When I was a kid I wanted to be a biologist, specifically a zoologist. I loved watching Jack Hanna and Steve Irwin hanging out, catching cool critters, and generally having adventures all over the world. Later in life I realized that I was more interested in filming the animals than actually reading endless biology texts. I went to film school and although I’m not filming animals, my love of nature docs hasn’t diminished much over the years.
Like millions of other folks, I read an article on Yahoo about the discovery of Titanoboa, the worlds largest snake. Prehistoric and extinct, Titanoboa was as big as a school bus and wide enough to have to squeeze through a standard size door. The article also pimped a nature doc forthcoming on the Smithsonian Channel. I no longer have cable (thank you Roku) so I figured i’d probably never get to see it. Not true thanks to the folks at Inception Media, who have seen fit to release the doc onto dvd. And let me tell you, it’s a great piece of film making.
Titanoboa takes us to the coal mine in South America where the fossils were discovered and follows the journey of the paleontologists as they investigated the find. We see comparisons to other large snakes, 3D models and we even get to see how the bones’ location within the body of the snake was mathematically solved using some crazy complex mathematics. How else would you be able to figure out which bone was which in an animal where all the bones are virtually the same, just incrementally smaller and larger? We learn how the snake would have hunted and what it probably ate. We also get to see some other amazing reptiles discovered at the same site, including a turtle the size of a kitchen table! The quality of the doc is stellar as well. They certainly pulled out all the stops with some beautiful photography and some pretty decent CGI work too. The film is well paced and edited so that it’s 90 minute run time never becomes dull or tedious. The film culminates in the unveiling of the life size model of the creature and it’s quite a shock. I can’t imagine anything that huge ever existing.
I’m unfamiliar with the Smithsonian Channel, though I imagine it’s intent is to give Discovery and National Geographic a run for their money. If they continue to produce excellent films like Titanoboa, the challenge will have been met.