Background: Dinosaurs have long fascinated modern man, not just for the historical aspects of their existence but the sheer magnitude of how the world evolved from a vastly different place. But for a meteor striking Earth millions of years ago, it is likely that dinosaurs would still rule the world, their reign having already lasted far longer than humans have been dominating the planet. As with anything else, public interest translates into money so it is no surprise that recent shows like Discovery Dinosaur Pack and Prehistoric Park cashed in on this wide scale interest, growing numbers of scientists finding the interest helping to fund their expeditions across the globe. The most modern reason for this continued interest is attributed to the popularity of the Jurassic Park franchise led by Steven Spielberg. Well, with this interest in mind, the History Channel went forth with a slightly different concept that emphasized the best elements of the fictional dinosaur universe and combined it with the popularity of the various investigative shows in big demand these days, resulting in a show now released on DVD called Jurassic Fight Club.
Series: Jurassic Fight Club owes a debt of gratitude to Spielberg to be sure but it also borrows from the pop culture hit Fight Club in how it uses scientific inquiry to imagine a series of battles between the beasts of old that walked the Earth millions of years ago. To support the claims made by a plethora of scientists, various medical and scientific advances such as CAT scans on the fossils that have been uncovered over the years. The "dinosaur detectives" then compare the speculated results to determine what kind of behaviors were likely of the beasts by looking for modern day equivalents (certain brain stem or other brain compartment proportions tend to result in markedly similar behaviors). Many fossils also had cuts, abrasions, bite, or claw marks that could be reasonably tracked back to other fossil evidence, the final outcome allowing the producers to commission animated "fights" between the re-imagined animals. Like the Walking With... series and others mentioned above, a lot of speculation is needed to make the battles seem realistic and just as with any other scientific theory, the results are far from conclusive, but it makes for fun viewing to say the least.
If you've watched any of the other cable shows focusing on dinosaurs in recent years, you will already be prepared to hear that the animation is out of date and looked cheap in most cases but it was still done handily enough to make the combatants and their behaviors interesting to watch. I would say that some of the conclusions drawn or basic science applied might be a bit behind the times (raptors have been believed to sport feathers, or a form of feathers, for a long time now but they were not considered cannon in the series itself just as T-Rexes are now considered by most to have been scavengers over active meat hunters). All of this aside, the four disc set had 12 episodes that were pretty fun to watch and even the reported violence of the show was in line with PG movies for those with children. The only real extra outside of outlines for the show on the covers would be a bit of additional footage lasting 23:01 minutes, handled in a format that let series lead George Blasing, a renowned Paleontologist, answer some questions by comparing evidence and showing clips from the series. On that note, the down side of the series is how often it used the same footage in one way or another, after having seen certain dinosaurs doing the same thing in the same clips, I wished a bigger budget could have been added to make it look better. That said, here is a look at the individual episodes as described by the History Channel's website, the order of the episodes on the DVD set slightly different than how they aired originally:
Majungatholus versus Majungatholus. Scientists uncover the first authentic case of dinosaur cannibalism. Paleontologists look deep into the brain cavity to give science new insight into their behavior, then by studying the behaviors of modern animals, experts recreate a scenario of what occurred when a male Majungatholus went in search of a mate, but found a non-receptive female who was more interested in protecting her young, than mating.
Tyrannosaurus Rex was the most feared predator on earth, but to one particular dinosaur, he was prey. A discovery in Montana reveals the broken and fractured bones of a juvenile T-Rex, and the teeth of its attacker. Experts measuring the size and shape of the teeth are able to identify the attacker as Nanotyrannus. As more bones emerged, paleontologists get an unprecedented look into 65 million year old battle and help answer questions about the origin of Nanotyrannus, the "Tiny Tyrant".
The bird-like predator Deinonychus takes on the large plant-eating dinosaur called Tenontosaurus. Scientists give a never before seen look into how these animals moved, fought and behaved and recreate what happened when a pack of deadly raptors took on an adversary more than twice their own size.
Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus go at each other at a prehistoric watering hole that became the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in paleo- history. Scientists uncover more than 15,000 bones and discover where multiple dinosaur species fought to the death under the intense heat of a Jurassic drought.
DEEP SEA KILLERS
Megalodon, a 50 foot long cousin of the modern Great White Shark battles Brygmophyseter, the "biting sperm whale", an enormous creature equipped with 44 teeth that equaled those of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
HUNTER BECOMES HUNTED
Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus face off. Scientists reconstruct a battle that took place between the two predators, in a fight for dominance when the hunter becomes the hunted.
Millions of years of evolution have created some of the most terrifying and monstrous dinosaurs ever imagined. Now, we get a firsthand look at some of the most deadly dinosaurs. From the man-sized Utahraptor, to the gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex; we'll focus on their sizes, weaponry and behaviors, ultimately revealing the one killer who is responsible for more deaths than all other predators combined.
RAPTORS LAST STAND
Gastonia, covered in armor and spikes and built like a prehistoric tank, challenges the largest member of the raptor family ever discovered - Utahraptor. Using the latest in dinosaur technology and painstaking reconstructions of skeletal designs, experts are able to reconstruct the lives of these two ancient rivals and recreate a confrontation featuring power, stealth and secret weapons on an ancient battlefield over 120 million years ago.
ICE AGE MONSTERS
The Mega-Lion, a 750 pound giant cousin of modern lions goes head to head with the Short -Faced Bear, an 11 ½ foot tall terror equipped with huge claws and muscles. Using a detailed study of the skeletal design of each combatant, and applying modern bear and lion behaviors, for the first time ever experts recreate a blow by blow account of how these two ice aged monsters fought to the death.
RIVER OF DEATH
A herd of plant-eating Pachyrhinosaurus are attacked by a pair of deadly Albertosaurus. With their backs against a flooding river, the herd must stand its ground, but when one of the members makes a break for freedom, it puts the entire herd at risk. It's brains versus brawn on a prehistoric battleground in ancient Canada, where the power of nature is more than a match for all.
RAPTOR VS. T-REX
Duckbilled dinosaur Edmontosaurus battles a pack of Dromaeosaurus, deadly members of the raptor family. Using their large brains, the raptors drive the Edmontosaurus into the perfect death trap. Once he enters the valley, there will be no escape. But the raptors cannot lay claim to this death trap. It is patrolled by a predator that is unequalled in the dinosaur kingdom, the T-Rex.
65 million years ago, dinosaurs along with millions of other life forms are wiped from planet earth in a massive single event. Experts from a variety of scientific backgrounds are brought together to review the evidence and help explain the events that caused this mass extinction. What they would discover is that an asteroid the size of Mt. Everett (Everest?) slammed into the earth near South America. Reviewing worldwide evidence, and using the latest in modern scientific technology, experts reconstruct their last moments on earth and recreate the day that earth faced an unimaginable assault from space.
Okay, I'm a sucker for dinosaur shows and series as much as any overgrown kid so despite the limitations of the material, I rated it as Recommended. The specific scientific conclusions from each episode aside, there was a wealth of information provided and even the older (outdated) tidbits proffered still gave me much to think about. The show might have been better if it had employed differing opinions about each dinosaur or the fighting characteristics involved, but I would be remiss if I failed to point out how this sort of "info-tainment" science speculation show sparks the imagination that could lead to many more children studying the subject to become the cutting edge scientists of the future. If you enjoy dinosaur shows, forensic science shows, and fighting shows, you will have plenty to appreciate with this one.
Picture: Jurassic Fight Club was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as it aired on the History Channel cable network last year. It was coded in the MPEG-2 codec and looked better on DVD than when the show aired on cable (I caught a few episodes), the 480i resolution nicely done, though a high definition version might appeal to those of you if one ever comes out. There was some clipping on a few dinosaurs and the CGI was not high end by any means but the series was directed by veteran Kreg Lauterbach using narrator Erik Thompson so the clips tended to flow rather freely into one another naturally. The video bitrate hovered in the 5.3 Mbps area most of the time I paid them any attention, the overall impression I got being that it was definitely a step or two up for the History Channel compared to previous projects commissioned by the cable channel.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital English, sporting an audio bitrate of 224 Kbps and a sampling rate of 48 kHz. There was closed captions for the hearing impaired but the separation between the channels was such that it will not really do a lot for the average home theater owner, those with generic television sets faring quite well by comparison. The dynamic range was fair though and the aural qualities of the dinosaurs seemed to be an upgrade from various other shows I have listened to over the years.
Extras: There were episode synopsis' for each episode and a 23:01 minute long feature of additional footage starring clips and "Dinosaur George" Blasing explaining some of the discoveries in the world of paleontology in recent years, debunking some of the myths brought to us by Hollywood.
Final Thoughts: Jurassic Fight Club Season One was a fun show to get into and while the computer generated images were about what I might expect from a five year old videogame, the ideas presented and the manner in which they were presented struck a chord in me. This might have been full of science-lite and had a lot of repetition in some of the dinosaurs used throughout the series but even a friend of mine that hates dinosaurs seemed impressed with it, wanting to borrow it once I finished this review (the woman in her 70's IIRC). As a means to interest audiences in more than the stupid pap forced down our collective throats by network television, this show worked well enough to merit my recommendation, the price per episode not bad at all if you find it on sale. In short, fans of dinosaurs might appreciate the modernistic approach that Jurassic Fight Club took with the material at hand, serving to spark some interest in youthful audiences and their adult counterparts alike.