The Wheel of Time it's one of those fantasy series that when you meet someone who claims to have read it all, you don't believe it. Fourteen books, two authors and five prequels make it a colossal work. It is a challenge to finish reading this saga, let alone trying to adapt it.
Amazon wanted to try, and started producing this series with all the odds against. Even ignoring the exaggerated dimensions of the original material, the work was produced entirely in the Covid period, a circumstance that has dramatically increased the difficulties.
When it comes to fantasy series, the specter of Game of Thrones hovers over every production and The Wheel of Time is no exception. The comparison with the Game of Thrones, especially on a technical level though, it is to be done with reference to the last seasons, those with giant dragons, battles with huge armies and explosions.
There were therefore no great premises, but without fear or particular demands, Amazon tries and in the first three episodes that I was able to watch, lays an excellent foundation for the continuation of the series. There are some stumbles, even avoidable ones, but nothing that compromises the general picture.
A racing story
The strong point of the Wheel of Time is the world. A fantasy setting perhaps a bit cliché in appearance, but which deepens as soon as the first steps are taken. For this it is "Explain" at the beginning of the first episode it can be scary. There is the risk of spending half of each episode with a random character who explains who the Aes Sedai are, what the White Manties do, because The Tenebrous has such a predictable name. But fortunately this circumstance does not repeat itself, and the series immediately dives into the plot.
The story revolves around the search for the "Dragon Reborn", the chosen one of this story, by the powerful enchantress Moiraine. His mission is to find him before the Dark One does (The Shadow? The Shadow! The Shadow ...), an evil entity that hovers over the whole unfolding of the story.
His eye falls on four young men from a remote mountain village, Perrin, Mat, Egwene and Rand. Circumstances prevent her from identifying who among them is the chosen one, and therefore the four set off together for the vault of the White Tower, home to the Aes Sedai, the organization of enchantresses to which Moiraine belongs.
From that moment the story begins to run. Each scene, with rare exceptions, has a frenetic pace, with constant dangers and never a breather. The development of the characters suffers as a result, which after three episodes and countless vicissitudes are still the same as at the beginning.
The supporting cast is well characterized and recognizable, almost more than the four protagonists, who struggle to stand out. The dialogues, often bland and not very incisive, they do not help them to bring out their own personality, which remains blurred in the frenetic succession of escapes and clashes.
All very nice, however ...
Visually, the series is extraordinary almost all of the time. The views crossed by our protagonists are wonderful. The costumes help both to frame the characters and to set the tone of the series, without ever falling into the carnival, always a real risk in fantasy adaptations.
However, there are some carelessness which can only be partially apologized for the production difficulties due to Covid. In the first minutes of the first episode, a shot is repeated identical twice, twenty seconds apart. An inattention error that cannot be tolerated by a millionaire production and that I noticed repeated later with some fragments of audio.
The visual effects are fluctuating to say the least. Sometimes they are perfect, like Moiraine's magic, sometimes they wobble like in the case of the evil Trollocs, sometimes they expire inexplicably, like in the case of the buildings of the city of Shadar Logoth.
The Wheel of Time has just begun to turn
To appreciate the beginning of this series we must forget the context from which we come in the field of fantasy. No Lord of the Rings, but above all, no Game of Thrones in mind when approaching the Wheel of Time.
It is difficult, true, but it is also not fair to compare every fantasy product with the film that has won the most Oscars in history, or with the TV series that changed the market forever, for better or for worse.
With its flaws, these first three hours lay a good foundation for a series of exciting and ambitious entertainment, that there is no limit to where it could go. The Wheel of Time has the potential to be a great adaptation of the first chapters of the saga, if the audience and the production give it the right breath.
The advantage it has over other colossal productions is the relative absence of hype among the general public. With Amazon focused on its other fantasy venture, The Lord of the Rings, this series has the luxury of being able to amaze and be watched until the end without running the risk of disappointing great expectations.
The first three episodes of the Wheel of Time are already available on Amazon Prime Video. The first season contains a total of eight, which will be released every Friday starting November 26.