Sunday, October 2, 2011

Terra Nova Limps Across Our TV Screens

Alright, Terra Nova, you and me are gonna have a little chat. I just watched your two hour Fox Network pilot again, and you definitely do not have me hooked. SPOILERS AHEAD.

First of all, WHY do you want me to watch you, for what reason? It’s not the dinosaurs, which, I’m sorry, while they look like decent “Walking With Dinosaurs” caliber viz effects, they are definitely NOT “Jurassic Park”-level effects, which we as an audience are expecting. Seriously, it’s been 18 years since “Jurassic” premiered in theaters and Steven Spielberg is one of your producers. Couldn’t you just use the ILM software from back then?

Also, Spielberg apparently doesn’t want to use the same dinos from the Jurassic movies, so instead of everyone’s fave Tyrannosaurus Rex, we get their limp Cretaeous stand-ins Carnotaurs. In place of Velociraptors we get the goofy “Slashers” with their blade-tipped tails which are an entirely MADE UP species of dinosaur. I’m sorry, but you’re not simply taking liberties with animal traits/abilities (like the spitting dinos in JP), you’re just making shit up. Not cool.

Another Spielberg influence is apparently that we humans cannot be shown killing a dinosaur, even one that is trying its darnedest to slash/chew/eat/devour us. You can fire an A-Team episode's worth of ammo at the suckers but they will never fall -- "their hide is too tough" or some nonsense -- or even be scared off by the sound and muzzle flashes. This is a bunch of baloney.

The physical look of Terra Nova is great. Using amazing Australian locations, with lush jungles, craggy rocks and water falls; you’ve built a wonderful “frontier town” (although it’s just a bit TOO comfy, with its modern buildings, amenities, technology and defensive weaponry).

No, Terra Nova, the real reason I don’t like you is the Shannon family. In the future of 2149 where the story began, with its dwindling resources and severely pollution-damaged earth, there is a two child per family limit. According to the pilot, Jim and Liz Shannon simply decided to have a third child, risking their entire family’s safety in the process. Well, they are indeed found out, and Papa Shannon is sent to prison for a spell. The Shannons knowingly broke the law in having a third kid and they hid her for three years before the Terra Nova project came along to save them all. If Terra Nova didn’t exist what kind of life could their youngest kid have in 2149 (talk about an “illegitimate child” - was she going to live her whole life in the house's airduct?).

It would have been better from a story standpoint if Liz Shannon got pregnant despite taking government-supplied contraceptives, so instead of Jim Shannon telling Commander Taylor they had a third child “because it seemed like the thing to do” which is a witless moron’s answer, he could have said something a bit more profound and sympathetic, e.g., “We did everything we were supposed to; we didn’t plan to have Zoe, but her spirit would not be denied.”

Mrs. Shannon apparently comes from some means, and the overall vibe is this family gets whatever it wants. They have a third child against the rules, hubbie breaks out of a maximum security prison (apparently due to a lot of money being put in people’s hands), Zoe their little girl is taken from wherever the hell she was being held for two years while Pops Shannon was in the joint, the family is reunited and gets to start all over again in the past. They come across as over-privileged people, and that’s not someone I’d like to root for each week.

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