A popular subject in educational documentaries, Waking the T. Rex: The Story of SUE is a solid addition to the dinosaur genre. The film offers an inside look at one particular fossil: the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton ever found. With director David Clark at the helm, the film tells the journey of the T-Rex named Sue through the fossil record she left behind. Satisfactory animated sequences sprinkle the film, but her remarkable and at times sad story is found in the bones themselves.
Running at a brief but sufficient 20 minutes, this digital film opens in Chicago’s Field Museum where Sue resides. But the journey begins with the finding of the fossil in the badlands of South Dakota. From there, we follow the fossil trail via the film’s plethora of paleontologists. On-site excavations provide an informative but somewhat tedious description of the excavation process — unearthing, plastering and transport.
The story unfolds when the film turns to the bones themselves. Much data is gleaned by scanning the fossil interior, but it’s mostly tech-heavy and a somewhat drab exercise in bone scanning. Studying the fossil exterior is where much of Sue’s dramatic life takes place. The bones tell of a hard life filled with injury and disease. The film takes these cues to deliver animated sequences of Sue’s supposed life — from birth to a solitary teenager to a battle with a Triceratops, and finally an aging and injured Sue satisfied with scavenging her meals.
The film doesn’t shy away from the reality of Sue’s death — a revealing and welcome addition to a documentary geared towards kids. Showing the reality of her death, the film delves into the process of fossilization and geologic change over the course of 67 million years — a truly boggling span of time when you think about it. Despite being a purely educational film, Sue nevertheless is an intriguing study, and a surprisingly compelling story on this particular set of fossils.