The Short-A stunning documentary about the discovery of a complete T-Rex fossil found in the black hills of South Dakota and then the strange, long legal battle over who owned it. Never has a documentary about fossils been this exciting or frustrating. While it struggles with an obvious bias toward one side of the story, Dinosaur 13 has a story worthy of a big screen courthouse thriller and will leave you shaking your head in disgust.
I know what you’re thinking, a 95 minute documentary about a group of archeologists that discover a complete T-Rex fossil in the black hills of South Dakota? Yawn! That surprisingly is where you would be horribly wrong, Todd Douglas Miller's scathing doc about a T-Rex named Sue and the long arduous court battle between its originally finders, the US government, a Native American tribe and a land owner might be clearly one sided but it remains one of the most exciting docs to come out this year. Douglas Miller takes you on nearly a 10 year journey from discovery to conclusion through the eyes of the Archeologists who made the initial discovery. There are very few moments in Dinosaur 13 where you feel good about the actions of anyone besides the members of the Black Hills Institute, whether it’s the betrayal of the Land owner who allowed the diggers to comb his land for fossils then briskly took away their greatest find or the US Government's brazen, authoritative takeover of the warehouse that held this groups discovery.
The issue most people will have with Dinosaur 13 is the other side of the story is only given by one US government agent; no other sides of the story are given but that of the Larson brothers and other members of the Black hills institute. They give you one US government agent to help give the other side of the story but sadly no one else.It doesn't help that folks like land owner Maurice Williams have passed away but for one reason or another Todd Douglas Miller only has the ability to tell the story from one clear perspective. I would have loved to see the two opinions battle it out on screen but instead you get such a lopsided view of events that by the time you get to the vindictive judge or rude treatment of the Rex's initial founders you will most likely find yourself livid with the whole way these events went down. Douglas Miller lets the emotions of each player engulf the screen, while reenactments and recreations of the events are placed evenly with video recordings from back in the day. You begin to feel remorse for events long before the story comes to a concise conclusion. The best gift we are given through Dinosaur 13 is a concise well told story that plays out during the films manageable 95 minute runtime.
Yes Dinosaur 13 is a one sided affair but instead of a boring documentary the story has so many twists and turns it plays out like a top notch drama. A good documentary worthy of the big screen but like last year’s Blackfish it just misses greatness thanks to a lack of the opposite perspective.