Monday, March 7, 2016

The Good Dinosaur and Other Adventure Stories

I am pleased to report I am three pages into the sequel, and everything’s going good so far.

I’m a total slug as far as follow-up promo, but I’ll get there in due time. I’ve been distracted by reading Hugo novels, and then I reached a point where I decided I hated novels, so I went ahead and watched The Good Dinosaur.

I had heard in advance that this was an unusual Pixar film – pitched at dino-loving kids but unusually scary. I love dinosaurs AND scary things, so I liked it even better than The Force Awakens, which was low on both.

The movie takes place in a cute alternate universe where dinosaurs farm the land, and fend off pesky mammalian varmints. They all talk with cowboy accents and live on cozy family farms. A young doofasaurus finds himself in a Fuddian struggle with one particular varmint, a young human named Spot, which leads him into adventures.

Because this is an ADVENTURE STORY.  No wonder it’s scary.

(See large digression regarding adventure stories, coming up next.)

This movie is way scary. Savage beast predators, smooth talking predators, vicious nature, vicious water, stampedes, floods, storms, stampedes. Vulnerable little Spot is frequently endangered by huge vicious things. The doofy dinosaurian hero undergoes some hardcore trauma along with plenty of superficial cuts and bruises. All set against a gorgeous Colorado-Utah type mountain range. 

And yet the tyrannosaurs galloping magestically alongside the cattle they’ve just retrieved from the rustlers made my heart soar. The two brachiosaurs dashing toward each other in ecstatic reunion only to stop precisely short and intertwine necks brought a large smile to my face. The whole notion of dinosaurian farmers made me giggle. And the way the movie bounced from one cliffhanger to the next made me forget all about the rainstorm blowing against my windows.

Yup, I liked it better than TFA. Better than that live action dino movie with Chris Pratt. Better than the Pixar-goes-to-San-Francisco movie because there was a dinosaur John Wayne rather than a Bingbong. Why yes, it is a lazy pile of recycled cliches, but it recycles them in an interesting and novel way.

Is it too scary for kids? Depends on the kid. It does haul out the parental death trope, something I tried to steer away from when writing my own adventure stories, and there are plenty of snapping fangs and stomping hooves and dangerous currents that might agitate kids who have been scared by similar things. Not to mention the psychotic pterodactyls, who are even more terrifying when engaging in conversation than when swooping down from above with gaping jaws.

It’s another attempt at reinventing adventure stories for modern times. It doesn’t always score (like what’s up with that drunk-on-fermented-fruit scene, a Dumbo homage?) but it scores more often than it misses.

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