Netflix UK film review: Dinosaur 13
Ivan Radford | On 17, Jan 2015
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Cast: Peter L. Larson
Watch Dinosaur 13 online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Not seen Dinosaurs 1 through 12? That doesn’t matter: neither has anyone else. Until Sue was discovered by Peter Larson in the South Dakota desert, there had never been a complete T-Rex skeleton found. The dozen before it were impressive, but Sue? She was the real deal. Dinosaur 13 tells her story.
That doesn’t mean CGI Jurassic flashbacks and Disneyfied voice overs: that means fossil brushes, labelled body parts and tiny hammers for chipping away at rock. Dinosaur 13 brings the dead to life without any need for John Hammond or InGen’s technology. This is paleontology, baby – and if you like the sound of that, you’ll love this.
It turns out, though, that the dino business is a lot more complex than just digging bones up and giving them to museums: it’s an actual business. With rare fossils up for grabs, it’s not just academics after them, but commercial traders too. That’s where Pete and his Hill City Institute come in: they buy and sell fossils. But who has the right to own them? What happens if the bones are dug up on state-owned land?
Less Tyrannosaurus and more “Doyouthinkhe’llsueus?”, Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary plays like a thriller; chapter-like bursts of exposition unfold in chronological order, with knowing narration and cliffhanger reveals interrupted by repeated fades to black, all powered along by a metronome score.
Dinosaur 13 benefits from such an unusual subject matter, but while legal battles lead to unexpected (and shocking) places, Miller digs up the personal struggle faced by Larson and his team; this is an emotional as well as a factual excavation. Combined with some beautiful landscape shots and classily shot recreations (starring Peter’s son as a younger him), the overall effect is a gripping and entertaining ride; like a low-tech prequel to Jurassic Park. If it were directed by Ross from Friends.
Dinosaur 13 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.