Friday, April 13, 2012

Movie Review: Dinotopia

The only exposure I had to Dinotopia before watching this miniseries, by Hallmark Entertainment, was a book my Great Grandma had. It was large with lavish paintings of people and dinosaurs coexisting. I don't remember the plot at all, but the concept of domesticating dinosaurs was (to my young mind) brilliant and my sense of awe while reading the book has stuck with me.

I can't say for the books (though I suspect it is so), but in the miniseries some of the practices of Dinotopia are presented as obviously superior to the way we do things in the real world, so we must all be idiots for not doing them here: vegetarianism, government distribution of food, absolute pacifism, etc. But the real result there (as it would be here) is a completely ridiculous society. So it is not without irony that the title Dinotopia (Δεινοτοπία in Greek [1]) actually means "terrible place" or "land of suffering", not "utopian land of the dinosaurs" (which is what we're meant to think). And, as it turns out, things are not ideal in Dinotopia—there exist villains, restrictive rules, hypocrisy, and incompetent unelected leaders.

My verdict: The series was on the low end of okay. The main characters are supposed to be teenagers, but both actors are obviously in their twenties. Some of their behavior (drinking alcohol, swearing) is not befitting a movie for children. One of the main characters, David Scott is played by Wentworth Miller, of Prison Break fame.[2] His character is quite cheesy and poorly done. David Thewlis, who plays the villain, looks more snaggletoothed and mullet-y than he did in the Harry Potter series. For the most part the special effects are impressive for a television movie, especially Waterfall City and the dinosaurs [3]; the costumes, on the other hand, are what you'd expect from a low-budget production like Xena: Warrior Princess or Ever After. Despite some fantastic coincidences, the resolution of the story arcs is satisfying. The question of which brother Marion prefers is left unanswered, possibly to maintain sexual tension in the subsequent (and short-lived) television series (which I won't bother watching).

Fun fact: The king can be seen eating a pitaya several times.[4]


[1] From δεινός deinos "terrible" + τόπος topos "place".

[2] Read my reviews of

[3] The major exception is the only dinosaur who has a talking part: Zippaeu. Zippaeu appears to be some sort of human-sized Ornithomimid (though they give him the non-existent name Stenosaurus, probably intending the much-smaller Stenonychosaurus, a Troodontid). He looks like the ostriches on Disney's Fantasia, but with teeth.

[4] Read my review of pitaya here.

Image attributions:

Triceratops horridus is by Nobu Tamura, available at BW.jpg.

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