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"Dinotopia" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/30/2002

When "Dinotopia" premiered last May on ABC as a six-hour, three-night mini-series, I thought it was just okay.  The acting was decent, the special effects weren’t too bad, and the story was interesting, even though it kind of felt like ground already tread upon in the Jurassic Park movies (with the exception of the talking dinosaurs.)  ABC had already committed to a television series before the mini-series premiered, so they had to be sweating when the ratings came in and it didn’t do huge numbers.  Now they have the TV series, and I hear it is the most expensive series ever put on TV.  Based on what I saw, it is soon to be one of the biggest flops in television history as well.

"Dinotopia" is based off a series of children’s books written by James Gurney.  In case you didn’t catch the mini-series, let me catch you up.  Karl and David Scott, two half-brothers flying a biplane over the ocean with their father, crash-land near an uncharted island.  The boys swim safely to shore, but their father drowns in the crash.  The brothers explore the island and soon discover it is not only colonized by people, but by dinosaurs as well, some of which talk.  They settle in and become used to the island, though Karl wants to leave, and David wants to learn to live peacefully in his new home.  David joins the Skybax fleet (an air force that rides on pterodactyls) and Karl hooks up with Cyrus, the bad guy, hoping to get off the island.  That doesn’t happen obviously.  In the end of the mini-series, the brothers find their father, who hadn’t died in the crash, along with hundreds of sunstones, which are shiny rocks that keep the T-Rexs away.

Fast forward to November.  The series picks up not long after the mini-series left off, with all new actors in the main roles and worse special effects.  Half-brothers Karl (Erik von Detten) and David (Shiloh Strong) Scott, along with their wealthy father Frank (Michael Brandon), find themselves castaways with an unsure future in Dinotopia, so they must attempt to adapt to their new home, while continuing to discover Dinotopia's long held secrets which might get them off the island.  Dinotopia's human inhabitants include the smart and beautiful Marion (Georgina Rylance), who is in training to be a leader of her people, and has caught the eye of both brothers.  She leads them to Dinotopia's capital, Waterfall City, where her father, Mayor Waldo (Jonathan Hyde), welcomes the "off-worlders" and hopes they become Dinotopians.  They meet Marion's mother Rosemary (Sophie Ward) and Le Sage (Lisa Zane), who becomes the leader of a renegade group known as the Outsiders (kind of by default, since the previous leader is eaten by a T-Rex in the premiere.)  The talking dinosaur Zipeau (spelled differently than in the mini-series because of a copyright lawsuit brought on by Zippo Lighters) is back, who is an academic Stenonychosaurus who speaks 17 human and Saurian languages, in case you forgot.  Also back is the infant Chasmosaurus named 26 whose welfare is the responsibility of Karl.  In the premiere, it is Frank’s turn to attempt to get off the island.  The border of Dinotopia is surrounded by something called the Razor Reef, and Jack thinks he is a good enough boat captain to get past the reef in a rowboat (is he as good of a boat captain as he was a pilot?)  Meanwhile, the Outsiders have taken the kryptonite-looking rod out of its case that is supposed to be the thing powering the sunstones, which haven’t been working and allowing the bad dinosaurs to kill everyone.  Jack takes Karl and Marion with him on the rowboat, which predictably crashes, separating Marion from the two men.  David rescues Marion, then Jack and Karl (who think they killed Marion accidentally, but don’t seem to care when they realize they hadn’t) and get the rod back in its case, resulting in the former Outsider Leader T-Rex eating.  Someone in the end gives Jack a tavern, giving him motivation to want to stay.

Where do I start with how bad this show is?  First, the acting is horrible.  Everyone in this show either under acts or overacts.  The graphics are pretty bad, even for television.  The writing is awful, filled with so many inconsistencies that it is comical.

Honestly, there is only one reason to watch “Dinotopia,”…to make fun of how bad it is.  Remember “Mystery Science Theater 3000?”  I watched this show over at my family’s house on Thanksgiving night, and we all had more fun trashing the show than watching it.  So if you want to have a good time watching a cheesy, bad show, check out “Dinotopia.”  Catch it soon, because based on the ratings of the premiere, it won’t be around long…and it wasn’t even competing with a new episode of “Survivor” and “Friends!”

Get the original mini-series on DVD:

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Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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