Has Spielberg's $50m gamble on time-travel dinosaur epic paid off?

First Night: Terra Nova, Sky 1

The main action in Terra Nova – Sky One's dinosaur's n' time-travel spectacular – takes place 85 million years before its opening scene.

The inspiration for the opening scene, on the other hand, is much closer to home. It's only 29 years since Blade Runner was released – and though Steven Spielberg is executive producer, it's Ridley Scott who first sets the mood.

The year is 2149: oranges are a luxurious novelty, the air is as thick as porridge and third children are a criminal offence, which is why Jim ends up getting six years in a maximum security prison without a respirator.

When his doctor wife is recruited to head back in time with the teenagers, Jim has to break out and bluff his way through the portal with child No. 3 concealed in his backpack.

On the other side of the time gate James Cameron takes over the job of supplying unpaid artistic input. That's because Terra Nova looks suspiciously like the planet Pandora from Avatar and Stephen Lang turns up again, playing another steely military commander: "Together we are at the dawn of a new civilisation", he tells the new arrivals, "No pressure."

The new civilisation itself looks less like a frontier outpost than a tropical version of Center Parcs, with family chalets laid out along wood-chip paths and a handy supermarket within walking distance.

However, this Center Parcs has dinosaurs. Before long Zoe (contraband kid) is out by the fence feeding a CGI Brachiosaurus. And for the first time Spielberg gets a look in as a creative presence.

He doesn't seem to have fretted unduly about the script. The budget for Terra Nova is reported to have been over $50m (£32.2m) but there evidently wasn't a lot left over for writers.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," says Jim flatly, when asked to explain why he and his wife had ignored the two-child maximum back in Smogville. And Commander Taylor himself has a tendency to use lines that feel as if they've been around since the Cretaceous: "C'mon... let's take a drive. There's a lot about this place you need to know," he grunts manfully, after Jim has convinced him to reassign him from light gardening duties to the his security team.

Meanwhile, Jim's teenagers are down the mall – sorry, marketplace – making awkward 2011 small talk with the local hotties. Judging from appearances, the task of recruiting colonists for Terra Nova was contracted out to the hiring department at Abercrombie & Fitch.

It's best not to ask too many questions about this set up, such as why a society that could invent a functioning time machine hasn't found an easier way to put things right than violating all known laws of physics. But as long as you don't ask too many questions you should be able to have fun. The dinosaurs are nimbly animated and the final half hour is salted with promising teasers. For one thing, who exactly are the Sixers, a group of dissident Terra Novans? And what are the mysterious runes out by the waterfall that Commander Taylor has declared off limits?

It would be a very undiscerning sort of viewer who went back for the people, or their cardboard emotions. But the dinosaurs, and those question marks, might just hook you.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all