Saturday, 27 February 2010

First Impressions: The Legend of the Seeker

Looks like I wont be able to get the Lost post done this week, so as an apology, here is something I made earlier…

So, during some downtime last week I finally got around to     watching Terry Goodkind’s Legend of the Seeker. It’s odd, that as a fan of fantasy fiction, I managed to be completely oblivious to this show for so long. I have to be honest, I’m not familiar with Goodkind’s work or The Sword of Truth on which the show is based, so this will not be a snapshot(8)comparison of how closely the series pilot sticks to the book or represents the authors work, this is simply my first impressions.

And my first impression from the opening segment was “At Last.” because finally we have a network producing a 22 episode series worthy of the genre. Just the first five minutes made me think, “Wow… I love America!” For the last five years I’ve been stuck with Robin Hood and Merlin as the only fantasy shows on television and with the small budgets the BBC gives these shows there is no chance that they can truly represent a fantasy world on screen. Everybody knows that Sci-Fi is the most expensive genre to shoot, except, I suspect that Fantasy is and that’s why you just don’t see it as often as we should.

So, I had high hopes for the double length pilot. Certainly from a visual perspective it was far and away the snapshot(7)best fantasy series I’d seen. However as the story progressed I found myself a little disenchanted.

Firstly, the episode plays out like the opening book of a trilogy, any fantasy trilogy, pick any one, they nearly all follow the same pattern. Book one is essentially little more than 300 pages of exposition and set up, gathering the heroes and starting the quest. The same can be said of the pilot episodes “Prophecy” and “Destiny”… I admit we need to know some stuff about the Legend, but did we need to know everything. Surely with a 22 episode season the exposition could have been a little more dragged out. As they say, show don’t tell. The old man in a hut with a legend is little clichéd, no?

Really? You don't think so? Well that brings me onto my second quibble with the show. How similar the story is to Star Wars!

There is a boy with a special destiny. Men are sent to kill him but an old man with special powers secrets him away to a far off land where he is placed with foster parents. One day a beautiful woman appears carrying with her a message. Her appearance causes drastic changes in the land and the boy discovers that his father is not his father and that he is destined to become a Seeker and to kill an evil emperor. He is given a sword by the old man who rescued him as a child, but he doesn’t believe in his destiny and snapshot(10)he returns home to find his farmstead destroyed by fire and his father dead.

But… That doesn’t really make this a bad show. The plot may be the standard fare for a fantasy novel (or a b-movie) but this is a fantasy show, it’s allowed the clichés associated with the genre. As long as it delivers clever writing and stunning visual sequences and exceptional acting talent then it can drop as many rings into as many volcanoes as it likes.

I’ve already said that the show delivers on the visual front, it is spectacular. The actors too manage to look the part. Richard, the Seeker, is handsome and slender, which allows him to have that awkward, clumsy feel to him, while retaining a sexual presence that the ladies can enjoy. Kahlan, the Confessor, is both beautiful and intelligent, she is strong willed and enchanting, she is, in other words, everything the geek in me wants from a central fantasy character. Unlike with Sci-Fi where all women are strong willed and intelligent, the fantasy genre is open to allowing the “damsel in distress” character to exist and happily Legend avoids that stereotype completely. And finally, no mention of the cast of Legend would be complete without a nod to the fantastically characterful Bruce Spence who plays Zed. The life and youthfulness that Spence brings to the role is superb and a lot of fun.

So the actors look the part and for most of the time they do well to play the parts too. After all, it’s a pilot so the roles are as new to them as they are to us and over time the roles will mature anyway. But what about the writing…? Well… It’s better certainly than Robin or Merlin and a lot of fantasy films I could mention (the hugely popular Harry Potter series comes to mind) but it didn’t feel quite there yet. With so much story to tell I guess it is hard to judge the script because so much of it was exposition but snapshot(9)if the pilot had a weak point, it would be the dialogue… not all of it by any means, just the odd moment here and there.

So then, in conclusion… This is a show set in a beautifully realised fantasy realm with the budget to pull it off. It’s a little clichéd but so is the genre. With time the writing and the characters will develop and I can see huge potential with the cast and crew to make this show feel spectacular. I’m itching for more and with over thirty episodes still to watch I’m going to wrap this post up and settle down to do just that.

This has been My Two Cents… Join me again soon for more First Impressions.

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