Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Country: United States
Starring: Katie Carr, Wentworth Miller, Tyron Leitso, Jim Carter, David Thewlis, Stuart Wilson, Alice Krige, Zienia Merton, Christian Simpson
Voices: Lee Evans, Terry Jones
Eye candy: Katie Carr (see above picture), Hannah Yelland
Directors: Marco Brambilla, David Winning
Run time: 240 minutes
I don’t normally take issue with other reviewers of movies, or their quotes on DVD covers. But the quote on the DVD cover of Dinotopia absolutely blew me away. “Move over Spider-Man and Star Wars Episode II! As Shakespeare would say…a hit! A palpable hit!” Umm…what? This is so weird on so many levels. First of all, it’s a positive review of a bothersomely bad product. But to reference Star Wars Episode II? Of all things? Alongside Spider-Man? And then to sort-of-half quote Shakespeare?
I guess what I’m saying is – don’t be fooled by the critic-quotes on the DVD cover. They are misleading. Palpably misleading! I was not a big fan of Spider-Man, and Star Wars Episode II really sucked. But to compare this miniseries with those two movies is bonkers at best. The special effects are entirely different. Dinotopia is not one of those blockbuster big-action computer-generated animated movies. Actually, the animation in Dinotopia is quite good – but it’s quaint and old-school in comparison.
The animation is likely the very best part of Dinotopia. It’s done by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and it’s charming and nice. The talking dinosaurs have a very muppet-ish quality to them, and the best character in the miniseries is the neurotic stenonychosaurus Zippo (voiced by Lee Evans). Although most of the dinosaurs can speak English, apparently, he is the only one who actually does.
Perhaps, however, the fact that a dinosaur is the best character in the film is less a tribute to the quality animation and more a comment on the acting and the direction. The human characters in Dinotopia are positively awful. How Wentworth Miller went on to become a star (Prison Break and so forth) after doing this garbage is beyond me. As David Scott, one of two brothers marooned on this lost island of dinosaurs, he is positively irritating, with no charm, no apparent redeeming qualities and no believability whatsoever.
Worse than Miller, however, are his co-stars. As his brother Karl, Tyron Leitso is one of the most unconvincing actors I have seen outside 2000 Flushes commercials. He is supposed to be rebellious and skeptical and vaguely badass. Instead he is soggy cardboard. One especially painful scene, involving the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, makes it quite clear that he has no idea how a rebellious loner might actually behave in the real world, let alone in the fake world of dinosaurs. (You can now see Leitso, much improved, on the TV show Being Erica.)
And then there’s Katie Carr. She clearly got better with age, as is evidenced by her appearance in six episodes of Heroes in 2007 (you might remember her as “Caitlin”). Not only did she get better as an actor, she got much hotter as well. This is why I included a picture of her from Heroes and not from Dinotopia, where she looked more like an extra from Road To Avonlea than an unattainable Dinosaur World Princess.
The actors, however, aren’t nearly as big a problem as the story. It’s just so…lame! The series was produced by Hallmark, which should be a pretty big indocator of the schmaltz to come, but it would have been nice if there had been even a small edge to the film. The brothers are stranded when their plane crashes near this undiscovered island, and their father goes down with the plane to the bottom of the sea. At first I thought that was a pretty interesting way to open the series, with the death of a family member.
But it soon became clear to me that this wasn’t an interesting or difficult series, the kind that would allow a character to die. And I knew it was only a matter of time before the father would be rediscovered, safe and sound, in some schmaltzy reunion sort of way. And so it was. (See clip above.) The brothers start fighting a little – dad never loved me like he loved you – but then they stop and it’s forgotten. Then they fight again when it helps the plot.
There appears to be some tension over the girl. Which brother gets her? Do they both love her? Does she love them? Does anyone care? And then…nothing. No difficult decision must be made, no difficult talk must be had, no painful rejection or sad tale of unrequited love. Just more stuff with dinosaurs and a sneaky scientist. And so goes the miniseries. I like Dinotopia for the dinosaurs, and it still looks terrific after eight years. But I just can’t get over the colossal, pervasive and glaringly obvious lack of balls.