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This past weekend marked the 2 hour premiere of the much anticipated new syndicated fantasy series LEGEND OF THE SEEKER. Based on the SWORD OF TRUTH book by bestselling author Terry Goodkind and produced by Sam Rami (Spiderman) and Rob Tapert (Xena, Hercules.) together the 3 men bring the characters from the novels to life to introduce Richard, Kahlan, and Zedd to a broader audience. The series is the first foray into fantasy syndicated television since HERCULES and XENA went off of the air over 5 years ago. Rob Tapert who produced both of those series is on board with LEGEND to push the genre in a new direction taking it from camp and elevating it to a more serious, FX filled, and approachable formula that should attract fans of Fantasy films.
Set in New Zealand, from the opening horseback chase sequence in PROPHECY to the Celtic sounding music, one immediately feels the LORD OF THE RINGS connection due to the familiar landscape. The series, however, is not, nor does it ever try to take on Tolkien’s tales. Terry’s books are loved by millions of fans because of the rich depth of the world that he created, which in no way resembles the work of Tolkien. Certainly there are similarities at its core – the series opens with a hero’s journey, the introduction of a mysterious woman in white, and a crazy old wizard/mentor, however these such characterizations and story telling tools are of the norm in fantasy fiction and beyond that all similarities end. The series strips away the myriads of tiny details that Goodkind infuses his books with, thereby providing to new viewers just enough info that they can readily understand and get invested in without bogging them down with too many confusing details. Unlike Tolkiens books, THE SWORD OF TRUTH series is at its heart a love story which stands it apart from the books that created an entire genre of fiction.
Die-hard fans of the books will likely find themselves seething at omissions that were made in order to bring the novels to television. The point of the series is not to retell the books but to bring our favorite characters to life in a new platform and introduce them to people who may have never heard of the books before. Considering that some of the spectacularly magical sequences in the books that would cost a fortune to produce – even in film – and R-rated sequences that are peppered throughout the novels – there’s no way such things can be incorporated into a TV series that isn’t on HBO. Novel purists are going to have to accept that the show will be different than the novels. Remember, the parent company that produces the series is owned by the Mouse so somehow, I doubt the Mord Siths will be presented in the series, instead the producers are promising new adventures for us with our favorite characters that will be better suited for television. The first 2 episodes did depict lots of (implied) bloody sword fights and gory critter carnage – so we can already expect that they won’t completely neuter the show.
I personally have only read the first 5 books in the series before I burnt out on them…. ‘shippers beware, this show is certain to drive you all CRAZY. I blasted through the books in less than a month and as a result, now 4 years later, I only remember fragments from them. What I found interesting was that the snippets from WIZARD’S FIRST RULE that I do remember were all utilized in the first 2 episodes (PROPHECY and DESTINY) of the series. Richard, Kahlan, and Zedd are written spot on and in synch with their characterizations from the books.
Richard is portrayed as the wide eyed, down to earth, happy go lucky woodsman who lives in the realm where magic doesn’t exist and is forbidden. When he finds himself suddenly caught up in a chain of events that begins with him rescuing a woman from a pack of 4 chainmail covered warriors, his simple life gets thrown into chaos as he’s exposed to a world that he believes only exists in fairy tales. In his heart, Richard is a good man who oozes integrity and charisma, both being qualities that will forge him into being a great leader. By assisting Kahlan, Richard finds himself pursued by Fain, the leader of Darken Rahl’s men who crossed the boundary in pursuit of the Confessor. Betrayed by his brother Michael and given his true heritage by Zedd, Richard learns that his life is not what it seems, that he was in fact an orphan, a child of prophecy who is destined to become a Seeker…not just a Seeker but the one who will destroy Darken Rahl and who is destined to free the world from tyranny.
It’s a lot for a simple woodsman to digest you start the day all shirtless and happily making a bridge to help the people in your community, saving a damsel in distress only be blown off by her, getting poisoned by a strange plant, having your father (who wasn’t really your father – surprise you were dumped on his doorstep and your step brother resents you as a result,) you’re framed for murder, have your beloved horse get eaten by a nasty flying creature called a gar, and end the day learning that you are destined to murder a man who is evil personified. It’s not a wonder that we’re treated to some much expected whining from Richard’s behalf. There are perks though, that girl who blew him off in the beginning has vowed to protect him at all costs which means that Richard’ll have plenty of time to sneak peeks at her impressive cleavage. Even though he’s crazy, Richard will get a flame throwing old wizard to guide him into a strange new land. Also, he gets to wield a kick-ass sword.
The Sword of Truth holds within it old magic. To anyone holding the sword, it’s just a steel blade, but in the hand of a true Seeker while wielding it in righteous anger in pursuit of justice and freedom the sword empowers its master to tap into ancient magic. The sword conjures the imprinted memories of the previous Seekers who came before you, it remembers their fighting techniques, and when the Seeker is in the heat of battle it will assist him to be victorious over his enemies. Not a bad perk, eh?
Kahlan, the Confessor, is depicted with the same no-nonsense strength that she exudes in the books. Confessors can make people reveal to them their darkest secrets or with a single touch can put someone under their spell to do their bidding. This skill is particularly useful in battle if she’s outnumbered. If she can grab hold of an enemy soldier she can simply turn him on his own men and slaughter them. This ability comes with a price, it drains Kahlan of all of her energy and she’s left helpless.
In the books, it’s mentioned in great detail how Kahlan’s life as a confessor is lonely. No man would consider touching her in fear that she will either try to look into his soul w/o his requesting to do so or that she will force him to do something that he does not wish to. This is briefly brought up in PROPHECY after Richard and Kahlan’s first encounter when he helped her to fight off Rahl’s men, Richard openly offers her his hand to help her get to her feet and puts his hand on her shoulder to ask if she’s alright. She pulls a knife on him assuming that he’s about to attack, his touch confuses her and she explains, “I’m not used to being touched.” Due to time constraints in the one hour format of storytelling this isn’t extrapolated on but will likely be further explained in later episodes, particularly as the sparks that are already flying between Kahlan and Richard begin to burn brighter. Kahlan’s chasteness doesn’t just come from men fearing her but from another factor that will likely be revealed in later episodes.
Kahlan the Confessor is a symbol of light, justice, and goodness – she gives herself entirely to her cause in life which is to protect the Seeker so that he can complete his mission to kill Darken Rahl. Ultimately she was raised to believe that her own life has no purpose but that she is a vessel for allowing this prophecy to be filled and nothing more. Her journey in the story begins with her and her sister Dennee being chased by Rahl’s men through the woods on horseback. Her sister falls victim to an arrow and with her dying breaths hands over a sacred book to Kahlan and asks her to complete their mission and get it to the Seeker. The book of counted shadows contains ancient magic that Darken Rahl wishes to posses. Such magic in it will help the Seeker to defeat Rahl, but if Rahl gets it, he will be able to control the entire world. A boundary exists between Richard’s realm and Kahlan’s world. This boundary is a green wall of powerful magic that is filled w/ spirits of the dead who harkens unaware travelers to their deaths if they get to close to it. Using magic, Kahlan breaks through the barrier and races through in order to locate the Seeker. Rahl’s men follow.
When Richard saves Kahlan, she has no idea that her first encounter with a living soul in this foreign land is the man who she was searching for. She hunts down Zedd, the wizard who brought Richard here to begin with over 20 years ago to protect and hide him from Rahl. Kahlan is horrified to learn that Zedd didn’t teach Richard anything about his true destiny and upon hearing what’s expected to do Richard rejects his destiny.
It takes Richards amiable adopted father getting murdered, having the book stolen, and Zedd getting fried when he stepped too close to the boundary for him to finally man up and fully embrace his destiny. Zedd, just like in the books is a wonderful blend of wisdom, terror inducing magic wielder, and lunacy.
After several spectacularly choreographed sword fight sequences the trio head through the broken boundary together to begin Richard’s quest to becoming the true Seeker, the champion of goodness for all of the people in the land. The satisfying end has Darken Rahl learning that his men had finally broken a hole into the boundary only to have an entire garrison of men destroyed by the Seeker.
Overall if you’re willing to let yourself just enjoy what has been presented to you and not bog yourself down w/ trying to compare/contrast the TV series to the book, the series is a fun, beautiful adventure to watch. My sister who never read the books thoroughly enjoyed the first 2 episodes. Unlike previous fantasy series, they’ve removed the camp factor out of it making it an entertaining drama to watch. Craig Horner and Bridget Regan crackle with chemistry. With his Brad Pitt-esque drool worthy physique and her impressive cleavage, there’s plenty of male/female eye candy to keep casual viewers entertained. I found it somewhat jarring in the beginning after watching tons of interviews with Craig where he rambles on in his thick Aussie accent to have him suddenly speaking in a flat American accent but that’s easy enough to get used to. Craig oozes charisma on the screen and if he continues each week to show off his impressive physique he will easily develop a large fan following outside of his native Australia.
New comer Bridget is also highly appealing. With her fair skin, approachable beauty, and tall frame she makes for a stoic and impressive fantasy leading lady. Bruce Spence, best known as the crazy guy from ROAD WARRIOR or as Tion Medon in REVENGE OF THE SITH, Spence towers over both of the shows two leads and sparkles as novel’s the beloved wizard, Zedd . With other Sci-Fi pedigreed actors like Craig Parker as Darken Rahl (LORD OF THE RINGS) and Jay Laga’aia as Chase (Captain Typho from the STAR WARS prequels,) LEGEND is bringing in experienced actors from some of the greatest sci-fi film franchises to help the two relatively unknown leads to bring the show to life.
The FX in the premiere were impressive and on par with some of the best fantasy TV mini-series from the past or with what you see every week on STARGATE. Utilizing their own FX house, the behind the scenes crew hand makes the costumes, creatures, and props for every episode. Each piece is unique and the costuming is to die for delicious eye candy. The costumes of our leads look like outfits that people would actually wear on a daily basis. The chain mail armor of Rahl’s men looks forbidding and uncomfortably heavy. Rahl’s costumes are densely opulent.
After watching years of STARGATE with the same peasant type costumes and same structures, it’s wonderful to see a new fantasy world on TV where the sets are unique and highly detailed including what appears to be some cool Maori style carvings as a nod to the show being shot in New Zealand. The show also harkens back to old school fantasy serial films w/ its brooding, nighttime cloud swirling effects which gives the show it’s own feel and style.
Is LEGEND OF THE SEEKER high fantasy like the original novels? Not really, the TV series is an adventure romp that is fun but at the same time doesn’t insult your intelligence while watching it. With its higher level production costs, you shouldn’t feel ashamed telling your co-workers that you enjoy watching it, whereas XENA might’ve been considered a guilty pleasure. The lush New Zealand scenery is breathtaking, the fighting sequences are thrilling, fast paced horse chases, and the characters are immediately engaging.
This show is all about hope – hope that good people with big hearts can defeat evil. What’s not to like about that?
Be sure to head over to our gallery – thanks to Andreas on LJ we now have 70 new HQ promo photos from PROPHECY and DESTINY loaded! I’m in the middle of capping the series opener so we’ll have HD caps loaded in our gallery later this week!