TV Review: The Wheel of Time (S1) | Streamlined to Near Perfection

The Wheel of Time is a high fantasy series inspired by the bestselling book series by Robert Jordan, with three of the 15 novels written by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death. Writer producer Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hemlock Grove) is at the helm of the show and in the cast we have familiar names and faces like Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Jack Reacher), Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones, The Rook), Daniel Henney (Big Hero 6, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and relative unknowns like Barney Harris (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Madeleine Madden (Picnic at Hanging Rock), Marcus Rutherfod (Bulletproof), Josha Stradowski (Just Friends), Zoë Robins (The Shannara Chronicles), Alexandre Willaume (Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy).

Premise: Unlike the books, the focus of the series is on Moiraine, a member of the Aes Sedai, a powerful organization of women who can use magic. She takes a group of five young men and women on a journey around the world, believing one of them might be the reincarnation of the Dragon, a powerful individual prophesied to either save the world or destroy it.

Review: The three episode premiere was impressive, fast paced and engrossing. The rest of the season followed in that vein delivering surprises after surprises and great character moments for all involved. The story telling is expedient and very streamlined, there are little to no dull moments ; it might be frustrating for some book readers and longtime fans, all the melded of places and modified action pieces, but for me who’s read book one – so far – it was an enjoyable journey that kept the heart and spine of “The Eye of the World.

In an adaptation perspective, I’m impressed with how well the show covers hundreds of pages in a few minutes of screen time without the material getting lost in translation. Given the many surprises I got in the series, I suspect that they’ve also pulled relevant elements from later books and put them in season one.

I went into the series waiting to see how Perrin would turn out in live action but quickly become a Nynaeve fan. Perrin’s still my boy but Nynaeve storyline and love interest was sweet and made much more sense here than in the novel where it seemed to come out of nowhere. The same goes for Egwene and Perrin’s run-in with the white cloaks – who seem far more dangerous on the show – and how it was handled, allowing for subtle character development while giving them more agency. That’s kind of the way most characters are threated, with incremental and sometimes subtle character development, except maybe for Mat – who annoyed me to no end in book one – but they’ve done him dirty. Although interesting, the way they changed him, they’ve made him more of deadweight than he’s supposed to be. Isn’t he the one skilled with the bow and arrow? Here he’s almost useless.

They’ve also cleverly depicted the white cloak as the aggressors, the bad guys by depicting their disregard from people’s – women – personal space, their attack on the Tinkers. The way the main characters are handled is more interesting, it’s less obvious here who the Dragon Reborn is, and a better job is done to highlight the importance of the others. I appreciate the show for limiting the amount of cat fighting, because at one point it felt like most of the women had some sort of beef with each other.

The show falters in a few way but the most striking ones for me is how the Dragon Reborn reveal was handled, that was not it, and the Dragon’s battle against the Dark One, was a bit Wonder Woman 1984 – a bit anti-climatic.

The cinematography is great, the set and costume designs are amazing, and the VFX is good – I’m hopping for even better later on. As for the cast, they are excellent, from the main cast to the recurring one, they’ve picked them well. I still have my favorites though.

Season one of The Wheel of Time is captivating, visually arresting, and well worth the watch and re-watch. Season two can’t come fast enough.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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Wonder Woman | Review

This character has a lot of things going for it as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always like the idea of the Amazons, a group of badass female warriors, what’s not to like? And whenever I’ve watched a DC animated movie she was often a stand out. As for her portrayal by Gal Gadot, I might have been a bit worried when her casting was announced for two main reasons: one, I’d only ever seen her in sexpot roles so I didn’t know how useful of an actor she would be; the second one, she didn’t seem strong enough, even after pictures of her in costume came out. However I very much liked what they were going for with casting, between Gadot and Jason Momoa it was clear that there was some apt out of box thinking. I also liked what I saw of Gadot in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the trailers.
Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), this movie also stars Chris Pine (Into the Woods), Robin Wright (House of Cards), Danny Huston (The Constant Gardner), David Thewlis (The Theory of Everything), Connie Nielsen (The Following), Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead), Elena Anaya (The Infiltrator), and Saïd Taghmaoui (The Kite Runner).

Premise: When a pilot crashes on the secret island of Themyscira and tells the Amazons of the conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

Review: This movie is beautiful and classical looking in a way that works well with the superhero genre. The esthetic is there and it’s stunning, from the beaches of Themyscira to the trenches of World War I the cinematography is on point. There are also a lot of references to other movies in Wonder Woman that added to the experience, because whether you realized it or not these were familiar and iconic moments from cinema history mirrored in this movie in a newish none rip-off way. I was surprise at the comedy laced throughout the film. It was racier than I expected and well used.

Gal Gadot is so effortless in the role that it’s impressive, that doesn’t mean that the acting doesn’t falters at time. She’s not trying to be pretty in the film, she just is but that doesn’t take away from her skills. Often in action movies women are either pretty first than somewhat skilled or very Manish but there’s a nice middle ground here. Diana might have the pretty clothes and nice hair but she’s not afraid to get down and dirty. She sold the action. Chris Pine is also amazing in this movie, portraying a great character, and working in tandem with Gadot, which made their banter excellent.

As for the story, it is a little rushed and in need of tightening. The third act isn’t as smooth as the rest. They smartly gave the Amazonians a distinctive accent and esthetic yet I have no clear idea of their history. It was minimal. The same goes for what Diana’s powers are in the film. This could be explained away because Diana herself doesn’t know for sure, but there’s another character, who should at least have similar powers and know what they are but he didn’t seem to know either.
The odd thing about this movie is, as good as it is it has low re-watchability, in my opinion. Like books, I tend to re-watch scenes action or otherwise instead of watching the whole thing. The problem with this movie is that 90% of the film is so tightly woven that watching chunks of it doesn’t really work because the feelings, the pay offs are not the same. To feel the same level of excitement for a scene I like, I’d have to commit to the whole thing.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

The 5th Wave | Trailer

Reaction: I expected a trailer for it soon but it still surprised me when it came out. I watched it a few times and I’ve got admit it looks exactly like what I remembered in the book, so it seems very faithful to the book and that worries me a little. I don’t know if I’m excited to see it anymore but I’m curious to see how it will turn out.

What about you? Are you excited for it?