Didactic film presents rich family material

There are those who are science people and those who are not.

In flight · The California Science Center’s latest film, Flying Monsters 3D, which targets younger audiences with its visually pleasing scenes, ultimately succeeds as a family movie. The film’s well-written and executed script and modern integration of archaic beasts make the film a rewarding and enlightening experience for viewers of all ages. - Photo courtesy of California Science Center

Viewers will be pleasantly surprised to find that the California Science Center’s new IMAX 3-D exhibition, Flying Monsters 3-D, is entertaining for both crowds.

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Flying Monsters 3-D tells the story of the largest flying creature: the pterosaur.

Ever wonder how a creature that could stand head-to-head with a giraffe could also fly? Or perhaps how the dimorphodon evolved into a quetzalcoatlus? Well, your questions will be answered in detail in the film.

Though the bulky 3-D glasses are a bit of a turn off, the short film redeems itself through sweeping visuals, which feature the same 3-D, CGI technology audience members flocked to see in Avatar.

Without a reasonable narrative, 3-D visuals can often cheapen a film; Flying Monsters 3-D, however, benefits from the use of this evolving technology.

Scenes of pterosaurs, such as the darwinopterus, gliding through the air are a visual delight — 3-D turns the frame into a visual feast. Here, 3-D is used not to cover any flaws in the film’s storyline. Instead, the film’s visuals enhance the viewing experience, adding necessary depth to encapsulate the audience.

It feels as if you’re on the creatures’ backs, flying over the clouds.

This adventure-driven feature obviously caters toward the younger crowd. It’s easy to imagine your 8-year-old self fascinated by all the pretty colors. What’s surprising is how well the film keeps your interest, even if you’re a jaded college student.

Kudos must go to the script, which is concise. The film flies by in what seems like seconds, thankfully not boring the audience.

Part of the script’s success is how clearly the facts are presented and its lack of a completely omniscient voice. Rather than only hearing our narrator, we see him interact onscreen as well.

Director Matthew Dyas attempts to educate without appearing to teach a lesson, and he succeeds in doing so by mixing old elements with new ones.

In one scene, Attenborough is seen inspecting a fossil. Instead of merely preaching to the audience, the fossil magically rises and forms into a pterosaur. In another scene, Attenborough flies in a small-winged plane. Before long, a mammoth quetzalcoatlus — with a wingspan measuring between 33 and 40 feet — eclipses the plane’s size, illustrating the immensity of these creatures.

The effects freshen the material while allowing those who might not understand difficult scientific concepts to digest the information in an easier, more visual format.

Despite the film’s many strengths, some flaws are evident. Though Attenborough is an expert in his field and delivers each line with extreme enthusiasm, one cannot help but notice how much older he is than the target audience.

It’s possible some facts could be lost because of lack of interest in someone decades older; after all, it’s difficult for one to connect with a narrator he or she has nothing in common with.

A younger narrator would have been a much better fit for this modern, technology-driven film.

But aside from narration problems, Flying Monsters 3-D proves an impressive feat in filmmaking. Though the feature could have simply relied on 3-D to attract patrons, it instead demonstrates that a strong narrative, not just technology, makes a good film.

Hopefully, Hollywood will take notice and realize that spewing out lackluster films in 3-D doesn’t help a film — it runs the risk of ruining it.

Flying Monsters 3-D is perfect for families. Though it is didactic, it is also incredibly entertaining, leaving everyone in a good — and perhaps even an enlightened — mood.

Flying Monsters 3-D runs through Dec. 31 at the California Science Center.