Getting ready for Apple TV+’s FOUNDATION series

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I LOVE a good sci-fi series! It feels like it’s been ages since I binge on an expansive space opera, if you will. I finished the latest sci-fi obsession of mine, THE EXPANSE season 5, last November, unfortunately it’s not clear when season 6 will drop. Well, thank goodness FOUNDATION is for sure arriving on Apple TV+ this Friday (yay!!), as I’ve been anticipating this for nearly a year!

PREMISE + SHOW RUNNER

For those who aren’t familiar with FOUNDATION, it’s based on Isaac Asimov‘s seven novel series. The original trilogy was actually written in the 1950s, which won the one time HUGO award for Best All-Time Series, even beating out The Lord of The Rings! He later picked up the book series again in the 1980s with four more books, including two prequels. So what is the story about? Well, according to THR, apparently show-runner David S. Goyer sold THIS one-sentence pitch to Apple which got him the gig:

It’s a 1,000-year chess game between Hari Seldon and the Empire, and all the characters in between are the pawns, but some of the pawns over the course of this saga end up becoming kings and queens

The article puts it like “… a bit like Game of Thrones in space — but over a much, much longer time span.” It’s astounding that this influential work (which apparently inspired Star Wars, Dune, etc.) has never brought to screen before, though not for lack of trying.

Per Wiki, even Jonathan Nolan reportedly was writing and producing a TV series based on the Foundation Trilogy for HBO. Interesting that Nolan and Goyer were both working on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It seems the centuries-spanning and multiple plot lines of the novels seems to make FOUNDATION deemed ‘un-filmable.’ In this BBC article, even James Cameron told Goyer at one point ‘That one’s hard’, when they heard the rights to Asimov’s work became available. 

Here’s Goyer talking about what FOUNDATION is all about and its influences:

I’ve been reading articles and watching videos to educate myself about the story to help prepare me for the series, as I have not read any of Asimov’s books. I always find it helpful to have experts on the subject explain them to me in layman’s terms, so if you’re curious about it, check out this video:

I’m even more intrigued that Asimov was heavily influenced by The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by English historian Edward Gibbon. There are obviously many factors that cause the fall of such a vast empire, but government corruption, political dispute, and power struggle cause the empire to weaken over time, and that’s a cautionary tale for our world today as well.


THE CAST

I have to admit I’m instantly on board with this series when I saw LEE PACE had been cast! He’s such a terrific actor who somehow still hasn’t gotten his moment to shine yet despite having been in big-budget films like The Hobbit. I first saw him in Tarsem’s The Fall and am baffled as to why he isn’t a bigger star by now. 

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Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Watch this interview of him describing the character as being more than one man, but a series of men who for a time in their life inhabit the role of the emperor. Sounds like a challenging part but I’m sure he’d be great in the role.

I’m also excited to see JARED HARRIS as his co-lead in the series. The talented British actor was also in The Expanse and he’s always delivered a solid performance in everything I’ve seen him in. He’s also no stranger to big-budget television productions as he was also in BBC’s Sherlock and The Crown.

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Harris plays Hari Sheldon, the central character of Asimov’s books, the mathematician who predicts the fall of the Empire that would usher in the Dark Ages lasting 30,000 years. He proposes creating the Foundation comprised of the most intelligent minds in the universe as a way to limit those Dark Ages to just 1,000 years, which puts him in direct opposition to the Galactic Empire who’s resistant to change [surprise, surprise!]. 

In one of the interviews, Goyer said FOUNDATION isn’t so much about the future but about the NOW… as we likely will see parallels of two competing visions of the future, and that there are elite forces in world governments today who are resistant to change. He cites Brexit as one of the examples. 

Check out this clip where two parties with competing visions of the future clash:

WOMEN POWER

Per IMDb, three major male characters in the original novels are portrayed by females. Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and Eto Demerzel (Laura Birn). Good to see a diverse cast as well.

Per this blog post, Llobell acknowledged there are similarities between her character Dornick with Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins … “He doesn’t know anything about this world, and gets thrown into it, and then has to deal with everything that comes with it… Gaal starts off as a small-town girl, who arrives in the big city, and all her hopes and everything she kind of anticipates is going to happen, doesn’t. She is thrown into this whirlwind of a story and she goes with it, because she really does believe in the math. And that is what drives her, the truth is what drives her.” I‘m most curious to see her character journey in this series!

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Salvor Hardin, a Warden of a planet called Terminus at the edge of the galaxy, where Seldon’s followers establish a Foundation to prepare for the Dark Ages that will follow the fall of the Empire. Hardin is played by non-binary actor Leah Harvey. Interestingly, Harvey had originally auditioned for the role of Dornick, but Goyer saw them more as Hardin. Per that Ownkart blog, she’s quoted as saying “Being non-binary, I see gender as kind of something that’s nothing and everything at the same time, … I’ve had experiences playing Shakespeare characters who are typically male, and my experience doing that is that it doesn’t really change anything, which is quite nice to actually feel because it takes the pressure off.”

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Then there’s Finnish actress Laura Birn who plays Demerzel, the First Minister to the Emperor. Per this CNET article, this character was not in the original trilogy, only in the prequel. The article mentioned that it’s “…a potentially handy device for Goyer and the other creators to have an essentially immortal character that audiences can identify across multiple seasons.”

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SERIES ADAPTATION VS BOOKS

I think adapting such a complex series would be really challenging if they stick too closely to the books, given the large scope and centuries-spanning timeline. Well, based on this article, the series will be a philosophically faithful adaptation of the source material, though the TV series is taking creative liberties elsewhere. I think that is a wise decision on Goyer part. The sheer scale of it would make it hard to have characters audiences can latch on to in a serialized format… I mean, unless all of the characters are immortal or alien beings who live for hundreds/thousands of years. 

Per the CNET article above, a lack of direct conflict in the books would also make it challenging to make for riveting TV series. So I’m hopeful that the creative licenses Goyer + co. are taking would improve the story.

One thing for sure, the production design and cinematography look absolutely stunning! The filming locations include County Limerick, Ireland, Malta, Iceland, etc. so Apple certainly spent $$$ for this series. 

I’m REALLY hoping this series is good! Apple is launching the first two episodes tomorrow, Sept. 24, and one episode is released every Friday thereafter. Check out the latest trailer if you haven’t already:


Are you excited to watch FOUNDATION?

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Review – The good, the bad and the ugly

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By the time I sat down to write this, I’ve actually seen BVS twice in a week. Yup, you probably think I’m a masochist and I don’t blame you. But hey, it’s really out of solidarity with my dear hubby that I saw it again a second time, as we weren’t allowed to bring guests to the press screening and I actually couldn’t wait for him to see it so we could discuss this drivel movie together.

I have a lot to say here so it’s best to break things down in three categories, like I did w/ some award commentaries. Let’s start w/ the positive.

The Good

I tweeted when I sat down at the press screening that despite the title featuring two of the world’s biggest superheroes, I was mostly excited for Wonder Woman. And well, she did NOT disappoint. In fact, I was literally giddy the first time we saw Diana Prince dressed to kill in a skintight red dress at Lex Luthor’s party. The biggest audience cheer throughout the entire movie was when Wonder Woman finally showed up in costume.

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Gal Gadot slayed it, she was all badass and heroic. I wish they hadn’t revealed that exact moment in the trailer, I mean they could’ve shown ANY other WW scene besides THAT one, heh. Oh and the WW theme song, OMG I’m seriously obsessed w/ it now. The score is written by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL who just did the awesome Mad Max: Fury Road score, and this particular track has Junkie XL written all over it.

Like most moviegoers, I was more curious than excited about BVS and it’s to see the Batfleck. Ben Affleck followed up on the strong impression left by Christian Bale in the best Dark Knight trilogy, but y’know what, if we’re just judging on Ben Affleck’s portrayal alone as Batman/Bruce Wayne, I’d say he nailed it. Right from the moment we saw him driving around the wreckage of Gotham as Superman and his Kryptonian foes are wrecking havoc from the sky, we get a grizzled, world-weary and indignant Bruce Wayne. I gotta say Affleck looked damn good as Batman and his alter ego. He certainly has the gravitas of an older and wiser caped crusader, though he’s certainly far more brutal and doesn’t have qualms knocking down bad guys and even killing them. But then again, the supposedly more gracious Superman is nowhere to be found here either.

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The actual BVS battle itself was pretty fun to watch. It could be because we’ve spent nearly TWO hours waiting for the damn thing to finally happened. I was like FINALLY! The action scene here was well-staged and there were moments where I thought they could do serious damage to each other. It’s not quite the level of suspense of Batman vs Bane in TDKR however, I think Nolan crafted that sense of dread and serious peril much better than Snyder. But still, within the grim and dour universe of BVS, this scene was one of the highlights.

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Which brings me to…

The Bad

Oh dear, where do I begin.

Basically everything I didn’t care about the third act of Man of Steel is back with a vengeance. All the clanging noise that threaten to do serious damage to my eardrums are ever present as soon as Doomsday showed up. It’s an eyesore too. The world of Gotham/Metropolis are so severe and somber, and the ugliness of the Kryptonian/human monster hybrid so potent I had to look away a few times.

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Doomsday is a cross between Lord of the Ring’s Orc, the Hulk, Ninja Turtle and King Kong, also with a penchant for leaping into tall skyscrapers. That whole battle between the three heroes and this grotesque monster is a colossal CGI smash that went on far too long. It’s a sensory overload that feels like an endurance contest for the audience. If it weren’t for Wonder Woman forming the trio, I think this entire battle sequence would’ve been a total bust.

Speaking of Wonder Woman again, all of the wonderful things about her awesome intro, it is offset by the perpetual damsel-in-distress situations of all the women in Supes’ lives, be it Lois or her mother. It’s like, for one step forward in the right direction about female empowerment, there are three or more that took us back. It’s not Amy Adams‘ fault really, but I’m not fond of THIS Lois at all.

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Now, what I’m about to say is going to make Henry Cavill fans furious but y’know what, a huge fan of Superman it actually pains me to say it. Superman is actually the least interesting character of this movie, thanks to what Snyder created in Cavill. Neither Superman nor Clark Kent was a character worth rooting for. Gone is the heroic and sympathetic alien who cares deeply for humanity, he even refused to take ANY blame for all the monstrous destruction that could’ve been easily avoided if he went around the buildings instead of flying through them! Not only that, he was delusional enough that he told Bruce Wayne that nobody saw him as a liability and that the world was entirely on his side. Cavill’s Clark Kent is no longer the meek, mild-mannered reporter, as he’d rather argue relentlessly with his boss Perry White and had the worst work ethic. Yes Clark was always MIA in previous movies too, but we actually saw he had a good relationship with his boss and there’s a mutual respect between them. None of that is displayed in Snyder’s version.

Don’t get me started with the cringe-worthy scenes between him and Lois. Gone are the sweet and flirty banter between the two, instead we get cheesy lines about hope and what have you, and the supposedly romantic gestures just doesn’t compute at all because none of it felt true. And what’s with the constantly-constipated look on Cavill no matter what circumstance his character finds himself in.

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He had the same baffled/sad/forlorn/reflective (all of the above? none of the above??) whether he’s talking to his mom/Lois, at the courthouse, surrounded by strangers during Day of the Dead festival, etc. I think he only switches to something of immense rage when he’s facing Batman, which doesn’t exactly make me like him one bit as he comes across more like a bully than a wise and gentle hero we’ve seen in Christopher Reeve. What’s more, Snyder sexualizes Superman so much here it’s putting me off. There’s a scene of him jumping into a bathtub and a gratuitous scene of him cooking with no shirt on. Sorry but that had the opposite effect on me. I don’t want a sexually-alluring Superman, I want a Superman I can believe in.

The Ugly

[SPOILER ALERT]

Ok, one of the screenwriting rules I’ve read often says to steer clear of dream sequences. Unless something is hugely integral to the plot (like say, in Inception), there are very few narratives in which this structure fits. Well, guess what, there wasn’t just one but MULTIPLE dream sequences. I literally was gonna throw things at the screen when it happened, and after seeing it twice I STILL have no clue what the heck those scenes are about and how it served the story. It has no purpose being there other than to infuriate the audience. Seriously, the movie could’ve easily been trimmed to under 2 hours long without these inconsequential scenes.

The scenes of Batman in the desert fighting a bunch of goons wearing Supes’ emblems in their uniforms followed by some ethereal-looking ghost talking to Bruce, what the hell was THAT?? And the whole Superman talking to his dead earthly dad scene in the North Pole. Heh, we already know Supes has daddy issues. Same with the wholly extraneous scene of Bruce’s parents being gunned down. The whole thing is played out with the most irritating slo-motion as if seeing Thomas & Martha Wayne dying a slow death would make us care more about them. Is it so that the movie can start AND end with a funeral scene?? [shrug]

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Forget daddy issues though, this movie seems to be more about the moms. The filmmakers used the fact that Bruce and Clark’s mothers share the same name as a plot device. Good gracious, it’s not only trite, but it’s simply lazy writing. So they needed a good reason for why Batman would stop from killing Superman and that’s all they could come up with?? We’re talking about a writing duo comprised of David S. Goyer (who co-wrote the Dark Knight trilogy) and Chris Terrio (who won Best Screenplay Oscar for ARGO).

[END OF SPOILER]

That said, it begs the question whether it’s actually possible to forge a worthy script that tells SO many origin stories in a single movie with SO much going on there’s absolutely no room at all for any character development. My hubby and I were talking about it this morning on the way to brunch that this movie could perhaps work as more of a Batman story, with Superman treated as a supporting character (plus cameo from Wonder Woman) so it could be more focused on a single character whilst still serve as a launching pad for other characters in DC cinematic universe. But perhaps the studios want to appease the fans for Man Of Steel 2 being delayed indefinitely, as the ‘battle’ between these two characters, no matter how epic, just can’t make up for the messy storytelling.

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All the intriguing ideas about deity and humanity seem so half-baked and completely lost in a sea of clanging CGI death-match. I roll my eyes every time the characters are saying some philosophical mumbo-jumbo about hope and that ‘man is still good’ or whatever, because the film hasn’t earned them. The quasi-spiritual themes feel tacked on instead of being an inherent part of the narrative.

Other Observations

I haven’t mentioned Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor, whose take of the villain is more of a deranged and power-hungry tech megalomaniac who likes to play god. He played it much like his Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but with more than a few screws loose. He’s hellbent on destroying these demigods, liken them to Biblical demons, but it’s never clear what he’s true agenda is. But y’know what, he’s at least amusing in his nervous ticks that he actually offered a bit of relief from all the drab and grave mood of the movie.

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Alfred is portrayed as being more of an equal as Bruce, more akin to James Bond’s Q than the traditional English butler in previous screen adaptation. I have no problem with that and Jeremy Irons rocked as the dry, sarcastic and no-nonsense Alfred who looked like he could’ve been a perfect Bruce Wayne in his younger days. I also love Laurence Fishburne as the commanding Perry White, he’s definitely a more authoritative version of the Daily Planet editor. He respects superstar reporter Lois Lane but doesn’t let her walk all over him either. Perhaps that’s what’s needed to head a newspaper in the digital age, though I have no idea how they’re still in business.

The intro of other DC characters which will live on as part of Justice League and in various stand-alone movies are handled pretty well. At least it didn’t feel jarring to me, though at that point I really didn’t care so much about them as I struggle to muster up sympathy for the characters in BVS.

Final Verdict

It’s mind-boggling just how haphazardly-constructed this whole movie was. It proves that no amount of money ($250 mil production cost) can guarantee quality. Surely it’s a challenging task for even the best director to make a smorgasbord of plots to interweave seamlessly and no director is less than up for the task than Zack Snyder. The transition from one scene to the next is so mind-numbingly jumpy and disconcerting. It’s not quite a complete disaster but still, the bad far outweighs the good for me and trust me, I already had a very low expectation for this one.

I can’t believe Warner Bros entrusted so much of DC universe to a one-note director who has absolutely no talent for storytelling. So he’s known for his visual flair, but to be honest with you, I can’t even think of a single truly spectacular scene that took my breath away. Ok so there’s the moment where Batman drives his Batmobile into his Batcave through a secret entrance hidden in a dam that I thought was pretty darn cool. But that is all I could remember from an entire 2.5 hour movie, which is saying a lot.

It’s unforgivable that Snyder & co. has made a formidable hero like Superman so tedious and impossible to root. After this, I can’t be bothered with any other DC movies in the future. The only one I’m looking forward to is Wonder Woman and that’s mostly because a female superhero on the big screen has been so long overdue. The fact that it’s NOT directed by Zack Snyder is another reason to cheer, but since Dawn of Justice hit a big box office record on its opening weekend ($170 mil), I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet. Alas, Snyder will still be allowed to make more movies, and that’s the real travesty of it all.

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So what did YOU think of ‘Batman V Superman’? Did you like it more or less than I did?