Flying Monsters 3D

Atlantic Productions/Zoo

3D, CGI and fossil-based facts drive a dinosaur film that truly soars.

Those who found themselves less than transported by Terra Nova's dinosaurs might want to check out their local Imax theater when Flying Monsters 3D hits the six-story screen. The sensational, attention-grabbing title aside, this inquiry into the evolution of winged vertebrates called pterosaurs deftly combines fact and fantasy to engrossing effect, its impressive blend of 3D and CGI technology proving much more immersing than a musty night at the museum.

Produced by Atlantic Productions in association with the U.K.'s Sky 3D (it has already taken home a BAFTA TV Award in the specialist factual category), Flying Monsters 3D should prove one of National Geographic Entertainment's loftier releases.

Respected naturalist David Attenborough serves as the film's on-camera narrator as he takes the viewer back some 220 million years, when dinosaurs roamed Earth and another group of reptiles began taking to the skies.

Relying on remarkably preserved fossils found in Germany, New Mexico and the Jurassic Coast of Lyme Regis in Britain -- as well as what would appear to be a pterosaur landing strip discovered in southern France -- Attenborough and his assembled team of paleontologists intriguingly reconstruct the evolutionary flight path taken by these breathtaking prehistoric creatures.

From the comparatively clumsy early fliers to the sleeker, more aerodynamic tapejara (with their colorfully majestic crested heads) and gigantic quetzalcoatlus, pterosaurs have been brought to astonishing life by an army of visual effects artists.

Television documentary director Matthew Dyas does an efficient job keeping attention spans fixed on those mighty wingspans, while the genial Attenborough, whose investigative trek takes him through several countries, makes for an ideal tour guide, with an enthusiasm and sense of wonder that's contagious.

But those gorgeously rendered flying monsters deservedly steal the show, which, incorporating the same 3D CGI technology used in Avatar, magically brings them within pecking distance.

Release date Oct. 7 (National Geographic Entertainment)
Director Matthew Dyas
Screenwriter-narrator David Attenborough
Director of photography Tim Cragg
Music Joel Douek