Journey to Dinosaur Island is a 2014 British-Australian film spear-headed by Australian film maker, Matt Drummond and distributed by Arclight. I’m always up for a film about dinosaurs, so let’s get into it.
We open with our hero, Lucas, in his science class. His teacher gets annoyed by him talking to a friend and calls upon him to give the lesson. Which Lucas is able to do, coming from a Science family and knowing a great deal about Geology. This does not please his teacher, who expected him to fail so he could castigate him for wasting time in front of the entire class. Because that’s the sign of a great teacher, wanting your students to be ignorant. We cut to Lucas visiting his grandmother’s old house with his mum. There, he finds a strange crystal. Which he decides to take with him on a plane trip. There’s some turbulence. The crystal glows. The next thing Lucas knows, he’s on a strange island full of relics from other times, including real live dinosaurs.
In terms of the narrative, the biggest issue is that the plot meanders a bit once it gets going. It moves from one point to the next to the next and so on without always giving the current plot time to breathe and develop. Which makes the pacing feel a bit rushed.
I do appreciate the premise. The idea of objects, people and animals getting displaced in time and all ending up in the same spot is great. I also like the twist. It is kind of obvious, but this is also a family film and it’s really well handled. The ending is great and there are a lot of good scenes.
For most of the film, the only three characters are Lucas, Kate and Mimos. Kate is a highly intelligent young woman from the past who’s been on the island for a while. Mimos is her pet Sinornithosaurus. She named him that due to his uncanny ability to mimic sounds he’s heard. I’ll give the film credit here, Lucas and Kate have a really strong dynamic. They’re also both pretty well fleshed out characters. I will also say that Mimos is fantastic just in general. He’s so bloody adorable. The film is also very good at using Mimos strategically. They don’t just throw him into every scene. They use him at just the right moments to make him a lovable mascot without making him over-used.
The rest of the characters, not so much. The side characters in general have very specific purposes that they do and not much personality aside from that. Which is fine. They don’t exactly get much screen time and we don’t need to hear their life stories.
Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:
I’ve heard a lot of people bitch and moan because scientists have talked about dinosaurs having feathers and “they just don’t look as good like that.” And for those people, I would recommend this film. It has some of the best designed dinosaurs I’ve seen in any film and the majority of them are feathered. The T-rex, the raptors, Mimos, they all look fantastic. Obviously, it’s all done with CG but it’s very good looking CG. I also have to give Drummond credit, his shots are on point and the interactions with the CG creatures are pretty believable.
Acting & Music:
The acting is well done. It’s not easy to persuasively interact with something that’s not actually there but both Darius Williams & Kate Rasmussen pull it off really well. They also really sell the dynamic between their characters. Chris Wright’s soundtrack is a bit standard but it’s fine. It works well enough.
Areas of Improvement:
- Spend more time with some of the scenes. This might necessitate a longer film but I think it would really help flesh things out better.
- Flesh out Ernest’s character a bit. Overwhelmingly, the supporting characters don’t need more fleshing out. Ernest is an exception. Our heroes encounter him when they’re taken prisoner. He tells Lucas how to escape the island. Then they escape and leave him behind. Which really bothers me. First off, why would he just share that information? He doesn’t really gain anything from it. Secondly, why don’t they help him escape too? And what happens to him afterwards?
- Maybe a bit more interaction with Lucas and his dad. We see what things are like with Lucas and his mum because they go to is grandma’s house together. We only see his dad for a minute at the very end.
For a family friendly film involving dinosaurs, there aren’t many better than this. It’s a strong adventure with some well written characters and amazing effects. Yes, there are some things that could be done better but I’m also saying that as a cynical adult. If I’d first watched this as a kid, I probably would have been re-watching it constantly like I did with both Rescuers films, The Land Before Time & Flipper. I’ll give it a solid 8/10. If you’re looking for a dinosaur film for yourself, a young relative or both I’d recommend it.