‘The Wheel of Time‘ is an intriguing attempt by Amazon at adapting Robert Jordan’s behemoth of a book series though it’s dragged down by its cumbersome source material and the efforts to align itself into the path of HBO’s mega-hit series ‘Game of Thrones.’
‘The Wheel of Time’ stars Rosamund Pike, Daniel Henney, Josha Stradowski, Marcus Rutherford, Barney Harris, Madeleine Madden and Zoe Robins and is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video starting November 19.
For starters, the source material is a collection of 14 novels and a prequel published over thirty years, with Brandon Sanderson stepping in to finish the saga when Jordan passed away in 2007.
There are over 2,000 characters named in the entire series; hence it was quite a task for showrunner Rafe Judkins to adapt all that for the screen.
What sets this show apart from other fantasy tales, such as the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ franchise, is its setting.
Thousands of years before the series starts, magic was corrupted, tainting the source of power so that if any man tried to utilize it, they would go crazy.
On the other hand, women were spared from that predicament, which resulted in a group of females wielding powerful magic known as the Aes Sedai, transcending both the sorcery and political grounds.
The world in which ‘The Wheel of Time’ is set in is pretty a vicious circle where people are reborn at each age. This rebirth includes the Dragon, who happens to be the same person that caused magic to be tainted in the first place.
Their destiny in this series is either to destroy the world as we know it once more or save it from its enemy known as the Dark One.
This series tries its best to ease viewers into this spectrum by paring down some of the more esoteric names and concepts and extending the little details of how the world and the magic in it works over time.
According to the studio, there will also be animated shorts accompanying the show that will help in explaining the back story and the lore.
When the series starts, it leans heavily on cookie-cutter fantasy tropes. For instance, one of the Aes Sedai by the name of Moiraine, played by Rosamund Pike, is trying to find the Dragon spoken in the prophecies to usher them into their destined path.
Together with her distinguished bodyguard Lan Mandragoran embodied by Daniel Henney, follow the trail to a town deep in the mountains called the Two Rivers and recruits five youngsters who have the prospects of fulfilling the prophecy.
The recruits are as diverse as can be. There is Rand played by Josha Stradowski, a shepherd boy, Perrin a role by Marcus Rutherford who is a blacksmith, Mat a part by Barney Harris, a gambling thief, Egwene played by Madeleine Madden, the daughter of the local inn’s keeper and then there is Nynaeve played by Zoe Robins who serves as the villager’s healer.
To make the adaptation more realistic and up to date, Judkins implemented a few key adjustments. The age of the cast is far more diverse compared to Jordan’s iteration of his protagonists.
Egwene and Nynaeve are given more significant roles even though Rand, Perrin and Mat tend to take up most of the spotlight in the books.
Other notable changes include one male character paired with a spouse created from whole cloth for the series solely for the purpose of fringing her in the opening episode so that he can have something to be sad about throughout the season, which doesn’t seem so thoughtful.
Season one spends most of its time establishing the central mystery of the show addressing the fundamental question of whom of the five main characters will be the infamous Dragon Reborn with the capability of wielding immense power and the courage to challenge the presumable terrifying Dark One.
This move feels like an odd choice, considering it’s fairly easy to guess the issue unless the series has plans to spread out in far greater ways than the first six episodes that have already been released have managed to do.
One can’t help to compare the screen time and attention given to Pike’s character to Dumbledore in the ‘Harry Porter’ movies. She is the main protagonist of the series, and while that’s not a bad thing given that the actress is one of the most recognizable members of the cast and the best parts of the show, it really stands out.
Visually, the show looks fantastic, with gorgeous shots showcasing the beautiful scenery and landscapes of the Czech Republic. The costumes are impressive, and the sets look pretty exquisite.
This series’s central spectacle, which is the channelizing of the magical power from the world characterized by blasts of fire or bursts of air, is both a hit and miss for the show.
In some instances, these visuals come across as compelling, while in others, they just appear like a standard procedure with characters standing amid white wisps of smoke.
The ‘Game of Thrones’ influence, though, is pretty strong with explicit sexual scenes, blood and gore thrown into the mix, which is enough to be jarring, but it’s nothing compared to the former.
It is unfortunate that this series spends too much time trying to emulate ‘Game of Thrones’ even though it tells a totally different story.
While ‘Game of Thrones’ focused on the darker world, characters and machinations to try and seize power, this show doesn’t have any games or even a throne; instead, the biggest threat is the Dark One who is served by an army of mindless beastly trollocs who literally snack on people.
In contrast to the books, ‘The Wheel of Time’ is much grimmer, having excised nearly all the fun and humor in an effort to be more mature, to its detriment.
‘The Wheel of Time’ does have its shortcomings considering the volume of the source material, which also happens to work in its favor as the director has envisioned an incredible eight seasons for the entire collection, and the second leg has already received the green light.
It is an exciting show to indulge in; however, it’s not suitable for underage kids due to the explicit sexual scenes.