Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reactions to the Revolution

Updated 9/20/11

Dinosaur Revolution premiered on Sunday, September 4 in the US, with its first two hours, Evolution's Winners and Watering Hole. Living on a budget that doesn't provide for cable TV at the moment, and being rebuffed in my attempts to get a screener from Discovery, I may have to wait a while before seeing it myself, but I've been keeping an eye on reaction from around the web. As might be expected by a series that blends the science of paleontology with bold storytelling devices and an occasionally comedic tone, the reviews are mixed. Of course, there aren't many yet. Which makes it a good time to start a roundup.

Before we start, however, here's Gigantoraptor (hopefully viewable internationally, though no guarantees)

Variety praises the series for its narrative-light presentation, which challenges viewers. Eschewing the common comparisons to old Looney Toons cartoons, the reviewer uses Fantasia and The Road as visual touchstones. Dinosaur Revolution "lustily attacks everybody's favorite extinct beasts with for-the-most-part impressive CGI effects and a cheeky storytelling approach."

Writing for Popmatters, Ross Langager finds the humor awkward, concluding that the program's "...melding of entertainment with science ends up disfiguring both."

More favorable is the review from the New York Daily News, as reviewer David Hinckley is enchanted by colorful, feathered dinosaurs and their quirky behavior.

Tom Conroy's Media Life Magazine review is concerned that the violence may be too intense for children who may grow attached to the highly anthropomorphized animals. An interesting point. It's disingenuous to claim that a dinosaur show isn't intended for kids, after all.

The reviewer for the Kansas City Star writes, "the animated raptors, allosauruses and T. rexes featured on Dinosaur Revolution are more realistic, engaging and emotionally complex than the humans on Terra Nova."

In the paleo blogosphere, we've had a couple of write-ups, as well. At Dinosaur Tracking, Brian Switek is tough but fair to the "dinosaur tribute," writing that "what gets me is that Dinosaur Revolution is being presented as a program about the latest dinosaur science when the actual scientific content is minimal." Switek wishes that the "talking heads" were a more diverse crowd and that it represented a real revolution in how we view dinosaurs, by providing the audience with an engaging description of how we know what we know. For naysayers who think that would just be boring, I offer the tremendous, enduring popularity of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Taylor of Beasts Evolved also reviews the first night's offerings. He's very positive about it, and provides a great breakdown of the critters introduced, giving praise for the number of new-to-TV species we finally get to see. His review of the last half of the series is also available.

Yours truly, now having seen the first two episodes, has reviewed them. Go here.

Albertonykus has written a review at Raptormaniacs as well, looking forward to the maniraptor-heavy second two hours.

Of course, what you're really looking for is pedantry. So head over and read Mickey Mortimer's withering review.

That's it for now, but I'll probably add to this list in the future, time permitting. The Discovery Channel airs the next two hours of the series next Sunday, September 11. Due to the September 11 anniversary, Discovery Channel is postponing the second half of the series indefinitely, reports Dr. Tom Holtz. I'll help spread the word when it's rescheduled. It will air on Tuesday, September 13 at 9pm Eastern time... on the Science Channel.

5 comments:

  1. I have to say that I found some of the humorous situations a bit forced just for a gag. Maybe children will like that though. I thought the cgi when in close up was phenomenal, but other times, while zoomed out, it was laughably bad. Some of the action sequences were clunky animation-wise. I do have to say that I was entertained and it was nice to see some of these species finally making it onscreen, but I would've like a bit more science in the presentation. I think people will write off a lot of this and keep on believing the things they've always believed unless you show them the science. Don't simply tell them about the science. Show some of it. Explain it. I know I've got more patience for that than a lot of people (present company excluded, of course), but I remember when dinosaur shows like this were mainly science and very little animation sequences. I loved those when I was a child. I think children will still love that today.

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  2. Besides promos, I've still only seen bits that have made it to Youtube (temporarily, probably). The Eoraptor sequence (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLGsuchUGQU) plays like a dinosaurian rube goldberg machine, and other synopses I've read seem similar. Neat stuff, but like you said, the how-we-know is important, too. I do like the way the show distinguishes itself from the WWD style with strange camera angles. Geez, need to see the whole thing.

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  3. well, not that I'm telling you to do it, but there are torrents out there that have the show available for download. Not that I'm advocating such things. I'm just saying.

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  4. What I particulary liked about Dinosaur Revolution is probably for the first time we get to see dinosaurs actually behave like non-actors. (I won't as far as say they behave like animals)

    Sure WWD, Dinosaur Planet, etc. didn't portrait the dinosaurs as monsters but everytime they're on screen their actions seemed over the top. They either roared, killed, ran, etc.

    In Dinosaur Revolution, at least in the second episode, excluding the Torvosaurus and anthropomorphized behaviors, you can see the dinosaurs doing, well, pretty much nothing. The Allosaurus is either laying down or getting a drink along its prey for most of the time.

    For what it's I liked it. It just needed more Miragaia and Octávio Mateus though. :P

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  5. The second episode I personally really liked, save for a few of those forced, cutesy cartoon moments that ripped me out of the experience really fast.

    The first ep was more like an average dino doc, only with a lot more CGI and less talk than usual. The stories (none of which really stood out for me) shifted quickly and the animation was decent at best but at certain times eye-rollingly bad. Its paleo-science wouldn't be revolutionary at all for hard-core dino-nerds, they may even find some of its stuff flawed.

    I think no one should judge the show simply based on its first episode, which is something have seen people do here and there. The rest isn't that bad at all, in my opinion. Not exceptional and flawless, but certainly entertaining and nice to look at.

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