Friday, September 30, 2011

Terra Nova vs Falling Skies

I don't usually review TV shows here(this'll be the first) but I felt compelled to do so with this one. I was really skeptical with Terra Nova, but after watching the 2 hour season premiere, I'm bought, hook, line and sinker. I don't just want to do a review, I want to do a full-on head to head comparison with a show that ended it's first season a couple of months ago, Falling skies(More like failing skies, amirite?) It's strange how similar they are but how much better Terra Nova pulls it off.  Fair warning, I don't remember Falling Skies all that well(Let that say how good of a show it is).

The opening.
In Falling Skies, the aliens have already landed and taken over, survivors are survivng, A bearded history teacher is put in charge, and they go on a recon mission. No big stakes here.

In Terra Nova, It starts out in the bleak future, focusing on the family, and a father breaks out of jail to make a mad dash to a time portal. That's the first 5 minutes. It's great how much they do with so little, how much they make you care about the characters, and how tense and dramatic it feels.

The father figure
Falling Skies: He's a history teacher turned soldier. exactly did this happen?  Was there a call to arms of all historians? Somehow, someone made a judgment call that being a history buff was sufficent cause to give him a gun and a command of a unit(tee hee), but we never really see that. Also, he doesn't really show us how much a father he is so much as tell us. "He's my son! And I'm his father! And he's my son! Did I mention how much of a father I am to him? Alot!"

Terra Nova: Jim beats up a cop for trying to break up his family, goes to a maximum security jail for two years for said beating, then breaks out of said maximum security jail, rescuing his youngest daughter and jumping into the past. It's all incredibly high tension and exciting. By now we already know Jim's badass, but captain Pandora won't let him just wave around a gun, he sends him to plants 101 until Jim can prove himself. And prove himself he does, by saving the captain's life.

More than that, he's a great father.  The parts where he's trying to reestablish his relationship with his youngest daughter Zoe, are really heratwarming. I can feel this guy is a good father, even if he hasn't always been there.  I think this is the linchpin that will hold the series together.

The kids
Falling Skies: Hal is fairly badass, kind of a headstrong teenager, and taking risks, but not so much that he's annoying. Younger brother Matt is fairly cute at trying to be useful. Also, Matt has a blonde girlfriend who I can't remember the name of, half way through she gets taken by aliens and replaced by another blonde. When you can't tell one character from another, they're not good characters.

Terra Nova: yeah...falling skies might have won this one. See, you may not know this, but the main kid Josh(WHY GOD WHY) was from a dinky little movie called Altitude(Which I wrote a quick review for here). And he was one of the most awful things in it. This boy cannot act. I really don't know how he got this high-paying job. This is probably the show's weakest link so far, and i shows. When he's trapped with his friends surrounded by hungry dinos, he's supposed to be scared or shocked but really just looks confused. He has no acting range. I really don't think I'll be able to get past this.  Having said that though, most of the other kids do their job adequately well.

The Monsters
Falling Skies: The aliens were passable, the robots far less so. The problem was you'd see maybe 5 minutes an episode of them, in a show about aliens. Even in the finale, there was just a line of copy/paste robots that scuffled around for a few minutes before scuttling off. Total disappoint.  And somehow, it took them the entire season to realize, "Hold on a sec you guys, why don't we use their own weapons  against them?!"  If your weapons aren't working, reverse engineering their technology should be priority one. How many videogames are there where the protagonist picks up the alien weapon?

Terra Nova: Dinos galore! I know a lot of people don't like the graphics of said dinos, but its good enough for me. As long as it's better than asylum quality, I'm ok with it.  But the main thing is you feel like they're a constant presence and a constant threat. They show up 4 or 5 times in the pilot in various incarnations.  More than that, they actually know how to fight them! Pew pew lasers and sonic emitters!

The Story
Falling Skies: In most episodes it was slow-paced, generic, and bland. I found little reason to care for the characters or the overarching plot. I was watching mostly to see how bad it was and if, it would ever get better(Answer: It didn't.). There was one episode that started to intrigue me when Weaver, the commanding officer(Will Patton with luscious, luscious old man hair), suddenly went rogue. It seemed like it would be an interesting character episode, until at the very end he turned around and went back to duty, for seemingly no particular reason.  The rest of the season was filled with musings of "Why are you doing this?!" and "what's going on?!"

Terra Nova: The plot is tight and tense. From the opening five minutes that establishes the main characters and world, to the end in which they've all fairly settled in, everything feels action-packed, interesting and character driven. I feel interested in the story, and there's enough questions unanswered to make me wonder what are the underlying secrets. There was one overly exposional part in the beginning, but it was needed for the 50 million nay sayers(myself included) to explain how they could go back with out screwing up their own history.

So if you have the time, I'd recommend giving Terra Nova a try. It's on Mondays on Fox and you can watch the pilot here(until Monday) if you want to check it out. Nice tight-nit story, and Dinosaurs with pew pew lasers!

Other new shows I'll be watching but don't have enough time to sketch about:

Person of interest
For those of you looking for their Lost fix, it's got Ben Linus. I really love the style, mood and music of this, and it has some great action. What's great is James Caviezel's attitude towards the ass-kicking. He has this really intense way of talking, but you can tell that he's really enjoying it, unlike other badass protagonists who hate their life. It's got this great noir feeling of they're not trying to save the world, they're just trying to do as much as they can before their number's up. They're just doing their best to make the world a slightly less shitty place. "You could leave and live out the rest of your days, or you could stay, and most likely one or both of us will end up dead."

New girl
Funnier than I thought it'd be and Zooey Deschanel is cute as a button dipped in glitter.  "You got some Schmit on your face!"

Death Valley
How MTV got a hold of this, I don't know. It will be the first time I watched something on this network probably since the Neil Patrick Harris Spidey cartoon. But I love everything about Death Valley. It's like Reno 911 but infused with awesome werwolf, vampire and zombie action. How can you not watch that?!

The animation is gorgeous and the show lives up to and exceeds the original. It has a great over arching story that creates a vast creature-filled world, and even it's one shot episodes are fulfilling and meaningful.  The Duelist and the Drifter and Song of the Petalars(as emotional as watching a Pixar movie) stand out. And hey, Lion-O can now make a fully armored-robo-mech-type-thing.

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