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12/11/2012


I tried to like Primeval New World, but just can’t…

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 4:09 pm

The New World team.

First, let me note I know Primeval New World isn’t yet available in the United States; don’t know when we get it officially, but right now it is only airing in Canada. Fortunately, I have friends in Canada (all over the world, actually) who “smuggle” me copies of programs I normally wouldn’t be able to see (like the excellent and now canceled Insecurity, or the strange yet interesting Continuum), so I’m a little ahead of most folks here. And even though the last few series of the British Primeval weren’t its finest, I still enjoyed it enough to look forward to Canada’s “sequel.”

Problem is, it just isn’t very good.

Let’s look at the overall concept, created by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, names I vaguely remember from some forgettable Star Trek novels. They have apparently decided to get as far away from the premise of the original Primeval as possible, managing to make Canada look pretty silly in the process. Where in England there is an entire governmental agency to handle the anomalies and the travelers through them, in Canada the government is blissfully ignorant, leaving it to a rich dot-commer and his rag-tag bunch to handle these time-portals. It’s as if Canada’s government is collectively the most stupid bunch of politicians on the planet, worse even than America’s Congress. Yipe.

Another thing I really wanted to like was the cast…Niall Matter, one of my favorites from Eureka, should have been a slam-dunk for the heroic lead in this series; a dashing, strong character without the constant bile of Zane Donovan would have been a joy to behold. Unfortunately, the writers have managed to make his character so milquetoast and indecisive as to cripple both the character and the actor, and as a byproduct diluting the possible emotional response to his tearful breakdown in an early episode after a team member was lost. I mean, if he’s generally whiny and weak, tears aren’t a character break. Where Nick Cutter (in the “real” Primeval) was a reluctant hero, when necessary he made solid decisions without whimpering or second-guessing. The Evan Cross that Matter is stuck portraying can barely decide what he wants for lunch, let alone what to do with the creatures invading Vancouver. However he seems determined to keep control of the project, for indeterminate reasons, with nowhere near enough external support, and a couple of tazers…you’d assume someone so ineffective would relish the chance to dump this into some bureaucrat’s lap. Yipe again.

He recruits Dylan Weir (Sara Canning) when his friend and Dylan’s boss is chomped by portaled visitors in the first episode. I have no idea where they are going with the relationship between Weir and Cross, but there is zero, and I mean zeee-rooo chemistry between Matter and Canning. Watching them work to create something that simply doesn’t exist is almost painful, and my heart goes out to both actors, but it just ain’t working. At all. Weir seems to be the smart one here, but she isn’t in charge; Cross is in charge, but seems clueless and lost most of the time — unless they suddenly need him to be brilliant, and then he suddenly and surprisingly is. Canning has perfected a wide-eyed reaction to…well…everything, which gets old rather quickly.

The rest of the crew are the usual types; sexy computer nerd, tough security type, businessperson who holds everything together, government bureaucrat with a secret agenda…there’s nothing here you haven’t seen done a whole lot better in a whole bunch of other series a whole lot less predictably.

So with no sensible backstory, somewhat lame scripts, and interpersonal relationships it’s impossible to care about, it all comes down to the creatures, and the special effects that create them. In Primeval, the effects were generally heart-stoppingly amazing - one of the things that always impressed me was their ability to “feel” real…the number of shots where the creature “felt” wrong in movement or position in space, enough to bring me out of my suspension-of-disbelief, were for me wildly under even many high-budget films - check out one of the later episodes where the camera is constantly moving, the creatures are at a run of maybe 50-miles per hour, and they constantly seem to be actually there, firmly connected to this world in time and space. So certainly with everything that’s gone before, at last the Canadians would get this right…right?

Wrong.

The creatures routinely seem to “float” instead of walk when on solid ground. When leaping or jumping, the effects are terrible; check out the “Canadian Tire” episode (apparently a Canadian big-box store, something Canadians seem to have gone bat-crazy over…akin to Americans being silly enough to go gaga over an episode in a Costco’s) where scenes of the critters peering out over boxes were fine, but every time they jumped (especially down) or ran, they looked phonier than three-dollar (Canadian) bills. This episode is also an excellent example of Cross’ indecisiveness and an overabundance of character whining about how tough they have it with no social life. Sometimes it got so bad I honestly didn’t care if the things munched on any of ‘em…might have given the government an excuse to take over the project with some characters we might actually root for.

I admit I kinda liked the effects in the first episode, but then the Pteranodon as a flying creature was supposed to float, so it’s hard to screw that up. About the only episode so-far where the effects were consistently passable was the second, where the creature was almost never seen, and then mostly seen faintly under water. And yes, I realize the faint praise I am giving…the episode with the least special effects shots was the best thus far. Yet again, Yipe.

It’s frustrating…these folks took an awesome series and managed to water it down in every possible way, making little more than a big soppy mess. I sincerely hope this doesn’t sink Matter’s future, since I still think there’s a perfect breakout role for him out there somewhere. But give this feeble sequel a pass, and spend the time on better more original TV fare.

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One Response to “I tried to like Primeval New World, but just can’t…” »

     

  1. Nostalgic Rumblings » Why I’m using a VPN…and why YOU should, too Says:

    […] Oh, so you know, there are some side-benefits to the use of a VPN; for example, I can pop up in Canada and stream Primeval New World without needing my friends there (waves to you-know-who-you-are!) to record it and send me a copy. Not that I’d actually want to, understand, considering my review of the show, but I can if I want. I can (and have) suddenly appeared in England and gained access to all the BBC stuff that I can’t see when I’m visiting from a U.S. IP address. I can appear in Romania and…um…ok, haven’t found any particular advantage to that yet, but who knows? Is it “legal” to circumvent geographical boundaries to view television programs which are locked-out to citizens of the United States? Who knows. I’d bet if I wasn’t using a VPN with encryption, though, the MPAA/RIAA would consider me a “pirate” just for watching a show… […]


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