By Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
It seems like a guaranteed recipe for success: (1) source material from a series of best-selling fantasy novels (Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series), (2) the producers who brought us Hercules and Xena (Sam Raimi, who has since knocked our socks off with Spider-Man, and Rob Tapert, who is married to Xena‘s Lucy Lawless), (3) a lush New Zealand setting (which, if you didn’t already appreciate it in Raimi and Tapert’s previous series, probably hooked you during Lord of the Rings), and (4) a cast of seasoned fantasy actors (Star Wars’ Bruce Spence and Jay Laga’aia, and Lord of the Rings‘ Craig Parker).
However, reviews for the new syndicated series Legend of the Seeker have so far been less than flattering: “Raimi and Tapert have sleepwalked through the pilot,” “I still don’t quite know what a “seeker” is, other than someone who can’t act,” “you’ll be better entertained staring at a postcard.”
Having seen the first two episodes that aired back to back on Saturday, I can’t say that I find the situation quite so dire. Everyone does seem to agree that the show is gorgeous, and for those of you living in a concrete jungle and dreaming of better times, that might be just enough to reel you in. Though some commentators say the effects are cheesy, I actually found myself mesmerized by a shot in the first five minutes of the pilot where two women (in flowing dresses, just the sort of thing one might wear to a Rennaissance Fair) on horses were being pursued by soldiers and an arrow whizzed in slow motion just above our heroine’s head. A fight scene much later featuring the same actress had me equally enthralled, but I wasn’t sure whether it was the special effects, choreographers, or wardrobe department that I had to thank. I don’t care if it’s cheesy: I want a pretty girl in a long white dress swinging a sword in slow motion towards a bad guy’s neck.
Of course, another common refrain is that Legend is just a rip-off of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Granted, I got that whiff of Star Wars myself (okay, more than a whiff), and if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, I’ll spare you the spoilers. But the thing to remember is that, especially when it comes to high fantasy, you always see the same sorts of things rehashed over and over again. George Lucas doesn’t have a monopoly on orphans with destinies any more than Tolkien has a monopoly on wizened old wizards. Likewise, Terry Goodkind published the first book in the series, Wizard’s First Rule, in 1994, and I suspect that he has been similarly “ripped off,” if that’s what you want to call it, since then. The reason the genre works is because this is what we like. And in my opinion, as someone who is quite familiar with the common tropes, Legend still offers enough original concepts to hold my interest.
I won’t comment on the quality of the acting, except to generally say that it was about what I expected, being vaguely familiar with Xena and Hercules. And if we want to talk about any stilted dialogue, I’d still put it a notch above the Star Wars prequels.
My major concern with the show is that it’s going to quickly devolve into MotW (Monster of the Week), which is something that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there is more to the mythology to carry out through the episodes, and it doesn’t just become a formula of “while continuing their search for the Ultimate Evil, they encounger [bad guy X], defeat [bad guy X], and then resume their search.”
Overall, I’d say that it’s earned a spot on my TIVO (particularly since it comes on Saturdays, when there isn’t much to compete), but on a probationary basis. Whereas I did like the first two episodes a great deal, I did come in with very low expectations. Still, I have an appreciation for the genre, girls in white dresses, and New Zealand. That’s enough to get me through a few more episodes at least.
If you missed the premiere on Saturday, check out the official website, where you can put in your zipcode and find out which channel will be airing the show (it’s on two different channels where I live!). Also, there is a thirty-minute preview available as a free download on iTunes, if you’re not quite ready to make a commitment.