Tuesday, August 18, 2009

JFC Review #2: MAJUNGATHOLUS VS. MAJUNGATHOLUS

There has been a long delay since my last Jurassic Fight Club episode review. This is not an indication of any lagging commitment to the show on my part. It only represents the period of time that has elapsed between the first season airing and it becoming available on Netflix. Seriously, get this show on Netflix. It's great.

And now for some DINO-WARS!


This scale model is about to be eaten!!!

Episode Title: Cannibal Dinosaur
Time: 70 million years ago; Cretaceous
Place: Madagascar (described by the JFC narrator as a "prison where only one sentence was carried out: DEATH")
Battlers: Male Majungatholus versus Female Majungatholus
Stakes: Survival in the prehistoric world; gender identity

Tag-line for the episode: "THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF THE SEXES"
Runners up: "The Most Gruesome Act in the Animal Kingdom: Cannibalism"
"One of the Most Disturbing Discoveries Ever Unearthed"

Quotes regarding Majungatholus:

"The T-Rex of the East."
"The ultimate predator in its community."
"Its teeth worked like a conveyor."
"Its tail was like an oversized baseball bat."
"A Majungatholus had the mass of a baby elephant." (Nothing can be terrifying after it's been compared to a baby elephant.)

Key Pre-Fight Moments:

First of all, I love the idea of setting this up as "the ultimate battle of the sexes". The phrase "battle of the sexes" has a romantic comedy connotation to me, where a girl and guy are in the same field or something, and they're competing professionally while falling in love (I can't believe the only example of this I can think of off hand is No Reservations, which I didn't even see). There is sort of an implied affection to the battle, or at least a mutual respect. I just love that the JFC people took it upon themselves to interpret this phrase completely literally. Two members of the same species, different genders, battle to the death. You really can't argue that as far as battles of the sexes go, this is indeed higher on the "ultimate" chart than like, Alvy Singer and Annie Hall quibbling over the meaning of love and stuff.

Josh was valiant enough to watch this episode with me, and we immediately picked sides. Me - rooting for female. Him - rooting for male. IT'S LIKE MEN ARE FROM MARS AND WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS OR SOMETHING.

As a quick aside, another great thing about Jurassic Fight Club is that the episodes begin with this disclaimer: "The following is a graphic depiction of a violent prehistoric battle. Viewer discretion is advised". Watching these CGI dinosaurs fight could really fuck you up, for real, guys! Trauma alert.

There is a lot of hubbub made by the paleontologists and the narrator about Madagascar being an island, which means adaptation worked differently there. The narrator goes so far as to say that Madagascar forces the Majungatholus to "adapt in ways that other dinosaurs would never dream of". Not only does this suggest that dinosaurs had some kind of conscious control over their own evolution (Pterodactyl: "Uh...I think it's about time I grew wings"; Stegosaurus: "Maybe I'd look more impressive with some plate-like spikes along my spine?), it forces us to confront the existence of dinosaur dreams. What do dinosaurs dream about? I can't believe I've never had an opportunity to ask myself this enormously appealing question. Honestly, I dream about dinosaurs pretty regularly, so it's my genuine hope that when they slipped into their little reptile slumber, they dreamed of me. *Wistful sigh*

The other thing we learn about island isolation is that the Majungatholus is a hideously inbred species. Apparently, they are all brothers mating with sisters mating with fathers mating with nieces. One of the experts, "Dinosaur George" Blasing, posits that this may have been responsible for the Majungatholus' "ugly face". Two things. 1) Does inbreeding necessarily = ugly? Purebred dogs are inbred and adorable. I am never going to deny a puppy a cuddle because it has a redundant set of genes. And I'm positive there have been attractive inbred humans; it can't all be the stereotype of heavy brows and closely-set eyes. (I should alert you that this just led me to Google "inbred beauties", which actually turned up a direct hit: "There is a world of breeding potential in these inbred beauties just waiting for the person who is already breeding sufficient dips to make the right matches". The page is about flowers or something).

Secondly, "ugly face"? It's a dinosaur. What are we comparing it to here? Other dinosaurs? I would posit that the Majungatholus' face is about as attractive as any dinosaur face. Compared to a human face? In this case, yes, I would say it has an ugly face, if we are using a human as the manipulated variable. But this might only be because I prefer to mate within my species and time period.

Final Madagascar point: I feel I must reiterate that Madagascar, although it may seem like a tropical paradise, is in fact a "prison where only one sentence was carried out: DEATH".

Stray observations:

There was a weird CGI comparison of a Majungatholus' skull to a hawk's skull and a crocodile's skull. All three skulls were rotating on the screen at the same time. It was so weird. I had no idea what I was meant to be observing.

Re: skulls - one of the paleontologists was talking about how little we know about the Majungatholus. Abruptly, he exclaimed in that desperate nerd voice, "We need more skulls!"

The average day of a Majungotholus was described by one of the dinosaur experts as consisting of the following: "walking around, killing something, eating it, resting for a while". No croquet, for the record.

After describing that Majungatholus had poor binocular vision, the dinosaur experts likened its compensatory fighting style to a professional boxer: they're always moving their heads around to get a better handle on their opponent. The only thing that's weird about this is that it implies that boxers do not have binocular vision.

The first time we see the CGI female Majungatholus (after the narrator exclaims "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FEMALES?"), she appears to be sashaying.

Blasing says something midway through the episode about how humans clear logs out of forests, but imagine if there were no humans to clear logs. It'd be a pretty loggy forest! When weird statements like this occur, you know it is JFC's Foreshadowing Department at work. Probably one of the Majungatholus will trip on a log during the fight, or whatever. Something with a log is going to happen.

There are a lot of qualifying clauses that the paleontologists use to soften the outrageous fight-story, and make it seem somehow scientifically feasible. My favourite in this episode was "It is very reasonable to suggest...". The rest of the sentence was something about how the Majungothulus had a head like a turkey.

FIGHT BREAKDOWN:

A horny male Majungatholus is walking through a (notably loggy) forest. He is following the scent of a female Majungatholus "like a road map", and finds her in a (notably loggy) grove. According to the narrator, "his motive is sex, but she has other ideas". Time out: Again, why have I never had a chance to contemplate what kinds of "ideas" a dinosaur has? A dinosaur roaring "ROAR-EEKA! in the bathtub. A dinosaur with a lightbulb over its head. A dinosaur watching the sunset, reflecting on life. A dinosaur contemplating me contemplating it. *Wistful sigh*

Time in. This female Majungatholus is no pushover, we are informed. She is majorly cranky. "Is this just a lover's spat?" asks the narrator. Time out: At this point, Josh yelled "What, did he leave the toilet seat up?". Laughter, laughter. Time in. We learn that is not, in fact, any so-called lovers-spat. A vital piece of information is revealed: the female already has a BABY. A YOUNG MAJUNG. A Ma-YOUNG-gatholus. Time out: Puns! Time in.

The female is aggressive because she is trying to protect her baby from the male. Apparently, it is a Majungatholus custom for a male to eat a baby if it is not his baby. Time out: here's advice for an inbred species - don't eat offspring! Yes, even if it's not yours! You are already dealing with poor immune systems and mutations due to lack of genetic diversity. Don't throw infanticide in there too. If you are not related to the baby, maybe you will be able to produce un-inbred babies with the baby in a couple years. Ever think of that, or were you too busy thinking of me (*wistful sigh*)? Time in.

Now here comes something amazing. Brace yourself. The male Majungatholus makes his sexual intentions clear by proceeding to dance. He does a courtship dance. It looks like he is trying to take a shit during an earthquake. It is something you can only truly appreciate if you watch the episode. He is swaying from side to side, but also doing an unmistakable shit-squat. It is the weirdest, unsexiest thing this Majungotholus could've done with its ugly-faced inbred body; I don't know what the animators could have possibly modeled it after. No wonder the female is not only turned off, but becomes totally homicidal.

The narrator informs us that "he has no idea he is dancing with the devil". True enough.

The female fails to prevent the male from seeing the baby. And it's all over after that.

What happens is that the paleontologists all excitedly say some variation of "that baby's going down". One says "he knows he's got to get rid of that baby". Another says "He needs to take out the baby". The narrator echoes it almost verbatim: "The male has to take that baby out". It's hilarious. They're all super-stoked that this male has to kill the baby Majung. If he kills the baby, he will be able to mate with the mother, because she'll immediately want to make a new baby upon the death of the old one. Which means in Majungotholus culture, baby-killing is kind of an aphrodisiac. So, I don't know which dinosaur to root for anymore, because it's hard to choose sides after that.

Regardless, how is this male going to get through this warrior of a female to kill her kid? Well, see, there's all these logs around. So he backs her into a loggy corner. She tried to kick dirt in his face (girl fight) but to no avail. She trips on a log and falls down. Well played, male. Well played, JFC Foreshadowing Department.

I guess the female temporarily passes out or something after falling, because there are then many long, protracted, bloody shots of the male killing the baby. He rams it against a tree and shakes it and stuff. It's payoff, I guess. Anyway, the baby dies, so the mother is sure to be all hot and bothered now, right? You wish! The paleontologists belabour the point that when she recovers from her fainting spell (women), she still thinks the baby might be alive, even though it's basically a mashed-up pulp in the male's mouth. She charges him, bites his neck and full-on snaps his spine. He's alive, but paralyzed. Down for the count. MaDONEgotholus.

The female checks the mashed-up piece of pulp's vitals. It's dead. The narrator informs us that the female Majungatholus can not mourn her child (no need to MajungCONSOLEus). Time out: the rules are that dinosaurs have dreams and ideas, but not feelings. Time in: So if you can't mourn your dead kid, why not eat it? Why not indeed, thinks the female, and she goes ahead and tucks right in. She needs to replenish the calories she burned protecting her baby by eating her baby. Gross!

But wait! The narrator tells us that the baby is only "her first course". Just an hor d'oeurve. After all, there is a paralyzed male right next to her; that's an entree. For some reason, the paleontologists make a quibbling point about this being about sustenance, not vengeance. Fine, but she does eat him alive. It just seems like that's making a point about something. Not to mention that she targets the male's liver, ripping it out and making a big show of messily gobbling it up in front of the still-conscious male. The whole thing is so Promethean that it's hard for me to believe she's not at least a little bit doing it because this male killed her baby, even if she is emphatically incapable of mourning it.

The narrator ends the show by proclaiming, "One thing's for certain: One Majungatholus just showed another who's boss".

WINNER: Cannibalism.
Runner-up: Narrator's intensity.

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