Foundation Season 1 [7/10]

David Goyer and Josh Friedman are brave indeed to tackle “Foundation,” their screen rendering of Isaac Asimov’s groundbreaking (but very complex) set of books from the 1950s. In broad terms, Asimov imagined a vast intergalactic empire ruled by dynastic, authoritarian clones, challenged by Hari Seldon and his “psychohistory,” which foretells, using mathematics, the empire’s collapse. I marveled at the books’ grand sweep and brainy ambit, five decades ago, but have never revisited them (and will not now). The creators of the Apple+ series have apparently envisaged eleven seasons, and have substantially recast the plot and characters, both of which facts can be gained from the “official podcast” (which is surprisingly useful). Foundation is as much a cultural event as a cinematic experience, and similar bold remakes in the past often bombed. Thankfully, the news is good. Foundation is excellent, with captivating plot arcs backed by very solid acting performances (let me single out Lou Lobell’s pitch perfect rendition of Gaal Dornick, Hari’s protege; the inimitable Jared Harris as Hari; and Lee Pace’s superb mastery of the role of Brother Day, the middle of the three ruling clones). The visual spectacles of the Empire and its planets are mind-blowing. My only genuine complaint is the soundtrack, a cloying, Star-Wars-y orchestrated intrusion (hey, I know that’s a personal preference thing). If you can master the first few episodes of patient world-building, you’re in for an intriguing, ever-surprising watching feast. In the final analysis, the very complexity of Asimov’s plot and the plot gymnastics of the series, seem to prevent full emotional identification, but let’s wait for Season 2 to deepen the filmic journey.

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