Good Dinosaur - the way it challenges children’s concepts of fear. It’s not about becoming fearless, because that’s pretty hard; instead, it’s about just getting through your fears. Because, as Butch the T-Rex so wisely says, “if you ain’t scared, you ain’t alive.

The Good Dinosaur gets a great 4/5.

★★★★☆


Hannah Read


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