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Film / The Dinosaur Project

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The Dinosaur Project is a 2012 found-footage film.

Set in the deepest, wildest throngs of the African jungle, The Dinosaur Project is an ambitious quest by a team of western explorers, hoping to find a water creature whose origins are rooted in myth and fantasy. The head of the expedition, an Indiana Jones type, has his plans for a successful trip spoiled though, after his helicopter is brought down by a flock of pterosaurs and to add to his troubles, he also has to look after his stowaway son, Luke. Luke is the film's main narrator; with an arsenal of personal cameras at his disposal, the young techno-geek captures every minute of this project, which becomes a lesson in survival. The team quickly discover that all is not well in the jungle, and encounter some extraordinary creatures, which civilization has presumed extinct for millions of years!

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The film includes the following tropes:

  • Action Survivor: Luke has next to no experience in dangerous situations, but he manages to avoid being killed throughout the film. In fact, he's the only character who's implied to have survived at the end.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Johnathan, of the cryptozoologist variation. He's already adventurous enough to head into a dangerous jungle in search of a mythological creature, but when the myths turn out to be dangerously real and deeper than anyone imagined, he proves himself to be a highly capable leader.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Averted with most of the dinosaurs. Played straight with Crypto, a playful and friendly creature.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Turns out that Crypto is actually little more than a hatchling. His parents are MUCH bigger than he is, and just as dangerous as that implies.
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  • Apocalyptic Log: The entire film is shown via camera, filmed by Luke.
  • Big Bad: In an unexpected twist, Charlie turns out to be far more dangerous than he appeared.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Crypto's parents save Luke from Charlie at the last moment.
  • Break Them by Talking: Charlie attempts to deliver a rather cold lecture to Luke when he's surrounded by a pair of parent dinosaurs, and promptly eaten.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Of all things, Crypto's spit, which saves the day when Crypto's parents recognize their offspring's scent on Luke. Because Charlie was never spit on, the dinosaurs see him as an unknown threat to their child and kill him.
  • Composite Character: Mokele-Mbembe, in-universe. Its appearance is based on a plesiosaur that lives in the rivers of the Lost World, whereas its aggressive behavior comes from a fearsome pliosaur that inhabits the same waters. At the film's very end, a herd of sauropod dinosaurs appears, implying that sightings of the cryptid on land have some merit as well.
  • Covers Always Lie: The film's cover which currently illustrates the page. No, there is no Tyrannosaurus nor Compsognathus on this film.
  • Covered in Gunge: Crypto (the benign raptor-like dinosaur that Luke befriends) spits drool on him, twice. This turns out to be more than just a gag; Crypto is covering Luke in his own scent, so his parents will protect Luke.
  • Death by Materialism: The main villain of the movie is killed after confessing his reasons for attempting to murder Luke are so he'll get sole credit for discovering the dinosaurs.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: Crypto, by the end of the film, though it's not really true domestication.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: And pterosaurs, and plesiosaurs, and pliosaurs.
  • Ghost Town: The abandoned village the characters stay in for most of the night after they crash-land. The reason for its abandonment turns out to be that carnivorous flightless pterosaurs ate the inhabitants after leaving their native range due to environmental damage.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Luke and Crypto form a bond that seems to go beyond All Animals Are Dogs. Crypto even spits on Luke to mask his human scent so that Crypto's parents know Luke is a friend.
  • Jitter Cam: Most of the film is shown through a handheld camera, and as the protagonists spend a fair amount of time running for their lives, the camera does shake a lot.
  • Jump Scare: When the pliosaur appears. Holy heck does it come out of nowhere!
    • The first appearance of the carnivorous flightless pterosaur is startling as well.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Near the end of film, Luke tries to catch Johnathan as he's about to fall into a chasm after a rockslide. However, Johnathan insists he can't reach Luke's hand. He then appears to fall to his death when his hand slips away.
  • Lost World: Based on the myth of the Mokele-Mbembe and other Central African dinosaur-like cryptids. The film assumes that they're all real, and not only has the lost world been found, the creatures are starting to leave it due to habitat loss.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Crypto takes a liking to Luke, sticking by him throughout the film. He even spits on Luke so that Luke smells like Crypto, ensuring that Crypto's parents know he isn't a threat.
  • Mama Bear: Crypto's mother.
  • Papa Wolf: Johnathan, despite often berating him, is protective of his son Luke. Crypto's father is also very protective of Crypto.
  • Ptero Soarer: Some Pteranodon-like pterosaurs are seen early on in the film; one collides with the helicopter and causes it to crash. Later, some carnivorous nocturnal anurognathid pterosaurs appear and attack the characters; however, these smaller pterosaurs are flightless and instead get around by leaping from tree to tree like monkeys.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Crypto, just about everyone in the expedition fawns over him and in turn he seems to enjoy it.
  • Scenery Porn: The final shot of the Lost World, a mountaintop view of the valley including a herd of sauropods.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: One character speculates that Crypto might be a Lesothosaurus, though he doesn't resemble one. When his huge parents appear, they look more like carcharodontosaurids. Additionally, the small carnivorous pterosaurs appear to be anurognathids, and a pliosaur appears briefly in one scene.
  • Shout-Out: One of the dinosuars in the film is clearly based off the Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park, frills and all. It even spits, but its saliva is harmlessly non-venomous.
  • Space Whale Aesop: The pterosaurs are said to have left their own habitat because of environmental damage. So, deforestation will cause undiscovered predators to emerge and eat cryptozoologists (and offscreen villagers).
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Mostly averted; the saurian cast includes surprisingly few dinosaurs. Crypto is speculated to be a descendant of Lesothosaurus, but resembles a Carcharodontosaurus; the film also shows a few unidentified sauropods at the very end. The rest of the species are aquatic reptiles, including a pliosaur and a plesiosaur, and some pterosaurs. One species of pterosaur is an anurognathid, and the other resembles the more typical Pteranodon. A promotional short clip that does not appear in the film shows a Raptor Attack, and the raptors might as well have been straight out of Jurassic Park.
  • Stock Ness Monster: The plesiosaur is fairly typical of fictional portrayals. To top it off, it's based on a refreshingly non-Nessie cryptid.
  • Team Pet: Crypto, the surprisingly friendly (and useful) frilled raptor-like dinosaur.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Pete performs an ill-advised Heroic Sacrifice to lure the carnivorous flightless pterosaurs away from the team. He runs straight into a nesting group and they attack (and presumably eat) him.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Charlie, though no one in the expedition was aware of it.

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