Long awaited, the serial adaptation of the masterpiece of Isaac Asimov is a little too much of its time to really convince. But she gives Lee Pace an impressive and oversized role.
The cycle of Foundation has been waiting for decades to adapt to the height. Here we are in 2021, that moment when the studios are turning to Authors – note the capital letter – at a time when, precisely, there are no more authors: only universes, totems, brands. Warner seizes the cycle of Dune (Denis Villeneuve’s film can also be seen as the prologue to the future TV series for HBO Max, Dune: The Sisterhood), the titan Amazon has already got its hands on Tolkien (the Lord of the Rings series) and Apple offers us Asimov. One of the titans of American SF, whose novel Foundation appears as the ideal material for an adaptation, not only in terms of narration but also of style: Isaac asimov, genius jack-of-all-trades from the school of pulp and scientific popularization, handyman, at ease in all genres (as wrote his colleague from the journal Astounding Stories, Robert A. Heinlein, author of Starship Troopers : “Specialization is good for insects»), Has hardly any style.
Foundation – the series begins this Friday on the Apple TV platform + – is therefore an ideal playground for ambitious showrunner. Inspired by Edward Gibbon’s monumental History of the Decay and Fall of the Roman Empire, Foundation takes place in the far distant future, where an empire rules over “three trillion human beings” spread across the galaxy. Hari Seldon, a scientist master of “psychohistory”, a discipline supposed to foresee the great future upheavals, sees coming the inevitable fall of the Empire followed by “ten thousand years of darkness”. Muzzled by power, he will develop a plan for humanity to survive. By closing each novel in the cycle of Foundation, we tell ourselves that, no doubt, that would make an excellent TV series: each book seems to sketch a seasonal cycle, building a particularly epic story, spanning decades and light years to a conclusion in the form of a goofy twist. Thinking back, the little geniuses of Westworld were perhaps inspired a lot by Foundation to make their series a phenomenon with twists intended to explode the social networks …
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SYNTHESIS SF. Exactly: seeing the first six episodes of Foundation, designed by Josh friedman (Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the pilot of the series Snowpiercer…) and David S. Goyer (the trilogies Blade and Nolan’s Batman, plus the series Da Vinci’s Demons Where Krypton), we can not help but think that the series is indeed of its time. We find there Jared harris as an alarmist scientist directly imported from Chernobyl, an alien planet represented by a large volcanic Icelandic beach – the big star of minimalist SF productions since Interstellar -, abstract geometric designs like Apple Store, a rambling chrono in the Westworld, a “young adult” atmosphere reinforced by its young and dapper cast (with characters whose gender has been reversed compared to the books, which will make grumpy fans grumble, so much the better) and its haute couture of the future signed by costume designers Hunger Games… The subject called for delusions at the Jupiter Ascending (or to the prelogy of Lucas, another tale of the decadence and the fall of an empire), but rather than going towards unknown and / or decadent worlds, Foundation makes the lazy choice of SF synthesis at the end of the road: refined to the point of refusal of the spectacular. It’s a choice, but it’s a shame. The series is viewed without any displeasure, but we regret that it did not play the monumental card more.
GUARDIAN OF THE GALAXY. There remains a brilliant and fascinating idea: the emperor of the galaxy, who has been cloning himself for four hundred years, and ensuring the continuity of his reign through a triumvirate of clones. A child, an adult and an old man who pass the exercise of power through the centuries. Adult incarnate by Lee pace, he provides Foundation with his best scenes, tragically pompous, where the actor is delighted to hold in his hands the fate of the galaxy. The idea of the cloned emperor, which was not in the novels ofIsaac asimov, is downright brilliant and shows that the creators would have been better off continuing to follow their own instincts, their own visions, than attempting to clone the visual ideas of SF from the past ten years. This is how empires collapse, it seems.