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'Terra Nova:' What the Critics Are Saying

The Steven Spielberg-produced dinosaur, sci-fi drama premieres on Fox tonight.

Stephen Lang
Brook Rushton/FOX

The Steven Spielberg-produced Terra Nova premieres on Fox (8 p.m.) Monday night. What are critics saying about the sci-fi, dinosaur drama, which takes place in 2149 amid environmental ruin?

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"The Terra Nova scenes here have a faint Blade Runner quality to them," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman. "It might be impossible for Fox’s new drama series Terra Nova – one of the most hyped and anticipated of the fall – to either meet expectations or, more damning, its hoped-for Nielsen ceiling, but the show has a lot to get fans excited about. It’s ambitious in scope, has a likable, far-ranging cast and appears to be planting enough storylines to lure in fans who are having Lost withdrawal."

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"The show only runs into trouble when it involves dinosaurs and, since Steven Spielberg is the main name attached to the program, will undoubtedly go Jurassic more often than not," he adds. "However, for every eye-rolling appearance of a dinosaur causing Jurassic Park redux, there is a morsel of hope in some other, mythological strand that pops up in the pilot."

Goodman recommends the series, writing, "you should definitely jump on this bandwagon. Terra Nova will likely appeal to the entire family. And if it can keep up the mystique, may satisfy the sci-fi crowd as well. There is a lot of potential in this series. It’s just a shame that it appears to be veering away from something completely different – something darker and more sci-fi and ambitious, and settling into the feel-good, be-safe vibes of both Jurassic Park and Avatar. Given the numbers those films pulled in, it’s no wonder Spielberg probably thinks that’s the sweet spot of the series."

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The Los Angeles Times' Mary McNamara writes, "Easily the most exciting show of the fall season, Fox's Terra Nova has such obvious, instant and demographically diverse appeal — sci-fi fans, fantasy fans, 5-year-olds, 50-year-olds, Al Gore — that you have to wonder why no one thought of it before.

"Part post-apocalyptic epic, part family drama, part monster-thriller, the two-hour premiere of "Terra Nova" manages to introduce a panoply of narrative threads and themes while telling a remarkably clean story, both in terms of plot line and tone; "Terra Nova" is whole-family friendly," she adds.

"The story remains focused on the family and, through its members, the community, which will no doubt broaden to include all manner of people to keep things interesting. For all its excellent green-screen usage, Terra Nova is remarkably old-fashioned, rejecting the angst and existentialism of Lost to tell the exquisitely American story of colonists, strangers in a strange land come not so much to conquer as to flee, a familiar tale rendered here ferociously and gorgeously new once more," she goes on.

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In the New York Times, Mike Hale asks, "Is Fox’s Terra Nova, with Steven Spielberg’s name at the top of its long list of executive producers, the best of a generally unremarkable bunch of new network shows this fall? Possibly, though to make that argument you need to work around the fact that it’s without doubt the squarest, most old-fashioned series to hit television since — well, since Mr. Spielberg’s Falling Skies on TNT this year."

He says the Terra Nova's plot "is lavishly produced by television standards, at a level of visual and technical sophistication that was partly responsible for the show’s taking nearly two years to land on the Fox schedule."

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"But," he adds, "it’s also so predictable that you might want to fast-forward through the domestic-drama scenes set inside the hilariously clean and orderly colony, stopping whenever you see something that looks like action or a dinosaur. Jim butts heads with the crusty but caring leader, Taylor (Stephen Lang, in a gentler version of his “Avatar” role). The son, Josh (Landon Liboiron), immediately falls in with the mildest, prettiest group of teenage rebels this side of a James Dean movie. The older daughter, Maddy (Naomi Scott), says embarrassingly nerdy things to a hunky young soldier."

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He praises the show for avoiding several other plot pitfalls in similar series.

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"Some clues to future mysteries are seeded in the pilot, but at this point they’re well in the background. It’s established early on that the colony exists in a separate 'time stream' from the 21st century that the settlers leave, which should allow the writers to dance around the sort of questions that bedeviled Lost and are beginning to be a problem on Fringe," he writes.

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