the Apple TV + series gets off to a good start

A major project for Apple TV +, has Foundation succeeded in building its ambitious universe? Critical.

More than ever, the founding stories of science fiction interest the 7th art. While Warner Bros. has unveiled its adaptation of Frank Herbert novels by Denis Villeneuve, Apple TV + is tackling another monument of the genre with its new series. The production, arguably the most ambitious in the history of the platform, hopes to be a posterity and attract many new users. So it’s a hell of a big challenge for the Apple. Corn Foundation is she the clay-footed colossus of Apple TV +?

Adapted from the works of Isaac Asimov, the series follows Hari Seldon, the designer of a statistical science capable of predicting the future: psychohistory. While announcing the fall of society, followed by 30,000 years of barbarism, the scientist finds himself in the grip of the Galactic Empire. To reduce this period to only 1000 years, he suggests the creation of a Foundation, whose role will be to bring together the knowledge of all mankind in an Encyclopedia before annihilation.

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A work of goldsmith

This is the first time that Isaac Asimov’s imagination has been transported to the small screen and it is undoubtedly a colossal challenge for the creative teams, who have had to build a dense visual universe teeming with details. Thanks to current technologies, in terms of digital effects, this vast project has finally been able to emerge from the ground, more than 80 years after the publication of the book.

To bring this intergalactic epic to life, Apple and Skydance called on four filmmakers. It is Rupert Sanders who opens the ball, after having realized Snow White and the Hunter. He signs a first inventive episode and manages to accurately immortalize the immensity of the settings and the vastness of the universe. The camera readily plays with the relationships of scale and symmetry to transport us both in the mazes of imperial buildings, as well as in the depths of space.

If Dune by Denis Villeneuve stood out for its refined aesthetic, nevertheless neat, the series by David S. Goyer is a mosaic of seemingly insignificant but which overall constitute a mastered and rather singular fresco. With meticulousness, the series distils impactful visual elements here and there, even in the choice of costumes. A heightened sense of symbolism that allows the story to be elevated as well as to underline it.

The production also pays tribute to this multiplicity of places and stands out particularly for the care taken in light. The universe of Foundation finds its recipe by combining a resolutely futuristic aesthetic with more antique elements. It is this sense of detail that allows the series to stand out from all its contemporaries. Where many productions prefer action to the contemplative, Foundation don’t forget to develop your backdrop before building your plot.

A scripted mille-feuille

Introducing such a rich universe is not easy, and we have to admit that the Apple series is having some difficulties in its business. The narrative is particularly dense and could discourage ordinary people, especially when the writings of Isaac Asimov are foreign to us. Nevertheless, if the architecture of the scenario is not free from flaws, Foundation manages to gain in intensity over the episodes. As the universe becomes more familiar to us, and we navigate more easily between the different plots and places, we finally get caught up in the game. However, we do not escape the few soft bellies of this kind of production. Without revealing too much about the events of these first eight episodes, it should be noted that the first difficulties are quickly overcome.

The freedoms taken by the writers with regard to the works from which they are inspired make it possible to transport the literary saga on the small screen, without sacrificing the entertaining aspect of the adventure. A balancing act for the teams, who had to choose between reinventing a monument of SF and paying homage to it. We will simply say that the first episodes succeed rather well in dealing with these subtleties. It is undoubtedly with this desire to interweave contemporary concerns in its narration that the series has made some of the characters feminize, for the better.

The narration is no less disconcerting, especially in the way she takes distance with her characters. They quickly become only pawns in the chessboard of the political upheaval that is brewing. This lack of emotional density is mainly due to the fact that the glue of the story is not so much the characters as the fate of all humanity. It’s ultimately a rather clever way of drawing a parallel with the psychohistory of Seldon, who prefers to focus on crowds rather than individuals.

Good story workers

Finally, we will underline the accuracy of the casting, in its entirety. Jared Harris, who has already shown us his talents in Chernobyl, shows all the dramatic intensity necessary for this kind of production. He faces a haunting Lee Pace as Day, the embodiment of an Empire in decline.

It should also be noted that Lou Llobell is more than convincing as a narrator. She knows how to make herself indispensable to the intrigue; it is undoubtedly one of the rare characters to benefit from a treatment less on the surface. The same applies to Leah Harvey, who plays Salvor Hardin.

Finally, we will end with the original music which is intended to be as subtle as it is primordial. Far from being thunderous scores of certain productions of the genre, it is sometimes almost forgotten. Between epic and poetic, it rightly underlines all the ambivalence of the intergalactic fable that is Foundation. Bear McCreary, who notably worked on Outlander, abandons the Celtic sounds and gives birth to a successful musical work. At times, the original music is also reminiscent of Lorne Balfe’s work on His Dark Materials.

Ambitious in form, Foundation starts off on a good basis. If the architecture of the story is solid but imperfect, especially in terms of rhythm, David S. Goyer’s series benefits from a rare visual richness and the direction of the different directors who follow one another behind the camera. Risky project for Apple, Foundation does not collapse like a house of cards, at least in the first eight episodes that we have been given to see. We must hope that the conclusion is up to the challenge; especially since the creator has already planned to offer 7 seasons to the series.

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