Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dino Squad - The Trojan Dinosaur

Been a while since I did a Dino Squad review, and since that’s apparently the second-most popular series of reviews I do, how about another one? The last one they ever did, to be exact.

Max is upset that the group is inside the lighthouse studying on a beautiful day. I mean, who cares about subjects like Greek Mythology? More importantly, what high school teaches that?

Moynihan tries to sympathize with him, saying it seems like some things you learn in school are irrelevant, but a well-rounded education is the key to succeeding later in life. Rodger credits all the fancy-shmancy gadgets he’s invented to all he’s learned in science and math, and that’s great, but he probably excels in science and math because he likes science and math so much they’re what he does for fun, too. I paid more attention in my literature classes because that’s what I do for fun. Besides, does their equipment actually serve any purpose besides fighting tank-sized mutants?

Moynihan tries to rationalize the frustration from their studies as being part of all their obligations. Midterms, extracurricular activities, family obligations, and saving the world from a “super” villain who wouldn’t make the cut for the Legion of Doom. I notice nobody mentions social lives, because that would imply they had friends outside this little group the like of which doesn’t exist without the aid of central casting.

Or maybe it just is the knowledge setting in that most of the things they’re learning in school are pointless for most people. I’ve hardly used algebra or any of the foreign language stuff those two fat bitches in middle school tried to make me learn. That’s nothing compared to high school, though, because at least people still speak Spanish and French. I went to a high school where you had to take a certain amount of foreign language classes, and you could satisfy that requirement by taking Latin. Although it would’ve been handy that time I fell through a wormhole and landed in an Asterix the Gaul comic.

Anyway, checking in on Dr. Ignoramus, I mean Veloci, he’s launching a scheme to capture those perfect dinosaurs the kids turn into once and for all. He feels so good about this he even quotes “veni, vidi, vici.” He blames previous failures on a lack of manpower (despite this, he’s still only bringing his normal two flunkies with him), and this time plans to mutate a creature “known for its wildly uncontrollable behavior.”

Yes, he’s pulling up outside someplace having a dog show. You know, a pet you can train. And the ones being entered in a dog show will have been trained even more than most.

The kids are still grousing about the worthlessness of their educations, and the subject comes about Sir Isaac Newton and his discovery of gravity, and how they might never have flown to the moon if he hadn’t. Because it’s not like gravity was always there anyway.

Fortunately we’re spared more of this drivel when the mutant alarm goes off, picking up multiple contacts in Manchster, NH (which is only 46 miles away this time). Moynihan thinks this one might be difficult, and decides she’s coming too this time. Why? What about that time where Max and Caruso had to fight like 20 giant chickens? What makes this different? She even says the signals are weak, meaning the animals have been contaminated but haven’t actually mutated yet.

The group actually takes a sea plane to New Hampshire where they leave it with one of Moynihan’s many friends (do these people know she’s actually an immortal velociraptor?). Why? Remember that time where they took motorcycles to a place over 400 miles away and got there within like an hour? Why bother setting the episodes in real locations if you’re not going to address the distances? And then turn around and address the distances? I’m pretty sure “Scents and Scents-a-bility” was the first episode I did that Jeffrey Scott didn’t write.

All I’m asking for’s a little consistency.

While Moynihan and Caruso stand watch outside (with both of them in the same place. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of having two lookouts?), the others go inside and track the signal to a box. Which is full of chocolate lab puppies. Which immediately scamper out without the kids doing a thing to stop them. Let’s ignore why these puppies are at a dog show, and just say way to contain the threat you dipshits. And I think I brought this up before, but when they call Moynihan on their walkie talkies she goes by the handle “Mothersaurus.” I’m not sure I want to know why they call her “mother,” but why the “saurus”? If Veloci intercepts their transmissions he’s going to know they’re those dinosaurs that keep getting in his way, and quite possibly the other raptor who spent the millennia in the same cave as him. It’s just with how they’re supposed to be trying to keep a low profile, yet drive all those dinosaur-faced vehicles and do nothing to hide who they are…

The puppies do mutate and Max decides it’s a good time to do the same, even though the puppy-mutants appear to be, well, not hostile at all.

After they change for a non-fight, Veloci’s goons show up and trap them with tar guns, and it seems like he really has decided to hire more than two thugs to capture five dinosaurs at long last. It’s kind of funny, really, when Rodger notes “These guys have been doing their homework! They’ve never been this well-organized!” No, they just thought to send more than two guys. Only took two entire seasons.

Seeing another guy running inside, Moynihan follows and sees that the kids have been captured. Couldn’t they have called her and told her about Veloci’s guys being around with that telepathy they have in dinosaur form? I mean, that’s how she told them her and Veloci’s story in the pilot. With dino telepathy.

She goes dino herself to save the kids, because remember, she’s a raptor who gained telepathic powers, immortality and the ability to change into a human by hiding in a cave. Her surprise attack is helped by the goons forgetting they have weapons capable of bringing down dinosaurs. Much larger ones than velociraptors, even the Jurassic Park ones adopted by popular culture. Then again, the animation’s so bad it might be showing her to be the size of a spinosaurus like this.

The stupidity continues when she explains to Fiona that she’s not Veloci. No shit, he’s red. They’ve run into him like that several times. I know I've said this show doesn't have much cross-episode continuity, but you can't say they've never met the villain face-to-face and don't know what he looks like. Not by the second season, and not in the last episode of the second season. And as a matter of fact Veloci himself comes in, recognizes her color scheme and morphs into a raptor for another non-fight. They circle around a couple times until it occurs to one of the goons those nets that worked on the other, bigger dinosaurs might work on this one too. Although forgive me for doubting the goons can drag the dinosaurs away with their bare hands. The episode itself keeps mentioning the dinos weigh about two tons apiece.

Moynihan uses her dino telepathy on the puppy mutants to have them run up and start licking the goon (so why couldn’t the kids call her with their own dino telepathy to report it was an ambush?). This allows the kids to escape, but Veloci manages to get away with his old nemesis in tow. The puppies get in the kids’ way when they try to follow (as kids, brilliant), but are quickly zapped back to normal.

Back at the lighthouse, the kids use their dino radar to determine Moynihan’s being held at Veloci’s corporate headquarters. Okay, how does “dino radar” work? I guess they have to actually be in dinosaur form to show up on it, but the puppies hadn’t mutated yet and they did. And remember, the kids had to go 46 miles to get there. That probably took a while where the puppies weren’t mutating. Plus the kids turn into dinosaurs because of Veloci’s mutant juice, but Moynihan’s actually a raptor who turns into a human, not the other way around. And she still shows up on dino radar.

Max agonizes over how a bunch of kids, even with dino-morphing powers, can get into a super villain’s home base since it’s probably crawling with guards and booby traps. It all depends on how competent the guards need to be at the moment. If they get caught and then have to fight their way out, it’d be no problem because the villains in this show always get more incompetent the more “dramatic” the situation is.

All their middle class education hasn’t taught them anything about rescuing velociraptors from corporate super villains, but Rodger pipes up with this little pearl of wisdom, “Everything’s useless, until we put it to use.”

Wow, man. You just blew my mind.

Fiona’s inspired by them talking about Robin Hood before, specifically the part about the sheriff putting a bounty on his head. Like Veloci offering a reward to anyone with information leading to the capture of a dinosaur. And he didn’t become the laughingstock of the corporate world, you’re telling me? I just want to know what people think of this little gesture of his, considering the media firestorm that would erupt if a real live dinosaur was discovered.

Anyway, it seems like the plan is something like this: they build a cage with a trap door, so that Fiona can be inside in dinosaur mode, but once they haul her inside the building the other will hop out of the trap door and they can rescue Moynihan. Caruso comes out wearing a fake beard in case Veloci’s ever seen him before, but Max points out there’s no mistaking Caruso’s stupid haircut. Which makes their security look even more pathetic. Although this does get him to flatten that stupid pompadour or whatever down.

Incredibly, Veloci buys their story about a guy bringing his dinosaur out of his garage, and planning to take it to the zoo if they don’t want it. They could probably sneak in by pretending to be the pizza guy.

Or maybe not, because when Caruso starts trying to schmooze Veloci for the reward money for delivering a real life dinosaur, our villain voices skepticism about how an airhead like him managed to trap a dinosaur. He catches Caruso flat-footed by asking to hear the gripping story of how he trapped this prehistoric beastie. So…they were banking on Veloci to be an idiot who’d just buy this without employing any of his vaunted brainpower as to how this all happened. Caruso adapts the story of that guy who made friends with the lion by pulling the thorn out of its paw, and Veloci buys it. He buys it. Come on, Veloci was around when people made those stories up....

Clunky writing continues to favor our heroes as the cage is wheeled into the same room where Moynihan’s being held with nothing but a pair of leg cuffs. Via dino telepathy Fiona tells her they’re here to bust her out, and she replies to work fast because she can’t stay as a raptor much longer. Why not? I mean, that’s her real form. The raptor one. In most shows (that is, ones that make any effort to make any kind of sense) when your strength runs out or your control slips, you usually turn back to your true form. This episode was written by the same guy who wrote the pilot, after all, so it’s not like he wouldn’t know that. Plus, couldn’t Veloci possibly hear them using dino telepathy, since his natural form’s a dinosaur as well? Again referring to the pilot, Moynihan was a human when she used her dino telepathy to tell the kids the back story. Maybe she's thought of herself as a human for so long, as opposed to Veloci who wants to bring back the dinosaurs, that in her mind her human form is her true one now. I dunno. I don't believe I should have to invent these explanations myself unless a show was obviously trying to be vague.

Before I move on, I love the clunky terminology of the series. Whenever Veloci talks about the kids in their dino forms, he always, always calls them “PERFECT dinosaurs.” And when Rodger starts to get antsy sitting in the compartment, Max tells him “hold your horseasauruses!” To think I praised the feature film this guy wrote.

Evidently seeing the kids don’t have a plan beyond this, Moynihan shrinks back to human form, where she can just step out of the cuffs and run for it. Anyway, with the bad guys distracted, the kids sneak out through the bottom of the cage, open it to let Fiona out (they didn’t give themselves a way to open it from the inside?), and go dino themselves.

Luckily none of the guards appear to have any of those anti-dinosaur weapons they did back at the dog show, despite keeping a dinosaur captive even before they brought Fiona in. Unluckily the dimwits walk right into a circle of diodes on the floor while trying to force their way out, which turn out to generate a laser cage that Veloci turns on. Schools may not offer courses on getting around villain hideouts safely, but haven’t these guys even seen a sci-fi movie in their lives? Luckily the buttons have been labeled in Latin, which Veloci uses because “he’s been around for ages.“ This might explain his lack of success as a villain if he’s labeling the controls to his hardware in a dead language there’s no indication his guards know.

Rodger turns out to know Latin, enough to know that the first two buttons on the control panel are “warning” and “cage,” but it takes all of them thinking together on English words with similar roots to figure out that the third and final button opens the cage. And…that’s not something they could’ve just figured out through process of elimination?

Oh, and to get them out, Rodger actually pushes the same button Veloci used to turn the cage on to turn it off again, rendering the whole thing pointless thanks to animator inattentiveness.

They end up trapping Veloci in his own cage, and despite Fiona pointing out that this is a perfect chance to destroy his operation, Rodger replies that he’s “too strong and too clever” to stay trapped long. Oh, please! He hasn’t won a single non-fight he’s entered in this show, and they tricked him to get into his lab. Obviously he doesn’t have as many practical smarts as they do, and that’s not saying a lot. They don’t even show Veloci getting on his cell phone to call a red alert, and if they’re underground, would that even work? Even if we’re prepared to buy Rodger’s story, and I’m not saying I am, they should be able and willing to do some damage as long as they’re there.

But if the kids did that, there couldn’t be more episodes (which there weren't anyway. Maybe this kind of writing’s why), so they all go along with Rodger’s plan and just walk back out. Moynihan praises the kids for their brilliant strategy, prompting Max to say “Who’d have thought Greek mythology could be so useful?” Who’d have though a Ph.D.-holder would fall for a tactic that’s been around so long it’s become a cliché?

Or Latin for that matter. Buzz suddenly knows how to say “knowledge is power” in Latin, making me wish I could be watching A.J.’s Time Travelers instead. That show was funnier.

They drive home that point of theirs that everything you learn has some use, and to demonstrate its effectiveness I’d like to tell you a little story. One Thanksgiving not all that long ago, my family spent the occasion with one of my mom’s friends and her family. Because I’m such a big kid at heart, I got put in charge of entertaining mom’s friend’s grandson. He was huge into dinosaurs, so I decided to let him watch some Dino Squad. Little Will retained absolutely nothing about it besides all the cool dinosaurs running around. He also thought Veloci turned into a deinonychus.

And the show doesn’t do anything to say whether that check for 200 grand Caruso conned out of Veloci’s good or not.



    No really, reading these blogs has been a pleasure simply because I have the same feeling as you do when it comes to this. I won't get into the deep level of annoyance I have for this show but reading the journals has been worthwhile, as just to get someone else to talk about the glaring faults of this show.

    The only thing that would be better is a flat-out video riff but I wouldn't want you to torture yourself like that. If you can get your hands on any more episodes I will definitely come back. Hell, if I could I'd review the show WITH you because its just so funny! XD

    In other words, good work and keep it up. I enjoy your blog and plan to follow it. :)

  2. Well thank you Squid, and as it so happens a couple episodes I've had my eye on happen to be up on Jaroo right now. If I can tear myself away from Bella and Edward's "gripping" "love" "story" for a while...

  3. I remember watching this show when it first came out. I was hyped up about it due to the trailers released on its website about a month earlier, before the site went live. And upon seeing the first episode, I admit it didn't meet my expectations.

    Dino Squad was quick to making its first mistake and that was trying to explain too much too fast. In that one episode, they crammed so much stuff in it that the episode comes off as being, well messy.

    I do like the show, and I do think it actually improved in some areas in season 2. I found season 2 to be more enjoyable because Veloci was more involved. But I don't think it was perfect. It still could have been better, a lot better. But I think the show suffers not just from poor writers, but from a company trying their hardest to make a show about dino morphing teens into an educational, environmental show. So basically it's a dino version of Captain Planet, but done worse.

    I have had an interest in doing a video or review pointing out what I felt were really big flaws in the show, including an incompetent villain (Veloci) and very little limelight for some of the characters (Max). And reading some of your stuff, I notice you pointed out things I didn't think of or realize before.

    A friend of mine and I sometimes talk about the problems with the show, and I had been working on an essay on changes I would make to the show to try to make it at least a little better. I address issues such as Veloci's incompetence, character development, functioning in cold weather despite being cold blooded, and where Veloci and Moynihan came from.

    I may post it online somewhere.

    My brother and I may also be doing a commentary on episode 7 sometime. He hasn't seen much of Dino Squad, but I told him about it.

    1. I'd be interested in seeing it if you did.

  4. I finally got it finished. I posted it on my DA account.

  5. Just so y'all know, this isn't the most recent Dino Squad article anymore.