Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughts on "Terra Nova" and Pandora-Land!

And Suddenly, it is Autumn!

And suddenly, it is Autumn! So far the weather has been pretty mild and sunny, good for reading and ill-conceived still life setups. And musing about things that have recently caused major rifts in the areas of the Internet where I frolic. We'll start with something I am disappointed in (and lots of people appear to be largely in agreement with me) and go on to something I am unabashedly optimistic about (and lots of people appear to be largely in disagreement with me).

You know, it seems like only yesterday it was the day after the Superbowl and I was picking apart the trailer for "Terra Nova". In that post, I had a list of things I hoped the producers wouldn't do. Unsurprisingly, they didn't listen to me, but I was alarmed to see that most of those things were right there in the pilot. In hindsight, I wish I had added to my "don't do this" list things like, "no annoying children please", "no annoying teenagers either", and "seriously, guys, don't just be '"Lost" Meets "Avatar" - But They're in the Cretaceous!'"

Too Long; Didn't Read Version: "Terra Nova", I am Disappoint.

Extended Dance Remix: Let's begin in the Uncreative Sh**ty Future that the first ten minutes or so of the show take place in. It is basically the same old post-apocalyptic (post-"Blade Runner", more honestly) land of smog and traffic and overcrowded cities and fascist police and black clothing and in light of everything else absurdly easy to break rules and blah whatever. Since we leave the Uncreative Sh**ty Future and go to Terra Nova pretty quickly, I'm not even sure why it's even part of the plot, except that it supplies the Main Family with Angst. God, this series has Angst. So much Angst. Angst everywhere. Most of it comes from the kids and we'll get to them in a bit. By the way, way to talk loudly about your secret plans on the way to Terra Nova, Annoying Older Brother.

So through a series of events that is too stupid to recount here, the Main Family goes through the Totally Not a Stargate to Terra Nova (the place). This is where we must talk about how the hell time/dimension-travel even works in "Terra Nova" (the series). Through exposition that is way too easy to miss, we learn that this giant rift I guess formed out of nowhere and that things sent through the rift never came back. They assumed this rift must lead to another dimension (another easily missed bit that really only exists so time paradoxes aren't an issue even though it brings up a ton of other problems) because the signals from the objects were never received by the scientists who APPARENTLY HAVE A RADIO THAT CAN COMMUNICATE WITH THE DISTANT PAST HOLY SH*T! If you hope to have this magic radio explained, you will be disappointed. They also don't explain how anyone learned how, if the rift takes you to a different time and dimension on a trip that there is no returning to the future from, the rift led to a place that is even habitable for humans instead of, like, the bottom of the sea or inside a volcano or on a planet with a toxic atmosphere or no atmosphere at all or, hell, in the middle of nowhere in outer space. I'd go on and on and on about all this but I am starting to feel myself getting a nosebleed.

So Main Family go through the rift and immediately start Angsting at each other, like you naturally do when you are a human who is suddenly in the Cretaceous Period holy sh*t! And you have just escaped the horrible post-apocalyptic future. And you are experiencing the sun and the moon and clouds and stars and clean water and clean air and edible plants and trees and ferns and flowers and nonhuman animals other than cockroaches and Cher for the very first time ever. This freakin' series, my God.

Annoying Older Brother is mad because his father was in prison for two years, and now he's mad because his father is no longer in prison, and now he's mad because his girlfriend is back (?) in the Sh**ty Future, and now he's mad because there's nothing to eat but Duran Duran Fruit, and now he's mad because his iPhone doesn't work, and holy sh*t shut the hell up already Older Brother! By the way, raise your hand if you would rather see a series focusing on the first scientists to explore and build Terra Nova instead of focusing on this Boring TGIF Sitcom Family.

And then there is the youngest daughter. Sweet Raptor Jesus. Finally we Jurassic Park readers have our book-accurate Lex. I am so Goddamn happy about this you guys, you don't even understand.

So... we learn that there is a group of Other people who went through the rift and live in an Other part of the forest and want to do things in the Cretaceous Other than what Colonel Quaritch wants to do. They've adapted to the weird new world long ago and are in on the local Ontological Mystery (tm) involving mystery numbers. So, yeah, the show basically does look a whole awful lot like '"Lost" Meets "Avatar" - But They're in the Cretaceous!'"

Which brings us, finally, to the dinosaurs. Oh man. We got our first look at a motion-capture dinosaur and it looks bad. Like more herky-jerky in it's movements than something Ray Harryhausen would have animated. That bad. We also get our first look at one of Brannon Braga's invented dinosaur species and...

Goddammitsomuch, Braga.

It might actually be easier to post this, so here is your Art of the Day:

"'Lost' Meets 'Avatar' - But They're in the Cretaceous!"

(Edit: Thanks for noticing this one, guys! [And see Albertonychus' comments below as well.] Can you tell at what moment I was done with this series?)

"But Trish, it's just a TV show! Plus something about how it isn't really the Cetaceous Period and how it's more about the human characters! You should, to borrow a phrase, really just relax!"

You know, I want to. I wish I could. But the sad, sad truth is that more people are going to watch Braga's bulletproof gorilla suit Oviraptor-things tear up tanks with their tail-blades and assume that what they're seeing is the Bakker's-honest truth than will ever pick up a book. Or visit a museum. Or listen to teachers and scientists.

Listen, there are still folks out there who have no idea Dilophosaurus didn't have a ridiculous frill-thing. To the point where you will see such things on cheap knock-off toys. And to the point where a sign in a zoo I once visited - and dear reader you cannot imagine how much I want to be making this up - assured everyone that it's actual alive Frilled Dragons do not spit poison. So when your much-hyped fictional species looks like a not-sarcastic version of Matt's Prehistoric TV Reconstruction Kitteh, that makes me very, very sad. People, dinosaurs were perfectly normal animals just like you and me, not something that looks more at home in a D&D Monstrous Manual. (And anyway, as has been established, the human characters suck.)

Man, to think a few weeks ago we were all complaining about a dinosaur documentary!

Ah well, speaking of things the Internet likes to complain about, how about the "Avatar"-based section of Disney's Animal Kingdom that was announced a little while ago? Here are my thoughts, which are edited from things I posted over at DisBoards' thread on the subject. (I do not recommend reading the whole thing, which is damn near fifty pages of mostly "Wah! This isn't what I would have done with this intellectual property I didn't happen to create or own the rights to! I know better than the people in charge of my favorite things!" Unless you have a very strong drink handy.)

Here we have Walt Disney World teaming up with James Cameron. Cameron is a filmmaker who is a notorious taskmaster who goes on many an ego trip -- but who ALSO goes big, shoots for the moon, wants to blow the audience's mind, wants to show people things they've never seen before, has created some of the best-selling films of all time with some of the most passionate fans you will ever meet, and who, above all, basically invents technology along the way just to get a movie made.

Hmm... just like Walt Disney did.

So I have no problem whatsoever with a Disney/Cameron Marvel Teamup.

Now as far as the film "Avatar". Very few people were enamored of the story, even the hardcore fans. Why did people keep coming back to the theater? Why were an alarming number of ordinary folks crying at night, wishing they could turn into Navi and live on Pandora? (To which I say, my God, pull yourself together and book an ecotour of Costa Rica. Earth is pretty too. And real.) I'll tell you why:

World. Building.

Pandora was built in excruciating detail from the ground up. Some of the most creative minds were put in charge of every detail. I was sold on the movie once I heard Wayne D. Barlowe and Neville Page were involved. (As you may have guessed, I am a creature design nutcase.) So this is indeed a world as detailed as, say, Hogwarts. (I'll give you Star Wars, since we're dealing with several planet's worth of Barlowe and Terryl Witlatch critters rather than one planet we haven't even seen the aquatic fauna of -- yet.)

So there are a lot of interesting opportunities to be had here. One possibility I like (aside from the fairly obvious "Trudy Lives!" flight simulator, "Soarin' on a Turok", and "Neytiri and her Forest Friends") is an exhibit of the real organisms who inspired the fictional creatures: Lemurs, Ocelots, Tube Worms, Birds of Paradise, Lanternfish, Butterfly Lizards, Tree Ferns, Raffelasia, Flower Hat Jellyfish, and a whole slew of plants and animals who are strange, awesome, and need more love.

I've got the same attitude I already had with the Fantasyland expansion: I'm trusting Disney can pull it off and am ready to enjoy something new. Because in the end, we are getting a new themed land out of this. You HAVE to agree that's worth getting excited over.

That said, here's an interesting thing to ponder that I didn't even think of until the folks over at another message board brought it up: If we're going to get a park-within-a-park based on a fictional planet populated with strange creatures and a fully realized ecosystem, why Pandora and not Barsoom? I mean really, Disney. You're usually so good at shameless synergy.

Next Week - So many trip reports!


Anonymous said...

If you get a chance check out Julian May's 'Saga of the Exiles'. Pretty much the same concept as Terra nova, except the one way gate goes back to the Pliestocine(sp?) and the travellers are people who can't handle the approaching utopian world Earth has become!
So they're a bunch of misfits with actual interesting characteristics and personalities.
he fauna is different and the society they go back to discover is unique too.(there's no communication with the 'present'.
BTW, fantastic dinosaur concepts Trish!

Albertonykus said...

Your satire of the Terra Nova dinos wins so hard. And it's not just me saying that, I've seen it show up on the DML, on Dr. Thomas Holtz's Facebook, at several forums (where I had intended to spread it), etc....

Trish said...

*Gasp!* Really, Al? Can you post the links where you saw it? Yay, I'm Internet-Famous!

Albertonykus said...

The DML post is here:

I've seen it here on this forum at least (might require registration to view):

Not easy to link to Facebook statuses, but I've certainly seen it around. (And I've been spreading it as well.)

Trish said...

Wow... WOW!!!

I'd uh, kind of wished the JP Legacy guys had credited me somehow (DML links to the Flickr page so it's all good). Still, this is awesome and thanks for letting me know about it!

Trish said...

Oh, by the way, how in the nine blue hells do I join the Dinosaur Mailing List? I tried earlier this year and wound up in some kind of email limbo.

Albertonykus said...

Good question, because the subscribe link now goes to some strange website domain thing. I haven't actually joined the DML myself (yet), I just read the archives when they're updated each day.