Oct 4, 2011

Terra Nova Review

Terra Nova is a new high budget sci-fi TV show on the Fox Network produced by Steven Spielberg. It starts in the dystopian future of 2149 where the Earth has been ruined by pollution and overpopulation. Slowly, groups of citizens who hold high qualifications (doctors, soldiers, agricultural scientists, etc.) are being shipped through a one-way portal to the past on a pilgrimage to the Cretaceous period to live on a settlement surrounded by dinosaurs. While Elisabeth Shannon (Shelley Conn), a trauma surgeon has been selected to move with her husband and two children to Terra Nova, trouble erupts when the government finds out she has three children. In what may or may not have resulted in a high fine, Elisabeth's hot-headed cop-husband Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara) flips out and starts swinging on soldiers, getting himself arrested and the third child taken away. The same hotheadedness gets Jim and his youngest daughter Zoe through the portal illegally where his transgressions are looked past by Terra Nova leader, Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang). There's too much danger, curiosity, exploration, and drive to survive on Terra Nova to worry about laws thousands of years in the future.

Production-wise, this show is outstanding. Much like how some people saw Avatar (another great Stephen Lang starring piece) for the visuals more than the story, Terra Nova is going to be a bar raiser for audiences. I was initially worried about two things relating to this show. The first was how long the first episode was - 90 minutes, a feat that very few shows get in their pilot, and often a condition that drives me away from a show when I'm looking for quick thrills, chills, or laughs. Thankfully time just flew by watching it, because there didn't feel like any filler at all. It didn't feel like a movie, but it did feel like I was watching three back-to-back half hour episodes of a really awesome show. The second thing that worried me was for some reason, I got a Lost-vibe from things. I'm speaking of Lost, because it's a show known for it's ridiculous twists for the sake of twists and adding mystery regardless of resolution. In this first episode of Terra Nova I watched, I saw A LOT of different subplots and mysteries and had my fingers crossed that they weren't being too overzealous.

Acting-wise, I have no complaints. The most inexperienced actors and actresses had their weaknesses masked and their strengths emphasized. Naturally, Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara were excellent in their roles. Character-wise, there was something left to be desired. Some characters like Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang) and a teen heartthrob named Skye (Allison Miller) were like onions with different layers you could peel with ease without shattering them completely. I was particularly put off by Jim Shannon and his oldest daughter Maddy (Naomi Scott) because they came off as shallow archetypes that the writers didn't know what to do with. There's still plenty of time to work out the cogs however, so this wasn't such a detractor to put me off from watching again.

Final Say: I think everyone should give this show a shot. If you're open to the 90 minute pilot, definitely check it out. If you're too busy to invest that kind of time, give a future episode a chance since they'll be about half an hour shorter (maybe only 45 minutes if you take out commercials). This is definitely a show that is going to have everyone talking, and you don't want to be the only one not knowing what's going on. Though it feels early to slap a rating on the show, I was impressed enough to award a 4 1/2 *'s out of 5, or 9 *'s out of 10.

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