Legend of the Seeker (TV, 2009)
Poor adaptation of a middling fantasy epic, reviewed in Death Ray 17. No Game of Thrones, it was cancelled after two years.
Director: Mark Beesley, Michael Hurst
Writers: Stephen Tolkin, Kenneth Biller, Chad Fiveash, James Patrick Stoteraux, based on the books by Terry Goodkind
Starring: Craig Horner, Bridget Regan, Jay Laga’aia, Bruce Spence
Epic Fantasy makes it onto the small screen. Those curious as to why it took so long will know after watching this.
There’s something undeniably shoddy about Epic Fantasy. It’s a genre composed of ragged cast-offs, patched together from careworn stories and other people’s pasts, a (mostly American) contemporary view of the way things were in Merry Olde England, with a streak of wish-fulfilment: Epic Fantasy is a place where every potboy can be a king, every bullied lad a powerful magician, and the inconveniences of life can be swept aside by the force of supernature or the sword. It’s a safe place where hyperventilating nerds can be beautiful, and strong. Yes, there is death, there is peril, but this exists to lift the hero, and by extension the reader, out of the ordinary, to give them reason to be strong; narrative collateral damage. (Of course, a lot of Epic Fantasy entertains, but little transcends these limitations, for then it’s off into another little sub-box of fantasy).
Personally, I’ve always found Terry Goodkind’s 11-book Sword of Truth series among the worst offenders. It’s got a simple story right out of Joseph Campbell, with rubbish names, poorly thought out geographies, societies and histories, and a surfeit of plot tokens. But it does at least present a strong moral and philosophical viewpoint. For that it should be praised, and it is popular because of it (even if I do not hold with Goodkind’s Objectivism personally. It’s the American desire for space taken to extremes, a survivalist gun-nut’s creed).
Sam Raimi’s decided to adapt this series for the TV. The result is so-so. The plot, as with all such things, is simple but extensive, but equates roughly to: forester Richard Cypher discovers he is the legendary Seeker, destined to oppose evil, to whit one Darken Rahl, in a world that has a troubled history with magic. A two-hour pilot sets this up and then segues us neatly into a series composed of mostly standalone adventures.
New Zealand, where the series is shot, looks gorgeous as usual, there are passable CG effects and some natty action sequences, but despite the series’ expense there’s something indefinably cheap about it. Well, okay, not cheap, perhaps, but unreal. It all looks a bit theme-park, like none of the locations have any permanence; like Stargate, or some of the more rubbish Next Gen episodes. We don’t see a real place, but our own globalised 21st century Earth in homespun and log cabins. In this and other regards, The Legend of the Seeker is similar to Raimi’s earlier Xena and Hercules, only they weren’t ever meant to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, the story bears only a passing resemblance to that of the book. Much of the adult content has understandably been stripped out, but then so have Goodkind’s keynotes of balanced action and repercussion, at least in the early episodes. Despite the author”s protestations to the contrary, it has the hallmarks of a sellout. In any case, it fails as an adaptation.
It’s not much better as a straight fantasy. There’s poor acting, and poor scripting. And of course main bad dude Darken Rahl has an effing English accent. After Raimi’s recent run in Hollywood, we expect better, this is a world of quality away from the work of the guy behind Spider-Man.