Age of Dinosaurs (2013)
Company: The Asylum
Runtime: 90 mins
Plot: Using breakthrough flesh-regeneration technology, a biotech firm creates a collection of living dinosaurs. But when the creatures escape and terrorize Los Angeles, a retired firefighter must rescue his teenage daughter from the chaos brought on by this new Age of Dinosaurs.
Review: Age of Dinosaurs is the movie that Dinosaur Week here on the B-Movie Shelf has been leading up to. Since I had already covered all of my personal collection of some of the more classic dinosaur B-Movies in the past, such as The Carnosaur Trilogy, Raptor, The Eden Formula, and a previous Asylum dino movie 100 Million B.C, I opted to do all recent ones such as Area 407, The Dinosaur Project, Jurassic Attack, and now Asylum's newest release, Age of Dinosaurs. It's no secret that I've gone on many rants in the last year or so about the over-abundance of killer shark movies in the B-Movie realm in the last decade, and I was hoping companies would make a move away from them and towards some other creature. I actually was thinking last year that spiders would be taking the B-Movie throne from sharks due to Camel Spiders, Arachnoquake, Spiders 3D, and Mega Spider all being announced around the same time (The last one there still hasn't been released, though I believe it's name has now been changed to Big Ass Spider). I may have been wrong though, because all these recent dinosaur movies kind of snuck up on me out of nowhere like the pack-hunting Velociraptors from Jurassic Park and it's possible that if this keeps up, the spiders and sharks can fight over the throne all they want because dinosaurs will have shot right past both of them. And I'm A-ok with that, since I love me some good dinosaur B-Movies. This particular one was directed by Joseph Lawson, the guy who directed my top favorite Asylum movie of all of last year, Nazis at the Center of the Earth, so suffice to say I was heavily anticipating Age of Dinosaurs
And ohhh boy, it did not disappoint. After having just watched this, I can't think of a better movie to end The B-Movie Shelf's Dinosaur Week off on. It's not only the best dinosaur movie of this week, it's one of the best dinosaur B-movies, period. Jumping right in, the cast was surprisingly excellent in this. Treat Williams plays a retired fireman that once the Dino rampaging starts, keeps having to find, get separated from, and then find again his teenage daughter. Now Treat Williams has certainly aged quite a bit since his Deep Rising/Substitute 2/The Phantom days, but he can still act very well and not once did he come across as 'knowing he's in a B-movie so he's going to just sleep through his lines' like so many other established actors come across as in these kinds of movies. Treat Williams was just genuinely good and enjoyable. Also just as good and enjoyable was the actress that plays his daughter, Jillian Rose Reed. I know her most from My Super Psycho Sweet 16, Part 3, and knew I was in for a treat with her here. In that movie, her character, on paper, was written to be obnoxious and annoying, yet on-screen she came across as more loveable due to Jillian Rose Reed's great acting chops. With that in mind, she did not disappoint here either, having improved even more since her time last year on that third Super Psycho Sweet 16 movie. Both of these people were ace actors in this and while any scene with one of them in it was good, every scene with both of them in it was excellent, as they played off of one another very well. Hell, even the more minor side characters were very well-acted in this one (with my personal favorite being the awesome Police Chief), and those kind of roles tend to be among an Asylum's film's weakest points as normally it feels like they just grab any average joe off the street or someone's friend or relative to play those roles, but here they were all amazingly competent, and then some.
Of course it's not really the cast you're wondering about with this, is it? A movie called Age of Dinosaurs normally has one specific talking point that everyone wants to know about the most, and that would obviously be the dinosaurs themselves. Well, we have three main species' that keep popping up over and over and are the movie's main focus when it comes to this area – we have a nest of vicious squawking Pteranodons, a pack of hungry spikey-skinned Carnotaurus', and a rather large and pissed off Ceratosaurus. I've been a fanboy of the Carnotaurus ever since Michael Crichton's The Lost World novel introduced the species to me, and I've been waiting anxiously ever since for a live-action movie to showcase them. Even the Ceratosaurus is a similar kind of dinosaur that I always enjoyed and kind of wanted to see in a movie other then it's super-brief and pointless scene in the third Jurassic Park movie, so in terms of dinosaur line-up this movie pretty much reached into my dreams and pulled out exactly what I've been wanting to see for decades. And best part is, none of these creatures got short-changed at all! During the first half of the movie, and after a very awesome opening that includes a fun Alien 3 homage, we mostly stick with the slightly-smaller, very quick and deadly Carnotaurs as they move throughout the dimly-lit corridors and various rooms of this one large building after everyone gets trapped in when it goes into lockdown during the dinosaur escape, and stalks the survivors as they either hide out or try to find an escape. Even during the second half, after the dinosaurs break loose from the building and go on a rampage through the city, we still get a handful of good scenes centered around these fellas as they chase people down the streets, or sneak into a bar to slaughter the patrons, or follow our main heroes through a clothes store and onto the roof of a building to attempt to snack down on them, these guys are never far from the camera. The best part about that second half though, is that the other species' really get to shine as well – the Pteranodons are flying off with pedestrians in their claws, or engaging in attacks with police helicopters, while the larger but colorful Ceratosaur, which didn't really have much room to move around in while trapped in the building, takes on cars, police vehicles, and swat teams while it rampages through the city. Hell, there's even one scene where it smashes through a wall and right into the interior of a shopping mall – this movie does not shy away from awesome dinosaur action beats, and all of them are pure Hits, with no Misses in sight.
At first I was questioning the movie as to why the scientists would bring back all carnivore dinosaurs instead of herbivore ones, seeing as how the entire reason they want them is for A) a new type of skin regeneration breakthrough and B) to use them for theme parks and birthday parties and all sorts of things like that, and Herbivores would make much more sense then potential killers, but then the characters actually addressed that little aspect in a line of dialog, so kudus for even addressing it as most B-movies wouldn't have even acknowledge that; Sometimes it's the little things that can go a long way to adding to your enjoyment of these. Plus, when all is said and done, if they hadn't done it the way they did, the movie wouldn't have been nearly as interesting to watch!. And yes, I realize that in my review of The Dinosaur Project I bitched quite a bit about the lack of Tyrannosaurus Rex and yet I'm not complaining about it here with this movie, but that's because it just didn't bother me at all with this one. We got other dinosaurs in its place, and ones at that, that I have been wanting to see in a dinosaur movie for so so long. All Asylum needed to throw in to make my dino dream complete would have been a Baryonyx (similar to a Spinosaurus, but without the large hulking fin on its back) and I would have been set for life. And for the record, there actually is a Tyrannosaurus Rex in Age of Dinosaurs, but it's only for a couple of very quick shots once herds upon herds of all sorts and sizes of dinosaurs break loose of their confines and break out into the city and essentially start Dinosaurmageddon, which turned out to actually be quite the visual feast on the eyes, though even a couple hours after having watched the movie I still have no idea how the Spinosaurus got on top of that skyscrapper, and especially as quickly as it did, but hey – very very minor quibble. Especially when the fun shot of it getting fired upon by the military helicopters and knocked off the roof made up for any leaps in the laws of physics that had to be made.
The special effects though is really where a movie like this can be made or broken. It doesn't help to be ambitious if you don't have the effects to back up your vision, otherwise it just comes across as hokey and lame and brings an otherwise excellent movie down. In Age of Dinosaurs, Asylum does what they normally do in such movies and use a combination of both CGI models as well as practical puppetry to bring the creatures to life. What they will normally do I find is use CGI for 98% and then use very quick close-up shots of the practical work for some of the death scenes, but neither really mesh with one another and you usually don't get more then a 2 second look at the physical puppetry. Luckily this movie breaks that trend as the two do mesh together very well, and we get much more and much longer uses of the practical effects then normal. And the best part? Both types look PHENOMENAL, way way better then I was expecting. The only really iffy questionable part for the effects were a couple shots of the Ceratorsaur running down the city streets, and even then it wasn't all of the scenes of that, just a couple of the more wonky-looking ones - you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it. Other then those couple shots though, the CGI and practical both were far better then I was expecting. Even in the later parts of the movie when Dinosaurmageddon happens and there are dozens upon dozens of CGI models running around and causing havoc and there is just all around so much happening, I was expecting the CGI effects work to take a pretty massive hit, but it really didn't, and everything stayed on-par with the way the rest of the movie had been presented. I actually officially want Asylum to pick up the Carnosaur rights from Roger Corman and do some sort of Carnosaur 4 (Night of the Carnosaurs? Or Carnosaurpocalypse, perhaps?). Their practical models here looked almost exactly like what you would expect to see in a Carnosaur movie, in terms of both design and craftsmanship. Hell, this movie itself was a more faithful Carnosaur sequel then the actual unofficial Carnosaur 4, Raptor, especially during the first half of this movie when the dinosaurs were stalking our characters through the tightly enclosed corridors and rooms of the one main building. Actually, this entire movie is pretty much EXACTLY what I said in my review of Carnosaur 3 as to how I wished that movie had played out, so I'm thrilled to FINALLY get a version of that wish here (with the added bonus of my wish dinosaurs as well!) Seriously, I said it earlier and I'll say it again, Asylum had to have found a way to reach into my dreams and pull this movie out because there is so much in here that are things I've been saying at various times that I've been wanting in a live-action dinosaur movie.
It's becoming a trend in this review to say this aspect or that aspect is surprisingly excellent or above and beyond what you would expect, but when it's the truth then you can't really help it, and that trend is something I'm happy to repeat for the musical score as well. Chris Ridenhour has been Asylum's go-to composer for years, and more often then not his musical scores tend to be a very positive talking point in my reviews as he almost always turns in top-notch work. Another regular in the B-Movie genre for composing is Andrew Morgan Smith, and to say that together they both bring their A-game to this movie couldn't possibly be more true - both action scenes and slower character moments had excellent music that was faithful to the tone of the scene, adding to the experience as opposed to taking you out of it like many of these kinds of movies do. I'm also not ashamed to say that some of the slower music, especially near the beginning when Treat Williams was trying to connect to his daughter, was actually genuinely touching. In addition to that, they also threw in some fun Jurassic Park and King Kong inspired beats throughout as well, which was mucho appreciated by this Jurassic Park fanboy right here.
In fact, this movie was filled to the brim with tons of Jurassic Park-related easter eggs, some of which the casual fan might pick up on like some very similar lines of dialog or familiar-framed scenes and locations to name a couple aspects of the movie to look for, while other easter eggs only the die-hard Jurassic Park fans will notice, such as the name Dodgson written on a label (a character that was only in the first Jurassic Park movie for one scene but was a main villain in the book series) and a date appearing in the same scene, which is actually the date that the first Jurassic Park movie originally premiered - just little fun nods like that are sprinkled throughout. There's also another scene that I'm not 100% sure is a nod to the Jurassic Park franchise, but considering all the other easter eggs here, I'm certainly leaning more toward the fact that it is. See, the original climax for Jurassic Park 3 had the escaped pack of Pteranodons attacking the helicopter with our heroes in it as they tried to leave the island, but for whatever stupid reason they ended up scrapping that scene from the movie and we never got to see it (or any climax really, but whatever...), which is a shame as I've read a draft of the script with it in, and it sounded like it would have been a really awesome scene. Well here in this movie, we do indeed get a climax of our heroes attempting to leave in a helicopter, only to get attacked by one of the Pteranodons. Over all the scene was quite nice, albeit it short, but I couldn't help but wonder if they threw that in there to please Jurassic Park fans, such as I, that was disappointed in Jurassic Park 3 cutting out it's similar scene. Going by all the other easter eggs here, it's pretty obvious that the crew in charge of making this movie are large Jurassic Park fans, so I'd say it's a safe bet that that is indeed the case with that scene, in which I'd be most pleased as it is yet ANOTHER thing from my dream dinosaur movie that I finally got to see realized here.
Any downsides to this one, other then a couple wonky CGI shots of the Ceratorsaur running down the city streets? Not really, but I do have one minor nit-pick, though it's certainly not anything major or deal-breaking. I was slightly confused by the end, as it seemed that it didn't really wrap a whole lot up. I mean, unless I missed something, there are still herds upon herds of various dinosaurs running loose out there, as the last we see of inside the city the dinosaurs are still all running amok, and then we leave the city for the remainder of the movie for that Pteranodon vs the Helicopter climax, and those shots are the last we ever see or hear about those other dinosaurs, with no conclusion or wrap-up of the fact that there are hundreds of dinosaurs running loose in the world now. Unless the entire point of the ending is that dinosaurs now roam the earth again, but if that's the case then it could have been made a bit more clear; the final shot is of Treat Williams and Jillian Rose Reed standing on a cliff and looking over the city, and they could have used that opportunity to show some CGI smoke plumes rising up from multiple points within the city, with a chorus of various dinosaur roarings or something similar to confirm that yes, the ending of the movie implies that dinosaurs now roam the Earth again and have overtaken the city. But as it stands, in my eyes, that aspect seems to be not quite wrapped-up very well. Like I said though, that's only a teeny tiny nitpick that comes at the very very end, and is in no way a deal breaker, especially when the movie contains so much other greatness within it
Joseph Lawson, Chris Ridenhour, Andrew Morgan Smith, the guys in charge of the awesome sound effects, the editors, the guy who wrote the script for this, Treat Williams, Jillian Rose Reed, all the other side characters – everyone involved in this movie really outdid themselves and pretty much deserve a standing ovation. Age of Dinosaurs raised the Asylum bar just that much higher for all of their future movies now that I know what they're truly capable of. And it's probably no coincidence that, just like with Nazis at the Center of the Earth, it always seems to be a Joseph Lawson-directed Asylum movie that is always raising the bar for future Asylum movies, hahaha. Actually, out of all Asylum movies that should get sequels, this is the one that I really want another entry of, especially if the point of the ending was that the world now has a large population of dinosaurs back in it. That could make for a pretty awesome semi-post-apocalyptic dinosaur movie and sequel. Hell, such a direction wouldn't even require returning actors or characters since I know Asylum tends to shy away from sequels. They could pretty much just pass it off as an almost-stand alone movie. All I ask is that they get the same crew back that made this one!
Age of Dinosaurs is not only my favorite Asylum film to date, but it's also one of my favorite dinosaur B-movies, period. And if you're looking for a good, entertaining, mindless popcorn dinosaur B-movie, you can do no wrong with this one. More movies of this caliber please, Asylum! And more dinosaur movies!
10/10 rooms in the Psych Ward