Age of Dinosaurs (2013)
Directed by Joseph J. Lawson
The most important thing I learned from watching Age of Dinosaurs is that a heavily-armed SWAT team and missile-launching military helicopters may prove to be no match for rampaging dinosaurs, but give Treat Williams a 2x4 and watch prehistoric ass get kicked.
Any of you remember those old “Dinosaurs Attack” trading cards? Age of Dinosaurs is like a less gory Asylum mockbuster movie version of those cards. A series of silly dinosaur chase and attack scenes tied together by the thinnest of storylines - nothing more, nothing less. I’m talking a storyline so thin that when the end credits began to roll, there really wasn’t much of a sense of resolution; it looked like two characters had reached a safe vantage point while I was left wondering if they were having their happy moment as Los Angeles continued to be overrun by man-eating dinosaurs or if I was supposed to accept that all the other dinosaurs had been successfully killed during a special effects sequence the filmmakers clearly didn’t have the budget to satisfactorily complete in order to make the outcome more clear.
But going back to the “Dinosaurs Attack” comparison, once you get past the initial set-up and the reptiles begin running amok, you could edit most any other scene to follow in any random order and it really wouldn’t make all that much difference. Again, the sensation is that the scenes are just individual trading cards come to life. Dinosaurs eat people in an auditorium. Dinosaurs chase people around an office. Dinosaurs fight a SWAT team. Dinosaurs chase a car down city streets. Dinosaurs fight a Blackhawk helicopter. Dinosaurs chase people through a shopping mall. Dinosaurs stop to fight each other. Dinosaurs chase people through a bar. Dinosaurs escape from their laboratory confines. Dinosaurs chase people through a garment shop. Dinosaurs gets shot, axed, tasered, beaten with a hockey stick and a 2x4. Ronny Cox goes up the stairs. Ronny Cox goes down the stairs. A final battle with a pteradon takes place atop the Hollywood sign. That’s pretty much it. Dinosaurs are on the attack.
The only things tying it all together are hard luck fireman Treat Williams and his teenage daughter, Jade (Jillian Rose Reed, “Awkward”, “Weeds”), being the primary focus of the dinosaurs’ attention and Ronny Cox as the paraplegic CEO of the genetics firm that brought the dinosaurs to life finally able to walk again after using some genetic engineering on himself, only to spend the rest of the movie running around moping over how he never wanted any of this to happen.
I call BS on that last bit. Much of the movie is a testament to poor decision-making skills, but none more than that of Robocop villain Ronny Cox as the CEO of Geneti-Sharp. The mere fact that the company’s name makes them sound like the “As Seen on TV” version of a genetic engineering research company is already a bad sign. Maybe I just don’t have the forward thinking to ever be a corporate honcho, but if your once struggling genetics firm has just developed means by which to allow the paralyzed to walk again and burn patients to grow new skin, honestly, shouldn’t bringing dinosaurs back to life be less of a priority? Not for this guy. Cox has only just stepped out of his wheelchair when he begins touting how not only are his dinosaurs going to be put on display in zoos all over the world, which at least sounds somewhat reasonable, he nonchalantly proclaims his carnivorous creations only being kept docile by what amounts to a sonic dog whistle will soon be used in parades, sporting events, and even sold as household pets. If you think Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction caused controversy, imagine the backlash when the “Hooray for Dinosaurs” Super Bowl halftime show ends badly.
Dick Jones would have been thinking weaponize the bastards, sell them to the military, and he certainly wouldn’t have been running around feeling all guilty the whole time.
Speaking of classic Robocop references, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the 6000 SUX commercial when the big dinosaur starts chasing Williams and daughter’s car down the Los Angeles city streets.
While other breeds of dinosaur do make very brief appearances, flying pteradons, what I think may have been a really big Allosaurus, and a slew of Carnotaurus, which are kind of like raptors with horns and what appeared to be the ability to change size at will, are the only three that get any real play. Geneti-Sharp loved themselves some Carnotarus almost as much as The Asylum did.
All are brought to life by special effects, the quality all over the map, looking great much of the time, and then there would suddenly be a shot that looked either unpolished or downright laughable. Still, it's some of the best visual effects work in an Asylum movie to date, so I’m not going to complain, especially since even the bad effects in this one have a charm to them.
Leading the charge against these dinosaurs is the great Treat Williams, quite possibly the calmest man to ever appear in a rampaging dinosaur flicks. How calm? Amid the initial chaos of the dinosaurs breaking free, as they begin eating screaming attendees while everyone else in the auditorium stampedes for the exit, Williams just stands there in the middle of the aisle (with his back to the ensuing dino threat much of the time) determined to make a phone call to his daughter, who he should know is just sitting in the lobby. The man is sometimes so stoic and grizzled he’s like Clint Eastwood gone Vulcan.
That leaves Reed to convey the true awe and terror of the situation as his initially jaded daughter who would rather sit quietly out in a lobby listening to her iPod than be amongst the first people on planet Earth to witness the stunning rebirth of creatures extinct for millions of years. Her role in the film can be summed up in seven words: run, hide, drive, jump, hit, scream, snark. She does a fine job accomplishing all seven of those attributes.
I take back what I wrote about Cox’s being the character with the poorest decision-making skills. That honor belongs to anyone piloting a helicopter in this motion picture, all of whom share the same mistaken belief that in order to get good clean news footage or a perfect kill shot, you have to get the helicopter within chomping distance of the biggest dinosaur’s jaws. Clearly they all learned to fly at the same school that forgot to teach the chopper pilots in the 1998 Godzilla that helicopters can go up.
The lunacy of the multiple helicopter demises is a prime example of what I consider to be the film’s greatest strength. Much like the “Dinosaurs Attack” trading cards I compared it to, everything about this film is utterly senseless. If you’re willing to accept that senselessness for what it is, then there’s enough fast-paced silly fun to be had. The Asylum has out-Carnosaur’d Roger Corman with Age of Dinosaurs.
I now leave you with a very important question. Can dinosaurs climb? Can anyone please tell Ronny Cox if dinosaurs can climb?
3 out of 5