I decided that I'm going to use this blog to review maniraptor-related films, shows, books, etc. that I stumble upon.
So I watched Rio last week. Here be spoilers. Brief ones without much detail, but I'll put that warning there just in case.
Cue brief plot summary: a pet male blue macaw (named Blu, not Rio) is sent to Brazil so he can mate with a female at a bird shelter, as they happen to be the last of their species. Then they get captured by poachers. Dun dun dun. And there's a side story where Blu's owner tries to find him, but this is Raptormaniacs, not Primatemaniacs. And in all honesty the humans don't make much impact on the final resolution of the plot.
I liked it, I suppose. The visuals are really stunning, especially the flying scenes and the plumage of the birds. The music is quite nice. (It's something of a musical, just so you know. I've never figured out why some people just indiscriminately hate musicals, because I don't mind as long as the songs are good. But I digress.) I did find the plot highly predictable, and I didn't really like the fact that only the main character did anything useful near the climax (though it made for good character development). But I'm not that great a judge of visuals and music and plot. Here comes the more interesting part of my review.
First of all, what maniraptors were there in this movie? The main plot and characters are presumably based on the real life conservation of the Spix's macaw. Although the name Spix's macaw is never said in the movie (the characters instead use the name "blue macaw"), the word "Spix's" is mentioned in passing at one point! (I love Genius Bonuses, don't you?) The Spix's macaw is a species that's likely (though not officially, as its habitat hasn't been fully surveyed) extinct in the wild, and is only hanging on through about eighty-five individuals in captive breeding programs. (I remember first reading about the Spix's macaw in a children's book that said only one was left in the wild. It died in 2000.)
There is a whole suite of Brazilian bird species in this movie, and I approve. South American wildlife totally don't get enough spotlight in pop culture, even in documentaries. Lions, elephants, wildebeest, leopards, cheetahs, buffalo, blah, blah, blah, we've seen all that before. Either way, we have a lot of underrepresented bird species as background characters in Rio, so keep a sharp eye out. In particular, we have supporting characters who are a toco toucan, a red-crested cardinal, and a... canary. Canaries aren't native to South America but to Africa and the Canary Islands, and in any case wild canaries aren't typically bright yellow as the one in the film is. Must be part of a feral population. Finally, there's a sulphur-crested cockatoo on the side of the villains. An Australian bird, not a South American one, but he's not a wild individual so that's probably excusable.
How well were these maniraptors presented? There's quite a lot of good stuff to say here. I was really impressed by how realistic the movements of the macaws were compared with their real life counterparts. I've said before that I'm really bothered by the Feather Fingers trope that always crops up with cartoon neornithines, and although this movie certainly doesn't avert this entirely (especially with the non-parrot birds), we do see the macaws using the feet as hands most of the time as they do in real life. I also liked that we see the macaws and toucans nesting in tree hollows and not generic bird nests, and their clutch sizes are also true to life. (Although I forgot exactly how many offspring the toucan had, it could've either been too many or approaching the maximum.) Last but not least, Blu gives us a decent dose of bird facts throughout the film as he has lived in a bookstore for most of his life. At one point he says that there are around forty flightless bird species when he is ridiculed for being afraid to fly. The ostrich, the emu, three cassowaries, five kiwis, two rheas, three steamer ducks with varying degrees of flightlessness, two island teals, two flightless grebes, the flightless cormorant, the kakapo, (around) twenty penguins, and (around) seventeen flightless rails with varying degrees of flightlessness, totaling fifty-eight species, and there would've been more if many flightless birds hadn't been driven to extinction in the past few centuries. Forty isn't too far off the mark though, given that there are still taxonomic debates and that Your Mileage May Vary on whether some "flightless" birds really count as "flightless".
On the less impressive side of things, we have macaws and toucans with the wrong toe configuration. They have one toe pointing backwards and two pointing forwards. Real macaws and toucans have four toes (as in typical theropods) with zygodactyl feet: digits I and IV pointing backwards, digits II and III pointing forwards. Even stranger is that the toco toucan's mate looks more like a... keel-billed toucan. What. I also found the bright blue plumage of the Spix's macaws to be more similar to that of the hyacinth macaw. Rule of Colorful?
All in all, not a bad film. Go ahead and watch it if you're not picky, if only to see pretty colors and listen to Latin American music. If nothing else, it's a film with dinosaurs in it.