When I heard that the History Channel was going to air a show called Jurassic Fight Club, I immediately thought, "OK, it's an idea based solely on novelty." Now here I am less than a year later, and I'm kicking myself for not giving the show a chance. I watch a lot of film, a lot of television, and a lot of documentaries. Anything to appease my desire for entertainment and quench my thirst for knowledge! As a reviewer, I should know that I can never judge a book by its cover. Jurassic Fight Club - Season One is a perfect example of why, because it's entertaining and educational!
The ultimate goal of the show is to present a CGI battle that happened in prehistoric times. I don't know about you, but part of the reason I was so skeptical about Jurassic Fight Club to begin with, was the factor of authenticity. Seeing a couple of CGI dinosaurs fight to the death is going to bring the giddy five year old inside me alive without fail every time, but as an adult, I want some substance behind what I'm watching. I want to be learning while I'm at it! Maybe that's just the geek in me, who knows?
Not only that, but the presentation was just as important to me. If the information the show was providing came across as boring, if the pacing was off, if the buildup to the final battle was yawn worthy... fail. In the wrong hands, this product had the potential to destroy a seemingly fantastic idea.
Fortunately, Jurassic Fight Club happens to do almost everything right.
As I've said, in order for each battle that's being built up to be truly engaging, there needs to be some authenticity behind what we're watching. You can't just throw a couple of CGI dinosaurs together in an animation and expect it to hold any interest. Thanks to fossil evidence that sports some pretty nice battle damage, and expert analysis from archeologists and paleontologists, you feel like you're watching a piece of history instead of a work of fiction.
Well, when all you have is a pile of bones, how do you make a concept like this authentic? In combination with the historical artifacts that are presented to us by numerous experts, the rest of the information is filled in using technology, as well as already known facts from the animal kingdom as we know it to be today.
You'd be hard pressed to find any piece of information that's been left out. Damage evident on the bones goes under heavy analysis to figure out who the attacker may have been.
The skeletal structure can tell us if the dinosaurs involved were male or female. This may seem like a small detail, but the sex of a prehistoric animal can bring forward a pretty significant piece of the puzzle.
Electronic scans of the skull can let us know the size and build of the animal's brain, too. Based on the size of the brain, or how developed certain parts of the brain had been, the experts are able to guesstimate the thought processes that unfolded throughout the course of the entire battle. Were the dinosaurs holding onto a grudge? Were they simply looking for food? Were they trying to protect their young? These are only a few of the questions that come up throughout the course of the series based on this particular investigative process.
Before the final 10 or 15 minutes of the show gets around to the actual battle itself, you'll know every little detail about the individual animals. You'll know the environments they lived in and what role that played, and you'll know all their strengths and their weaknesses. You'll practically feel like you got inside the mind of the dinosaurs, in the end making you relate to every thought that ultimately got them to clash. There are some historical inaccuracies, but for the most part they're forgivable.
Talk about authenticity? A brief synopsis of the series overall may lead you to believe this is all about dinosaurs fighting, but what else was life about back then? It was about primal instincts. It was about surviving. Kill or be killed. Jurassic Fight Club isn't just about fighting! By getting inside the heads of these primal creatures before and during battle, by understanding how their bodies function, we're actually getting one of the most authentic looks inside the lives of the very beasts we've been unearthing for so long!
Getting so much detail and depth for each scenario may seem like a daunting thing to sit through, but let me tell you, I was very surprised at how easy the information was to digest. The experts talking about every aspect of these creatures lives just flowed off their tongues, and they seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
Jurassic Fight Club could have been absolute rubbish if the presentation wasn't just right. Fortunately, it hits the nail on the head in every regard. The only other thing some may find the time to nitpick about is the quality of the CGI. Sure, it's not Jurassic Park (OK, well, maybe Jurassic Park 3), but the presentation here is far from lazy or disappointing, that's for sure!
The video is presented for a television that can only support a ratio of 4:3. The show however is in 16:9 widescreen, so yeah, the image is disappointingly non-anamorphic. The History Channel needs to get its act together in this respect. Is it really so much more difficult to encode these things so they can fit a 16:9 screen? Here we are, it's 2009, high definition TV's are being complemented with high def gaming systems and video players, and we can't even get an anamorphic DVD over here?
Besides the total disappointment in the screen sizing department, the transfer isn't bad. The picture is sharp, the colors penetrate rather well, contrast is pretty darn good, and there aren't really any distracting compression issues to complain about other than some occasional interlacing.
The audio we have here is also fairly disappointing, as Jurassic Fight Club - Season One only has a Dolby 2.0 track. I've heard some stereo tracks for documentaries that had some pretty nice directionality, but unfortunately this show wasn't given the same generous treatment. There aren't any complaints about the quality of the encode though, as there's no hisses or pops due to poor quality.
Closed captions are available here, but if you're one that prefers subtitles, you're out of luck. Again, one has to ask why The History Channel can't pony up enough of an effort for fairly standard features?
You wouldn't know what the extras are by looking at the back of the DVD packaging itself, because the only description we have available to us is Additional Footage. Wow. I hardly ever comment on the packaging itself by the way, and there's nothing terribly wrong with this set, but each of the four discs in this set are housed in slim cases. That's fine and all, but why give each disc its own case when shelf space is a premium these days? Why not put them in slim cases that can hold two DVD's?
The Additional Footage is really sort of a way to confirm or dispel certain beliefs about dinosaurs. Amongst the topics discussed would be the chicken/dinosaur lineage debate, defensive weapons, if dinosaurs hunted in packs, dino forensics, and more. It's 23 minutes in length, but each topic is split up into segments that feel rather stand alone as if they were aired at the end of each episode.
Jurassic Fight Club - Season One delivers an entertaining package that's fun as well as entertaining. You may actually be surprised at how much you'll learn just by breaking down all the logistics of numerous dinosaur battles!
Although the presentation of each episode is as good as it can probably be on a fairly reasonable budget (read: not Hollywood), the presentation of the DVD's themselves aren't quite as thrilling. Between a non-anamorphic transfer, a less than impressive stereo track, no inclusion of subtitles, and only a fairly minimal extra, there really isn't much here to write home about.
I think the show itself is absolutely fantastic, and that's really the only reason I can recommend this release. If you're an absolute stickler for your video, audio, and extras, you may want to just pick this one up from Netflix.