Now, I know you all religiously read this blog, and remember every single thing that was written here… But just in case not, back at FanExpo Canada I got to watch the first hour (of the two hour premiere) of FOX’s new dinosaur extravaganza Terra Nova, and recapped the experience with some detail. You can read the whole thing linked here, but in case you want the bullet points:
- It’s clunky.
- The effects are no good.
- Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang deserve to be on better shows.
- The last five minutes seemed promising.
So with that in mind, now that I’ve watched the second half of the pilot, how does it hold up? Well, it’s clunky, the effects are no good, Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang deserve to be on better shows… And the action isn’t that bad at all.
The last is the big change here, but to get you caught up to speed on plot: with the Earth on the brink of ruin, small groups of settlers are sent back in time through a fissure to the Cretaceous period. They don’t destroy time because it’s actually a parallel universe, but that doesn’t matter as much as O’Mara – a Chicago Cop who’s been in jail for two years – sneaking in with his family. Once they’re there, they all have trouble adjusting in their own ways: O’Mara’s wife doesn’t really know him anymore; his daughter is a nerd; his younger daughter is a moppet; and his son has a chip on his shoulder just like his Dad.
That last bit leads into the thrust of the second half of the episode, as O’Mara’s son sneaks off with a couple of cool kids, and proceed to get trapped in a van by some dinosaurs. Everybody else – including Lang and O’Mara, of course – head out to rescue them. Do they? Yes. Is everybody fine? Pretty much. Does the episode end with some long ranging mythology teases about the REAL reason for Terra Nova existing, and then a shot of the whole O’Mara family (okay, fine, Shannon family) looking happily at their new home? Of course.
But nearly any time someone talks, I wanted to feed myself to a dinosaur. The dialogue is cliché, and with the exception of Lang and O’Mara, leadenly delivered. It’s unfortunate, too, because like I said, the action is a lot of fun. The dino attacks in the last five minutes of Part I were terrible, Discovery Channel-lite CGI that should be embarrassing to Prdocuer Steven Spielberg, the guy who created realistic dinos in Jurassic Park back in, oh, I don’t know, 1993.
In the second half though, the attacks are presented at night, and the dinos usually only for split second scare shots. Playing for a horror/action movie, rather than out and out action seems to work in their favor, as its much more difficult to see how bad the CGI is.
So end gut reaction, is this a good show? Probably not. It’s an ABC Family show with some slightly bloody violence, and slightly better production values (but not by much). It’s the sort of thing that, at eight or nine, I would have LOVED to watch with my Mom and Dad, and then ten years later, been embarrassed that I liked it so much. And of course, that’s what the show is aimed for, so yay for that.
That said, given the massive budget, and the pedigree of the team involved, it’s unfortunate they couldn’t have pushed for something a little more nuanced. Perhaps even focused a bit more on the writing of the script than spending a lot of time on sweeping CGI shots of futuristic Chicago, and bought something approximating actual costumes rather than hockey uniforms sprayed black (for the security team), and whatever they wandered in wearing after a trip to Burning Man (rival civilization The Sixers).
Anyway, it could go either way next episode: with the set up out of the way, they need to make this work as a weekly show, and not just a movie event. Either it will prove to be harmless and enjoyable family fare, or, like a lot of shows this season, prove that even the piss poor pilot was better than what they could approximate in week two. Credit to the action in the last half hour for getting me to tune in and find out which one it will be.