The Good Dinosaur (2015) is a 3D animated feature film produced by Pixar and directed by Peter Sohn. It was released on November 25th, 2015. In this world the meteor, that wiped out the dinosaurs over 1 million years ago, never made impact. Instead, it just cruised by planet earth and allowed the dinosaurs to grow and evolve. The story follows Arlo, the youngest of a long neck sauropod family of five, and his journey to make his mark and overcome fear.
For the most part, I enjoyed the film. The animation, as with all of Pixar's masterpieces, is amazing. The set design, the colors, and the overall details. It's a feast for the eyes, and the world that Pixar has created is astonishing, on both a technical and an artistic level. There's a sense of realism that few films have achieved, yet still cartoony enough for it to blend seamlessly with the designs of Arlo and the rest of the Good Dinosaur's creatures.
Spot, the human boy that Arlo eventually befriends, was by far my favorite character in the film. I enjoyed his energy, his quirky animation, and his feral characteristics. The moment they share, where they're using sticks to represent family, was probably the best scene in the entire movie. There was a lot of emotion, a lot of character development, and exposition, all without talking. Brilliant.
Not sure if this is a spoiler, but just in case, spoilers ahead! So, there's a pack of pterodactyls. When they first showed up I was expecting them to be helpful and friendly. Cause that's just how this film felt. Cute and pretty tame. I had an inkling that they could have darker motives, but I was like no! This is a Pixar film. They're just like the school of fish in Nemo. Or Bruce. And the sharks! Come on. They're well meaning and just helping out.
Arlo helps them save a woodland creature trapped in a fallen stump. After the rescue, the leader of the pack, Thunderclap, shoves the adorable woodland creature into his mouth and eats it! The rest of the pack proceed to fight over it, and this genuinely took me by surprise. Like I said, I was thinking about it, but thought it would never happen. The fact that it did made me burst out laughing. It was terrifying and enjoyable at the same time!
However, overall, I felt like this was the weakest of all of Pixar's movies. It wasn't as imaginative as I thought it would be. With the creative worlds in Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Wall.E, Inside Out, and Up, I was hoping for something a bit more exaggerated. And The Good Dinosaur felt tame in comparison.
I also didn't see the effects of the comet “not hitting the earth” coming into play as much as I hoped. Yes, the dinosaurs seemed more civilized, and had the ability to herd cattle, tend farms, and build food storage units, but all of this could have just been the every day life of a dinosaur. It possibly could have been the story of how dinosaurs lived their lives, and how humans were primitive and animalistic during the dawn of time.
I mean, whether the meteor hit or not, it seemed like the Good Dinosaur could have played out the same way in any case. Yes, humans and dinosaurs didn't coexist, so the meteor missing earth allowed Arlo to meet Spot. I get that. But there have been stories where both have lived side by side, so it isn't unheard of.
The role reversal, with the dinosaurs being domesticated and the humans being feral was kind of an interesting concept, but I feel like the idea of the meteor not striking earth should have had a more significant change on the entire world and how dinosaurs lived their lives. How they evolved. How they learned. You know?
The other thing about this film is that, despite being in a world filled with ancient creatures, there was a serious lack of... ancient creatures? It was so empty. I guess this lends itself to the feeling of isolation and being alone, which adds to Arlo's quest, but I was hoping to see more dinosaurs to help build and reinforce this world. There were a few creatures here and there, but for the most part the only dinosaurs populating The Good Dinosaur were ones that were important to the plot. Not many, if at all, in the background.
Not even any fish or sea creatures populating the water. With all the time Arlo spent nearly drowning, I was waiting for something to try and eat him or drag him under. Or maybe that's just my phobia talking? And speaking of water, spoilers! So, during the course of the film, Arlo was swept hundreds of miles downstream, hit by the same flood that took his father away, and even survived a waterfall. How was Alro able to survive all of his encounters with water, while his father was swept into a Pixar heaven?
The Good Dinosaur felt very safe. It just didn't have the same weight and emotional impact that other films in the Pixar universe have had. I felt like Pixar didn't go far enough with the ideas and set pieces of a meteor missing earth, but it was still an enjoyable film. Some may say I shouldn't judge it based on the other films in the library, which is true. I agree. But even on its own, The Good Dinosaur was still just a simple, tame story. It had a few genuine moments and ideas that made me think, but I have to admit I wanted more.
Overall, despite my expectations, it was still a good movie. Cute and the message was well meaning. It made me smile. The Good Dinosaur has a lot of heart, and you can feel Pixar's influence. It's a simpler film that's definitely worth a watch.
THE GOOD DINOSAUR is now available on BLU-RAY, DVD and Digital from DISNEY.