Prehistoric Planet Episode 1 Review
On May 23, Apple released the first episode of the docu-series Prehistoric Planet on their Apple TV+ subscription service. A co-production with the BBC with Jon Favreau as executive producer and starring longtime documentary narrator David Attenborough, Prehistoric Planet is a series that highlights Dinosaurs 66 million years ago with the most up-to-date research on these animals and modern CGI work.
As a kid growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was part of what we could describe as a post-Jurassic Park generation. After the release of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic, it inundated the world with various dinosaur media. From toys, TV shows, movies, and other forms of media, as a kid, I was obsessed with dinosaurs.
But it wasn’t until 1999 that my love of dinosaurs became much more than just “T-Rex eats stuff”. I, along with many other dinosaur kids, caught the airing of BBC’s first major dinosaur documentary series Walking with Dinosaurs, and soon my love of dinosaurs evolved into a love of the study of paleontology.
The reason I bring up my origin story for my love of dinosaurs is that after watching the first episode of Prehistoric Planet, I realized it captured a feeling I haven’t felt since I was four or five. With David Attenborough’s top-tier narration, Prehistoric Planet Episode 1 made me, as cliche as this sounds, feel like a kid again.
Right out of the gate, the first thing the series nails is showing that dinosaurs are animals. While media such as the first Jurassic Park and Walking with Dinosaurs tried to portray dinosaurs with some sense of realism, most of modern pop culture basically portrays dinosaurs as kaiju that actually lived on earth. But in the first of many vignettes within this episode, we see a family of T-Rexes swimming across the ocean to find food off the coast.
This works perfectly to defy any common notion of what many would assume a T-Rex is like in pop culture as we don’t see a T-Rex as a mindless mini-Godzilla, but just an enormous animal just living its life. In fact, I was surprised Prehistoric Planet showed a T-Rex this early in the series (but as shown in the trailers, it’s probably not the last) as normally this kind of dinosaur documentary usually saves the T-Rex towards the end. Again, it’s clear the makers of this series looked at the dozens of dinosaur media that informed this series and are making this one something truly special.
This episode focuses on life around coastlines and the oceans of Earth 66 million years ago as well get vignettes of various prehistoric animals in their daily life surviving this ancient world. We get a wide variety of animals such as various species of flying Pterosaurs such as Phosphatodraco, marine reptiles such as various Mosasaurs, the long-neck Tuarangisaurus, and even a segment on the extinct cephalopod ammonites.
Despite the episode being only 40 minutes long, the episode does what any good nature documentary does and presents these events as an engaging narrative with a three-act structure. Some highlights include the rather suspenseful scene of the family of T-Rexes swimming towards an island as a Mosasaur stalks them, the tense early life of Alcione hatchlings, and what seemed to be a surprising scene of a Mosasaur relaxing as various marine critters clean its shedding skin turns into an exciting fight between it and a younger rival.
These are presented by some of the breathtaking visuals I have seen in any dinosaur media outside the Jurassic Park/World films. One sad truth is that unless a documentary has the major backing that this series has, the CGI work is very hit or miss and it sadly loses the feeling that these are animals. Luckily Prehistoric Planet visuals were done by the powerhouse studio Motion Picture Company, who had worked on many major films such as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Life of Pi, and Guardians of the Galaxy to name a few.
It’s clear all the artists behind Prehistoric Planet wanted to make absolutely sure these animals are present as accurately as possible with the current paleological research and not make them look like movie monsters. Again look no further than the T-Rex in the opening sequence as instead of being a rip-off of the Jurassic Park T-Rex, we instead of a chunky lad with some feathering on its skin aka what a real T-Rex probably would look like.
Life Really Does Find A Way
So with the combination of the stellar presentation via Attenborough’s narration and the gorgeous visuals, the first episode of Prehistoric Planet is one hell of a great way to start this potentially game-changing docu-series. Many times during my viewing, I really forgot these are visual effects and I just think I am watching actual creatures living real lives. It shows just how much more there is to learn and love about these incredible animals that have long disappeared from this world.
We have always been fascinated with dinosaurs and similar long-extinct animals and yet we have stubbornly propped up long-outdated views on them. Do not get me wrong, there is a place for fun monster movies with dinosaurs as I am still excited about the upcoming Jurassic World Dominion.
But if the Jurassic World films are fun junk food, we need the Prehistoric Planet to the healthy veggies to balance that diet. Its clear dino-mania is back in full swing and let’s hope Prehistoric Planet’s success opens the door for more variety of dinosaur media as at the end of the day dinosaurs are just awesome!
Will You Be Watching Prehistoric Planet?
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