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A Few Facts, Lots of Speculation and Worlds of Wonder
John A Lee III | San Antonio, TX | 02/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nobody should confuse this with a course of paleontology. Nobody should even confuse this with a broad survey of the subject. Instead, it is a magnificent flight of imagination based upon some real science but which does not let the science take precedence over the wonder. It is wonderful
This is a series of three programs. Each deals with prehistoric life before the advent of the dinosaurs.
In the first program, we are treated to one theory of the formation of our planet and introduced to the Cambrian seas. There are not dinosaurs here. Fish barely even exist. That does not stop the cycle of predation in a world of gigantic marine scorpions and the proto-fish prey. We see the colonization of the land by the first plants and encounter the first amphibians, learning a little bit about the evolutionary pressures that drove their emergence. The program ends with the first true reptiles and the hard shelled egg.
The second episode takes place more on land. Gigantic arthropods contest with gigantic amphibians and the odd reptile here and there. We see the first strains of reptile that will eventually give rise to the mammals. Life is still a contest of the predator and the prey.
The third episode advances the story through the lives of some early, pre-dinosaur reptiles. The motif of eat and be eaten is still the rule of the day. The episode ends with the apprearance of true dinosaurs, where the series first began.
There is a lot of speculation in this work. Some of it is well reasoned and logical. Some of it is much less so. Only a few species are looked at with any degree of detail. The great Devonian age of the fishes is bypassed in a short sentence. That does not stop the wonder of it all. It is fascinating seeing the fossils come to life even with the speculations.
The DVD also includes a "making of" segment which covers all three of the series. It too is worth watching.
This will never replace real coursework and has all of the depth of the old, "Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom" but neither was ever intended to teach zoology. Both were meant to kindle a sense of wonder. Both accomplish that end. "
Putting meat on the bones...
Michael Valdivielso | Alexandria, VA | 02/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Three episodes that explore the life, or what life might have been like, before the dinosaurs showed up onto the stage. With only about 90 minutes that does seem to leave a lot of details out but most of the major turning points are hit on - animals and plants moving from the oceans to the land, the development of certain organs for survival, evolution working to make animals and plants more fit. Sea scorpions, giant spiders and killer fish that could take on sharks make me happy I live NOW and not back then. The DVD extra, the Trilogy of Life, talks about the history of the THREE shows, Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts and Walking with Monsters to show how the first series produced the next and so on. I really enjoyed this series and wanted more - I think dinosaurs get too much of the spotlight and would like to know more about life before and after them."
Nick Spreitzer | Chicago, IL USA | 04/08/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Seems that Tim Haines and BBC decided to follow in George Lucas' footsteps. Making what would be best accepted by the public first, then completing the series later with the more controversial stuff (if Lucas had made the Phantom Menace first, no one would know what Star Wars is today - the story is far too complicated). Walking With Dinosaus and Prehistoric Beasts were both quite good, except the narration by Kenneth Branaugh, who seemed like he could care aless about what he was talking about and give the impression that these animals were failures (which they were not!) There are some things about the series that I didn't like, mostly the animatronics and some facts, nitpicking stuff. Walking With Monsters, in my humble oppinion is the least strong of the series for the following reasons. 1: It was too short. 2: The animals didn't act as naturalistically as they did in the others (spiders don't stab and stab their prey like a human murderer, they jab and then wait for their poison to take affect). 3: It seemed rushed - sequences that should have taken 30 minutes took half that. Despite these fallbacks, the CG is quite good, animatronics was used VERY sparingly and the Dimetrodon sequence is GREAT! It was my favorite of all of them. I would recommend this DVD just to complete the Walking With story. If you want more on PreDinosaurs, go for The Shape of Life DVD set. It's GREAT. So, on it's own, Walking With Monsters is a waste of time (in my oppinion), but with Walking With Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Beasts, it works fairly well. And despite all the series' fallbacks, everyone should have the complete series in their collection. Other Great Dino Series: When Dinosaurs Roamed America, WWD: Chased By Dinosaurs, Dinosaur Planet. Hope this was informative, thanks for listening (or reading more like)."
Great...but could have been much better
Michael Valdivielso | 04/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this special was amazing. i am really 16, and have always been a fan of creatures from before dinosaur supremacy. however, i think 90 minutes is far too short for such a huge amount of life. most of the time periods up until the early Permian were skimmed over, and the Ordovician period was completely passed over, without a word said.
also, there were many creatures that i was disapointed not to see get re-created in this special. a few apperences, such as Gorgonops, Dimetrodon, Edaphosaurus, Euparkeria, Pterygotus, etc, i was happy to see. however, i was dissapointed when i did not see Icthyostega, Estemmenosuchus, Protorosaurus(earliest known archosaur), and many more creatures that i would like to know more about.
it is good, for 90 minutes, but if the creators were to re-create it as a four hour special, it could become something truly spectacular."
A great "walk" into the dawn of time!
Laura Todd | Oaks, PA USA | 02/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This ambitious video takes you walking far, far back in time, nearly to the beginning of life...or at least, life that was visible to you and me. It starts with the Cambrian era of ocean life, with a weird-looking arthropod that may have been the very first predator. From then on, it is a running competition between arthropods and chordates, predator and prey. Highlights are the first land creatures, the amphibians, and the lush Carboniferous era of swamps and giant dragonflies. Then on to the time of Dimetrodon, which we know as "the sailback lizard", and to a weird assemblage of mammal-like reptiles called Synapsids which survived into the dry, hellish Permian era. All of these creatures are depicted with stunning realism through computer animation. The scenes are as vivid as any documentary about Africa... you really feel as if you are there!
I highly recommend this video, which does everything that Jurassic Park did, without the cornball story line. However, I have a few points of criticism which knocked my rating back to a "4". The authors of the series have set up little scripts, mostly about creatures fighting and eating each other. This gets a bit tiresome after several million years. I'm sure there was a lot of predation in the Paleozoic era, but I'd like to have seen more variety in the script. Perhaps some speculation about other animal behaviors, such as mating or reproduction, or adaptations to the environment. And why are Arthropods always set up as the "bad guys"? Just once I'd like to see insects get the respect they deserve!
My other quarrel is about the depiction of the Permian Era. The narration tells us that it was a "dry time" and a time of climatic upheaval, when creatures were "stressed" and many died. This is a gross understatement. Something happened at this time which caused the greatest mass extinction in all of Earth's history. It is estimated that 90 percent of all species were snuffed out. Scientists are now speculating that a comet or asteroid may have struck the Earth, rupturing its crust and leading to massive volcanism. Continent-sized volcanoes poisoned Earth's atmosphere, killed most of the ocean life, caused a runaway greenhouse effect, and raised the planet's temperature higher than at any other time.... perhaps 16 degrees C.
Why downplay an event this dramatic? It would have made a hell of a movie all its own! The fact that life recovered from this trauma is truly miraculous. Walking With Monsters does show that life recovered, and 10 million years later, weird-looking critters were still struggling to avoid being eaten by other weird-looking critters. And in the final note, new kinds of reptiles appear... the first dinosaurs.