Thursday, May 5, 2011

What are dinosaurs doing in Malick's Tree of Life?

From Hollywood Elsewhere, two years ago:
"We're just starting work on a project for Terrence Malick, animating dinosaurs, the film is The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It'll be showing in IMAX -- so the dinosaurs will actually be life size -- and the shots of the creatures will be long and lingering." -- from an Empire magazine interview with VFX artist Mike Fink that some sources claim to have read but which can't be located by the mag's search engine.
The Tree of Life premieres this month at Cannes, and its recently released poster reveals that there is, indeed, a dinosaur in the film. You'll have to click and enlarge the below image to see it. It's two frames below the title.

The poster for Tree of Life

See the dinosaur?

For a further enlarged version, check out this story from Film Detail or visit the film's tumblr blog. As you can see in those versions, there are two animals in this frame. I mistook the one in the lower right hand corner for some sort of amphibian, but the Film Detail enlargement shows it to be... a baby Parasaurolophus? Just lying there in the streambed as an unfortunately nude theropod looks off into the distance? Odd.

It's interesting to see dinosaurs appearing in "high art." In particular, the idea of "long and lingering" shots of them is mighty appetizing to me. It's a way to get the sort of lyrical, non-educational dinosaur footage I've always longed for, but probably is too expensive and unmarketable on its own. I would love to see a feature length film that feels like my favorite scene in Jurassic Park: no narration, the barest of narratives. I'm not a big Malick fan, but at the very least his films achieve a stirring visual beauty. Will the film begin with an extended sequence of life's evolution, leading to the midwestern family at the center of the story? Will these shots of prehistory and the greater cosmos be part of Sean Penn's character's quest, "seeking answers to the origin and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith?" I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Here's the (dinosaur-less) trailer, which made a splash in December.


  1. This isn't the first time Malick has digitally resurrected extinct dinosaurs for one of his films. The New World features a flock of passenger pigeons and, in another scene, a Carolina parakeet (actually a conure digitally colored to look like a Carolina parakeet).

  2. ^^ Thanks, Mike. I was just going to point out exactly that. XD

    Seriously, though, it's little touches like that which make me guardedly optimistic that we're going to get accurate dinosaurs. And that we are hopefully not going to get a "Fantasia" History of the Planet (ie, first the Earth forms, then the oceans, then cells and jellyfish or whatever for a couple seconds, cut to DINOSAURS YAH!!!)

    / Please tell me I wasn't the only one flashing back to "Fight Club" during a certain line in the trailer... :D

  3. You've foolishly walked into my trap! BANDits, ATTAAAAACK!

    Is it sad that I'm looking forward to this more because of dinosaurs? They may end up only being in the movie for 10 seconds. I kind of have a love-hat relationship with him. Sort of like a band who makes gorgeous music wedded to boneheaded, crap lyrics. Yeah, I'm saying that his narration and dialogue often hits me in the ear like a pugelstick.


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