BBC Video // 2011 // 581 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 10th, 2012
One of BBC's biggest hits returns for another dose of dinosaur punching.
This is my first experience with Primeval, so allow me some catch-up: Breaches in the space-time continuum called "anomalies" have been opening portals that often lead to prehistoric eras. Through these balls of CGI, terrifying dinosaurs and monsters often traipse, forcing a group of containment professionals to restrain the beasts and control the gatweways.
When we last left these lizard-antagonists, two of their team members found themselves trapped in time during their attempt to save the world from a woman trying to retroactively halt the process of human evolution. Meanwhile, back in the present, a whole new threat emerges, and once again the consequences are civilization-ending...
Fun show. I recall seeing the Primeval ads regularly on BBC America and found myself resisting its allure pretty vigorously. I'd say to myself, "Wow that looks cheesy..." and move on.
It is a risky proposition, building a TV series around the successful generation of dinosaur visual effects, but thanks to both the surprising adeptness of the animators and a tone that balances B-movie plotting with an atmosphere of playing it straight, the show succeeds.
The latter element is what particularly stands out. How easy it would have been to just go full-on goofy, considering the hook of the show? Wisely, the writers opted to stay away from the tongue-in-cheek stuff and play it straight. Granted, there are moments that could have benefitted from some comic relief, but overall it was the right call. The result is a sci-fi action show that doesn't insult your intelligence and the season-long storyline tosses in plenty of entertaining twists.
Primeval's biggest surprise is the quality of its CGI. While it won't be passed off as the fraternal twin of Avatar anytime soon, the visual fx work could have been a lot worse. Actually, that's not fair. Considering the challenge of rendering new and sexy prehistoric monstrosities for every show and utilizing a doubtlessly limited budget, the tech wizards deserve more credit than "it's not terrible." I'd place the quality of the CGI as a few notches below a feature film and worlds better than anything coming out of the Syfy movie factory. I can basically buy these creatures are running amok, so the suspension of disbelief stands.
Two things that irk me...
1) These dinosaur incursions are apparently supposed to be kept under wraps and one of the agents goes so far to commandeer some kid's cell phone, but really we're supposed to believe that no one sees a gigantic T-Rex running through the streets of Slough?!
2) Everyone freaks out when a dino bites it and there's such a focus on non-lethal methods of incapacitating them, but if I were a taxpayer I would make damn sure my government is murdering animals that can devour me alive.
BBC Video's Blu-ray set is okay, starting with the 1.78:1/1080i high-definition transfer. Despite the lack of "p" after the "1080," this is a fine-looking presentation and delivers the action and effects with punch and clarity. Audio is more basic, a 2.0 Dolby Stereo mix that can get noisy, but I'm not ready to let this missed surround sound opportunity slide. Extras: a two-part making-of featurette (in HD) and the complete set of prequel webisodes.
Fast-moving and sporadically ferocious, Primeval serves up an enjoyable sci-fi action romp.
Not Guilty. T-Rex still has funny arms.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BBC Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 581 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site