Comic-Con panel finally takes viewers to 'Terra Nova'
How did the Ballroom 20 audience react to the FOX drama?
I'm still not ready to tell you what I think of FOX's heavily hyped, abundantly speculated upon new drama "Terra Nova." I'm certainly not ready to do a review and I don't even think I'm ready for something as vague as a Take Me To The Pilots entry.
I've seen "Terra Nova" twice now, once in a short version last month and once in the extended cut that had its premiere at San Diego's Comic-Con on Saturday (July 23) morning.
The Comic-Con panel was FOX's first time putting all of its cards on the table when it comes to "Terra Nova." An initial Comic-Con panel last summer, before the pilot was even shot, was scheduled and then canceled. The network screened a scarcely substantive, barely sizzling sizzle reel for critics back in January and then presented a nearly identical glimpse of clips at Wonder-Con in April. Even advertisers got basically the same glimpse at the FOX upfront in May.
So Saturday's screening was a pretty big deal.
A few quick reactions and some details from the brief Q&A after the break...
Like I said, here are just a few quick reactions to what we saw on Saturday:
*** Stephen Lang is a lot of fun. No matter your thoughts on leading man Jason O'Mara or anybody else in the cast, it's tremendously satisfying to watch the "Avatar" star devour the Australian scenery which, incidentally, is quite impressive.
*** The effects were far improved from the cut I saw last month. Who knows how they'll look come September. The two-hour premiere on September 26 is going to look great in HD. And assuming FOX and the "Terra Nova" post-production team has the same period of nine-plus months to hone the effects on every episode, "Terra Nova" will look like nothing you've seen on TV.
*** The tinkering with the introduction was a huge mistake. Nobody at FOX or on "Terra Nova" cares what I think, but the opening 15 minutes of the pilot were mysterious and tense when I saw the pilot the first time. All of the mystery and tension is gone in this new edit and several relationships have been tinkered with in annoying ways.
*** As clumsy as much of the writing is, I really want to see that second hour of "Terra Nova."
I'm a bit split on "Terra Nova" and it shouldn't be surprising that the reaction from the crowd was split as well. The attempts at humor in the script were greeted with near-silence and a couple key early moments generated almost no reaction. But when "Terra Nova" finally gets to its dinosaur-driven money shots, there were cheers and the pilot's strong conclusion earned solid applause.
The buzz from the dinosaurs, particularly one vicious meat-eater, wasn't lost on the assembled producers or on Lang, the only actor to make the journey from Australia.
"Considering the reaction to that scene, I figure there'll be a mandate from the network that there be one eating per week," Lang cracked.
Added producer Jose Molina, "You're gonna see some pretty cool dino action, dino-on-man action."
It's a safe bet that will be the most repeated quote from the panel.
Molina's point is that "Terra Nova" isn't going to make a big splash with its pilot and then do a slew of bottle episodes before you ever see another dinosaur again.
"It’s dinosaur show," Molina said. You will see dinosaurs. We are expensive show. You will see the money on the screen. It’s going to look badass."
The man in charge of those effects, Kevin Blank, promised, "I think we're getting better as we go. This is where we are right now and they're only going to be better going forward."
Lang, who played a somewhat similar role in James Cameron's "Avatar," knows what it's like to act opposite a green screen or a helpfully positioned tennis ball.
"It's difficult. It just requires focus and imagination and really specific guidance from the directors," Lang said. "I think it helps to have great confidence in the expertise and creativity of the special effects team."
But "Terra Nova" isn't only a dinosaur show.
"I like to think this is a show that Gene Roddenberry would have liked," said executive producer Rene Echevarria, while fellow producer Brannon Braga used words like "aspirational" and "humanistic" to describe it.
Of the enigmatic nature of his character, Lang said, "We're suggesting a future and past that has mystery, questions to be answered. Taylor is something of an enigmatic figure and that's quite intentional. Hopefully it creates a certain interest for a character. The challenge here is to create a weekly event, something that's dramatic and resolves itself at the same time and to continue a mythic arc as well."
We'll get more "Terra Nova" details at Press Tour in a couple weeks and I'll try to sum up my opinions on "Terra Nova" before its September premiere.