I have never seen one of these SciFi originals before, this was the first. I think it only fair to judge the acting, direction/production, set design and even the CGI effects on the other SciFi movies. To compare it to your typical Hollywood production is unfair. I will say, however, that overall Aztec Rex was not exactly reminiscent of Werner Herzog's masterpiece Aguirre, Wrath of God.
I will begin by noting that, yes, I do recognize the fact that this movie has more to do with culture-clash than it does with dinosaurs. Despite this being a made-for-TV sci-fi movie, there is some underlying context to the story which I shall examine. The symbolic elements included are evident enough.
Consequently, as a student of history, theology, mythology and film: I found the dialogue outrageous and the plot themes to be somewhat insulting. I am not asking for any mea culpas on behalf of the producers - as I said before the movie is what it is. But what concerns me is that much of the younger demographic for this movie probably rely on television to provide them their lessons when it comes to history and cultural diversity.
The main problem manifests itself most visibly with the character Ayacoatl (not a commentary on Dichen Lachman's performance, but simply how her character was written, although, I'll say she has some work to do before she receives any Emmy nods). It is through her character that the Spanish Europeans actions are justified. Her function in the film as the love interest of Rios affirms that the European way is the right way, simply because they are European. There is really no other reason given. It's really just left to the assumption that the viewer is meant to associate themselves with the Europeans over the Aztec because their dress, language, ideology, etc is more familiar to them than the Aztec - so therefore the Aztec are portrayed as adversarial and 'backwards.' And it's not simply that the viewer is left with that assumption due to ethnocentric perception on the viewers part, but it really seems like the story is trying to convince the viewer - As if the Aztec were not capable of coming up with a plan - if not a better one - to lure a dinosaur to its death on a bed of punji sticks.
In fairness, there is a subgroup of the Spanish who are portrayed as looting temples and intent on simply abusing the native MesoAmericans. There is also a scene where we have the Christian holy man noting the achievements of the Aztec: "They have agriculture, medicine, calendar, etc." - But in the end it is still the Aztec warrior who is portrayed as the main antagonist of the movie, even over the 'thunder lizards' (more on that later). He his portrayed as treacherous, duplicitous and attempts to dispatch the romantic European Spaniard by tricking him into consuming hallucinogenic mind altering mushrooms - an important spiritual component to certain aspects and religions of the native Meso & North Americans (again, more on this later) so that he can keep the female he feels belongs to him and away from the Spaniard.
Now in analyzing the true nature of the story (leaving the obvious Christian vs. Pagan themes off of the table) from a symbolic standpoint - a viewer can easily take these so-called thunder lizards to be representatives of the MesoAmerican ideology/theology, which in this movie is portrayed as being one intent on: bloodthirstiness, mercilessness, cruelness, wicked, maybe even evil? In opposition, we have this group of Christian wanderers, led by a young Hernando Cortes who are portrayed as naive, yet overall noble, lambs caught up in the dark heathen world of the Aztec. Also, the name of the film is Aztec Rex, leading one to believe that it is about dinosaurs out to eat people. However, what Aztec Rex translates to is Aztec King, a the head of the Aztec state, or in this instance 'state-of-being.' (Hence, why the title of the film was changed). And so who in fact do we see as the new Aztec king at the end? It's the remaining Spaniard, Rios. Aztec Rex is in reference to the new European ideology which overcame, through disease, bloodshed, war & famine, Native Americans. Rios symbolizes the ideal European - as the presenters of this film would like them to be remembered (in opposition to Cortes who represents the 'practical-yet-still-noble European'). But when you examine the Holocausts of the Americas, let us be honest: don't the symbolic components of this film's story have it backwards?
I have to say Aztec Rex is at worst a little racist, or to be kind about it, ignorant at best.
And yes, I know it's just a movie, all meant to be in fun, I understand, but so at the end we're left with the idea that Rios was the father of the last remaining Aztec lines? I wonder what Native MesoAmericans would have to think about this ending... as for myself, I thought it was a little too self indulgent.
Best supporting performance of the movie goes to Ian Ziering's wig - although conspicuous - it did at least alter Ziering's appearance enough so that I didn't think I was watching the yuppie from 90210 leading a bunch of conquistadors into the heart of darkness. Ziering actually proves himself to be a more-than-capable actor in this movie, I actually bought his performance, or at least I forgot it was Ian Ziering anyway. I don't know whom his agent is, but he should get more work.
In closing, it was also a pleasure to see Jim McGee again. I've been a fan ever since his all too brief scene-stealing performance in 1988's Scrooged.
Alexander Quaresma - DeusExMachina529@aol.com