the series going around in circles on Amazon Prime Video?

Adapting the Wheel of Time is a big project for Amazon. Did the platform win the challenge?

Since its conclusion in 2019, Game Of Thrones left a void in the audiovisual panorama. True phenomenon, the series adapted from the novels of George RR Martin will have marked the last decade, by its political, fantastic and medieval intrigue. A place that the various SVOD platforms are determined to take, which are increasing the number of productions of the genre to attract new subscribers. Netflix was the first to strike back with The Witcher, which flirts with fantasy enthusiasts, gamers and readers of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels.

At Amazon Prime Video, the answer must come in the form of a series inspired by one of the most famous literary sagas: The Lord of the Rings. But while the return to Middle-earth is long overdue, the firm founded by Jeff Bezos has other strings to its bow. She reveals The Wheel of Time, a Fantasy series that aims to become a must. This is a way for Amazon to demonstrate strength to its competitors, and no doubt also to reassure Tolkien fans who fear seeing the work betrayed for profit. But does Amazon have the shoulders to put such an epic into pictures?

The universe of The Wheel of Time is vast, it is undeniable. By wanting to adapt a rich saga of 14 volumes, the platform has launched itself a sacred challenge. It is much more than Game of Thrones, whose conclusion on paper has still not been delivered by its author. Here, the path traced by Robert Jordan in 1990 was completed by Brandon Sanderson who signed the last three books after the author’s death. Amazon therefore has material to stretch its new production over several seasons.

The Wheel of Time plunges us into a world where magic can only be practiced by women. When Moiraine, a witch from the Aes Sedai organization, arrives in a small village in the remote Deux-Rivières region, the lives of four teenagers will change forever. She takes Rand, Mat, Perrin and Edgwene on an adventure across the kingdom, towards the White Tower. But the creatures of the Dark are at their heels, more than ever their lives are in danger.

A sluggish introduction

There is much to do in the first episodes of this series. It is a whole mythology, a universe and the milestones of a vast intrigue that must be presented to the spectators, whether or not they are readers of Jordan’s novels. Faced with this titanic task, the screenwriter does not flinch. Rafe Judkins (Marvel: Agents of SHIELD) is doing quite well and manages to arouse the interest of the spectator with certainly old-fashioned mechanics, but still effective. The inspirations are numerous, the author has also confided to have drawn heavily from the side of the Lord of the Rings for his introduction. If we do not escape the many pitfalls of the genre, the plot still benefits from a certain singularity.

If it sometimes tends to shoehorn elements essential to the narrative, the first episode fulfills (almost) all of its objectives. Rather slow at the start, this chapter oscillates between frenzied fights and more intimate sequences between the different protagonists. It is nevertheless in the second episode that things really gain in intensity and that the magic begins to operate.

The strength of the series lies above all in the different themes it addresses, the notion of destiny, but also and above all, a certain reflection on feminism, patriarchy and necessarily matriarchy. But these notions do not crush the narrative, which turns out to be a subtle blend of bombastic issues and political conflict. The Wheel of Time don’t forget to be a more intimate fable, a personal quest for each of the protagonists.

Between wild ride and troll attacks, this epic adventure has it all. If it obviously does not suffer the comparison with Game of Thrones, which we recall also had a difficult start, The Wheel of Time manages to easily climb among the best series of the genre, much better than recent attempts by Netflix. We particularly remember Cursed, who revisited the Arthurian legend in a teen drama style.

We will nevertheless note a certain weakness in the writing of the dialogues, which if they embrace the epic aspect of this kind of production, sometimes forget to add a little humanity to the characters. However, the plot that emerges in the first three episodes that we have been given to see lives up to the promise.

A series that costs money

To make sure to pay tribute to the imagination of Robert Jordan, Amazon has deployed a whole arsenal of special and digital effects. This kind of production is obviously expensive, as long as we want to give birth to a successful and convincing product. Good news, the e-commerce giant doesn’t have sea urchins in its pockets.

The creatures that inhabit this fantastic universe are particularly successful. Halfway between the orcas of the Lord of the Rings and the monsters of World of warcraft, the trollocs are convincing just like the rest of the monsters that he gave us to see. Fans of the genre will not be disoriented.

However, things get complicated when it comes to imaging the Unique Power, this magical power supposed to make the Aes Sedai invulnerable. The result is sometimes outdated, even a little out of date. We almost expected to see the Halliwell sisters land. A scene from the first episode is particularly emblematic of this lack of visual ambition, which if it does not tarnish the viewing, still leaves us with a bitter taste.

On the production side, it is also far from being free from flaws. Sanaa Hamri, who directs the first two episodes, manages to pay tribute to the sets by his staging, but completely retakes during the action scenes. They are frantic, muddled and above all unreadable. We can also say that it is not helped by the editing, which forgets to let its characters breathe and compartmentalizes them in shots of just a few milliseconds.

On the other hand, we appreciate the way the filmmaker has fun making visual references to Western Spaghetti. It also does justice to the many settings that are immortalized, between the green mountains of Deux-Rivières and the desert and frozen expanses of the second episode. The care taken in photography gives new impetus to the visual universe, which gives off a real atmosphere, in scenes of darkness as when light bathes the landscapes.

A promising cast

In this series, familiar faces rub shoulders with illustrious strangers. To embody Moiraine, the epicenter of the plot, Amazon recruited Rosamund Pike. The actress awarded for I Care a Lot, which was also illustrated in Gone Girl, brilliantly embodies this female figure, strong, cold and driven by a prophetic mission. She faces a Daniel Henney who does not demerit in the role of Lan Mondragoran, silent and mysterious at will.

As for the young actors, not so young as in the novels, it is particularly Barney Harris who captivates the attention with his incarnation of Mat. The rest of the cast is no less talented, starting with Zöe Robins who plays Nynaeve al’Meara.

Finally, we will end with the music of Lorn Balfe, who manages to underline the story. The composer intertwines western tones with more Celtic fields, and manages to add body to the scenes he illustrates with his score. The one to whom we owe the original music of His Dark Materials and Black widow made a faultless.

The challenge is won for The Wheel of Time which manages to create a certain magic in these first episodes. Amazon was right to trust its first production of its kind. The platform will also offer it a second and a third season, so the series is here to stay. However, like the path to Deux-Rivières, the road is steep and a fall quickly arrived. We must therefore hope that the series does not stumble in its last episodes.

Discover The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime Video

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