April 20, 2012
Dinosaurs will fight just about anyone. That’s what movies and comics have taught me, anyway. No surprise, then, that we will soon see a science fiction mash-up that has been due for some time now: Dinosaurs vs. Aliens.
The graphic novel’s premise is exactly what it sounds like. Aliens visit the Mesozoic, and the dinosaurs don’t take too kindly to the invasion. To level the playing field, comic creator Grant Morrison made the dinosaurs extra intelligent. A smattering a preview art even shows dinosaurs that apparently decorated themselves with bone weapons and feather headdresses. Mercifully, though, Morrison’s dinosaurs don’t talk. Instead, much like the creatures in Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles series, the dinosaurs communicate through body language. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Morrison said, “In fact, imagine The Artist, but with bloody, razor-sharp fangs!”
And that’s not all. Even though the graphic novel hasn’t even hit shelves yet, the story is being transmuted into a screenplay for a feature film. Multiple reports and interviews mention that Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld is working with Morrison on a big-screen adaptation, although there is no certainty that we’ll ever see a Tyrannosaurus chomp into a flying saucer in the theater. The “versus” hook is already pretty worn, and last year’s Cowboys & Aliens—also adapted from comics—was not the awesome blockbuster that Hollywood executives were hoping for. I think dinosaurs have a bit more cultural pull than cowboys, but silent dinosaurs versus alien hordes might be too silly and contrived to make it to the big screen. Might this be the next great dinosaur film? I’m skeptical.
October 21, 2011
Soldiers and dinosaurs are an excellent match. Any kid with a bucket of plastic army figures, a horde of dinosaur toys and a sandbox knows this well, as do many grown-up dinosaur fans. In addition to the many, many comics that have pitted packs of dinosaurs against platoons of soldiers, a strange Virginia theme park features Civil War-era theropods and this summer saw the release of the online, multi-player WWII shooter Dino D-Day. It’s only a matter of time before someone creates an alternate history in which George Washington rode a Torosaurus into battle. And the latest addition to the growing list of historical dinosaur fiction? A new survival horror game called “1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg (The War You Never Knew).”
Set behind German lines during WWI, the new dinosaur-haunted game is a claustrophobic experience. The player must navigate through the dark, damp trenches in search of a way out, because it is better to face the horrors of the battlefield than be torn apart by the sickle-clawed dinosaurs that might be hiding right around the next corner. There are no machine guns, rocket launchers, or other heavy firepower here. Your only chance is to distract the dinosaurs with flares and, in a macabre game element, the body parts of your fallen companions long enough to escape. If you would rather gun down scores of raptors and have a shot at blowing up a Tyrannosaurus, you’ll just have to wait for Primal Carnage to come out.
“The War You Never Knew” is a tough game. I quickly got lost in the trenches and more than once found myself hopelessly stuck in a narrow corridor between two approaching dromaeosaurids. I managed to get a little further with each run-through, but the game is one of strategy and memory. You don’t want to try to escape a dinosaur by running down a pathway that leads directly into that pocket of mustard gas you passed by. Which brings up one of my complaints about the game—the predatory dinosaurs seem to be exceptionally resistant to the poison gas in the air. I understand that the point of the game is to avoid the dinosaurs rather than gun them down, but I don’t think the raptors should be nearly invincible, either!
Another small problem for English-speaking users: As you sneak through the trenches, you will stumble across letters which contain background information and clues. These letters are in German. You can still play the game without the information, and the first letter has a handy illustration of a solider distracting a raptor with another man’s hand tossed into the air (a clue as to what you will soon have to do yourself), but I imagine that the other letters probably contain some useful information.
Nevertheless, I quite like the idea of a second, unknown conflict taking place during the chaos of WWI, and the dark, shadowy design of the game sets the perfect mood. I have yet to find the ladder and climb out of the dinosaur-infested trenches, but with some more practice, I just might make it.
October 12, 2011
I have to give Tammy and the T-Rex some credit—I can’t say I have ever seen a dinosaur flick with the same premise. Time-travel, genetic experiments and lost worlds are the traditional routes for bringing humans into contact with dinosaurs, but sticking the brain of a lion-savaged teen inside a robotic Tyrannosaurus? That was a new one for me. But as you might guess, just because the setup is novel doesn’t mean that this is anything more than another bit of bargain-bin dinosaur schlock.
Let me back up a little. At it’s heart, 1994′s Tammy and the T-Rex is a teenage romance that makes the relationship shared by the protagonists of the Twilight series look healthy and perfectly mundane. Michael (Paul Walker) and Tammy (Denise Richards) feel all twitterpated around each other, but they are all angsty because the local meathead Billy feels that Tammy should be his alone. The film quickly turns into something of a boy likes girl, girl likes boy, boy is beaten up and thrown to the lions by girl’s bully boyfriend story. (Because, when there’s an exotic animal enclosure nearby, pummeling someone just isn’t enough.) Spoilers ahead.
Unfortunately for him, Michael’s comatose body shows up at the hospital just as the nefarious Dr. Wachenstein—played by Terry Kiser, who seems unable to choose what sort of accent he is supposed to have—is looking for a brain to implant in his animatronic dinosaur. The beast doesn’t look like it can stand up on its own two feet, but that doesn’t stop the confused Michael from stomping around the place so that he can take his brutal dinosaurian revenge on the gang that harmed him. After one attack at a house party, little more than shredded Keds and tattered acid-wash jeans are left of his victims.
Eventually Tammy realizes that her admirer is in the body of the robot. She seems to take it pretty well. No screaming, no denial, no running away in shock, and apparently no recognition that Michael just killed a bunch of his classmates—she has about as much reaction to the realization as if someone said, “It’s sunny out today.” Nevertheless, dating a robotic dinosaur doesn’t sound all that appealing and so Tammy tries to recover Michael’s body at the funeral. The trouble is that the funeral home apparently just shoved his body in the casket and called it a day when his body arrived, so Michael’s corporeal form just ain’t what it used to be. (“Suddenly, I’m half the man I used to be…“) Further grave-robbing shenanigans ensue without a suitable candidate to be found, and the search is cut short when Wachenstein shows up to reclaim his creation. In a final showdown, Michael kills the mad doctor, but bites the bullet himself under a spray of police gunfire. Or at least his mechanical body does. His brain, still intact, is dusted off by Tammy and hooked up to a computer/camcorder combo in her room. I find it’s best not to ask about how they figured out the human-to-computer interface in their relationship.
December 13, 2010
Situated in the English county of Wiltshire, Stonehenge is one of the most famous archaeological monuments in the world. It is also one of the most mysterious. The culture that made it left no written records behind, so, as Nigel Tufnel has said, “No one knows who they were, or what they were doing.” Sure, there are many hypotheses based upon actual evidence found at the site, but what about the idea—mooted by Eric Idle on the 1981 broadcast of “Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever”—that dinosaurs created Stonehenge? I’ll let the video speak for itself.
[Hat-tip to paleontologist Jim Kirkland for sharing this video on Facebook.]
April 13, 2010
On December 6, 1916, two years into “the war to end all wars,” a German naval crew destroyed a set of 75-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons. Recovered from what is now Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada by the famous fossil-hunting family the Sternbergs, the old bones were en route to England on the Canadian merchant ship SS Mount Temple, but as the ship was crossing the Atlantic it was intercepted by the German military ship the SMS Möwe. Things quickly got out of hand.
According to paleontologist Darren Tanke, who described the events at the seventh annual symposium of the Alberta Palaeontological Society in 2003, when the Mount Temple was ordered to stop and surrender by the Möwe, someone on board turned the single deck gun of the Canadian ship towards the German boat. Taking this as an act of aggression, the crew of the Möwe fired upon the Mount Temple, killing three and injuring several others.
Rather than immediately blow the ship out of the water, however, the German sailors took the remaining passengers of the Mount Temple prisoner (and later sent them to Germany on a captured ship). Once everyone was off the boat they then scuttled the Mount Temple, having no idea about the dinosaurs on board.
Although it has been difficult to put together a complete listing of what was lost, the surviving documents have given paleontologists a general idea of what the Sternbergs were sending to the British Museum of Natural History. Among the shipment were as many as four partial hadrosaur skeletons, the crocodile-like reptile Champsosaurus, fossil turtles and a nearly complete skull of the horned dinosaur Chasmosaurus. There may have been even more, but unless a more complete inventory is found, it is impossible to know.
Yet, Tanke suggests, all might not be lost. It might just be possible to salvage the bones from the wreck of the Mount Temple. The German sailors recorded the approximate coordinates at which they sunk the Canadian ship, and based upon peculiarities of the construction of Mount Temple it is possible that the fossil cargo was dumped out of the sinking ship and headed straight down to the bottom more than 14,000 feet below. This would make any attempt at finding and recovering the fossils extremely challenging, but Tanke is optimistic about the prospect. He concludes:
Could we consider hunting for dinosaurs on the bottom of the Atlantic? Relocation of the Mount Temple, filming her and possible salvaging of fossils (if exposed on bottom) is a technological possibility; it is simply a matter of manpower and money.
For more on the Mount Temple and its dinosaur cargo, check out the Dinosaurs in the Deep website.