'Foundation' is beautiful, lavish, and boring say reviews

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Apple TV+ has debuted its long-awaited version of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation," and the first reviews uniformly praise its visuals, but call its storytelling either "brilliant," or "dross."

Jared Harris stars in
Jared Harris stars in "Foundation"


"Foundation" is the enormously expensive new science fiction fantasy from Apple TV+, but it brings the streaming service huge attention because of its source material. The series of books by Isaac Asimov are classics - dated, and sexist, but also famously revered - and they've been called unfilmable.

That has been because the world of the stories is expensive to create. But it's also chiefly because Asimov was a very poor writer of characters and only interested in universe-spanning ideas staged out over millennia.

The most enormous events happen between chapters, because they're enormous events about characters. While it's hard to read the books without becoming lost in the sheer imaginative scope of their ideas, it's also impossible to read them without wincing at some parts, and feeling repeatedly cheated at others.

Not very many readers have even tried to adapt them into film or TV, though. David S. Goyer, previously perhaps best known for the "Dark Knight" films, has tried to take all that is great about "Foundation," and make it into an Apple TV+ series.

"Foundation" begins as a 10-part series, with the first two episodes available from September 24. And at last, audiences have been able to see how it does -- or doesn't -- work.

Variety: expansive, lavish, self-indulgent

In a mostly praising review of the series, Variety welcomes how it "uses Asimov's texts as inspiration," rather than trying to faithfully recreate the books.

"Remixing Asimov's characters, settings and themes into something more timely and fitting for television versus the page," it says, "this iteration of 'Foundation' thrives most when becoming something all its own."

"Yes, it can be self-indulgent, meandering and more complicated than need be," continues Variety. "But that feels somewhat inevitable, given the scope of the task at hand."

Jared Harris and Lou Llobell in
Jared Harris and Lou Llobell in "Foundation"

The Hollywood Reporter: beautiful, tedious

Apple has made the first two episodes available to watch now on Apple TV+ and for the most part, those two were sent to reviewers. Some appear to have seen the entire series, though, including The Hollywood Reporter.

"Apple TV+'s Foundation... is beautiful but tedious," says the publication. "That may, in fact, be understating both counts."

"Foundation has no evident limitations of any kind," it continues, "yet no real visceral impact for the most part, because it's almost stultifyingly dull, especially in its middle episodes."

Empire: lavish, breathtakingly bold

"This is a slice of rock-hard sci-fi that tickles the intellect with concepts both philosophical and profound," says Empire magazine in an almost entirely positive review, "one that routinely hops back and forth through decades and sometimes centuries."

Describing it as "not for the faint-hearted," just on its sheer scope, the magazine says it could be the "most lavish show on television."

"[For] those willing to take it on, Foundation's debut season is a breathtakingly bold undertaking that will dazzle just as much as it confounds," concludes Empire, "and lays its own foundation for what may prove the most ambitious television yet."

The Telegraph: overblown sci-fi dross

The UK newspaper just straight loathed the show, saying it "disappears up its own black hole."

"'Foundation,' you hardly need telling, looks incredible," says The Telegraph. "It's worth the price of your impulse-buy OLED TV on its own."

"Yet there is a slight feeling that all of the astronomic prettification is a distraction from some narrative sinkholes," it continues. "Yet you could forgive Foundation both its complexity and prolixity if only it had a heart."

Lou Llobell in
Lou Llobell in "Foundation"

Wired UK: flawed masterpiece

Wired's review praises its "intricately designed worlds," and "sky-high production values," before admitting that the show "doesn't always hit the mark."

"Something is missing," says Wired UK. "It's more that you find yourself wondering why anything that happens in the show particularly matters."

"It's hard to mourn after terrorist bombings that leave hundreds of millions dead when you never really see a body, or a broken family (you barely even see damaged buildings)," it continues. "Or care about the supposed downfall of a galactic empire when that entire crisis largely happens off-screen."

New York Times: ambitious, overstuffed

"An ambitious reimagining of the Isaac Asimov epic suffers from by-the-numbers sci-fi plotting," says the New York Times, in a short review.

"[It's] intriguing idea often gets lost in space," says the publication. "Like Trantor, the imperial capital in 'Foundation' whose surface is buried beneath man-made layers, the story's core ends up enveloped in levels upon levels of machinery."

The first two episodes of "Foundation" are streaming now on Apple TV+, with the remaining eight coming weekly from October 1.

Read on AppleInsider
patchythepirate
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    Seriously, who the hell cares what a couple of self-indulgent office sitter babbles?  ;)
    rezwitsomar moraleswilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 40
    Watched the first epi last night. Quite spectacular.
    JWSCwilliamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 40
    These reviews read very similar to the initial reviews of the first season of Game of Thrones so...
    edited September 24 lordjohnwhorfinlkruppomar moralesJWSCmattinozwilliamlondonbyronlfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 40
    Those reviewers who hated it probably thought the mandalorian was the peak of sci-fi. Who wants big ideas and something you actually have to think about when watching. What , no light sabers??
    lordjohnwhorfinomar moralesJWSCwilliamlondonbyronlminicoffeenadrielwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 40
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,343member
    If the reviews are any indication, it should be good.  Almost every sci-fi film/series I enjoy was universally snubbed by critics at the time of release.
    omar moralesJWSCentropyswilliamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 40
    "self-indulgent, meandering and more complicated than need be" - heh, this could arguably be applied to the source material itself. Just finished re-reading the first one. It was okay, but much more dull than I remembered as a teen.
    patchythepiratepairof9mark fearingwilliamlondonflyingdph2pnadrielwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 40
    sully54 said:
    These reviews read very similar to the initial reviews of the first season of Game of Thrones so...
    I don't recall the reviews of GoT at the time. Can you share some that read similar?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 40
    I watched the first two episodes last night, and I thought it was great. I feel a bit thrown off by it though. At first they're talking about the destruction of the universe! Then it's off to just work on a somewhat boring (relatively) project. It makes logical sense I suppose, but I think setting up these grandiose themes, to then go right into intellectual themes, felt a bit like they slammed on the breaks. Maybe it would have been more cohesive to set a more intellectual tone at first by following the girl in her home world a bit more so we're not caught off guard by the change in tone.

    Anyway, minor quibbles, and it's just the first two episodes. This show looks amazing. Now, with my initial impressions out of the way, I can't wait to keep watching, whichever direction it goes (intellectual vs adventure/drama).
    edited September 24 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 40
    Most critics don’t favorably review movies that I love. They seem to go for formulaic stuff, which is usually irritating fare to me. 

    So I’ll see for myself. Been waiting impatiently since this was first announced. Can’t wait. 

    A galactic epic that you get immersed in? Yes please. 
    williamlondonbyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 40
    I comfortably turned off the lights fired up the receiver with Atmos on the LG oled, and calmly relaxed and watched the 1st episode, with the 2nd episode for tonight.

    My review is, wow!  Pretty solid start for something we know is gonna be around for 4-5 years.  Compared with Y the last man on FX, it's like this is gonna be INTENSE and COMPLEX, versus Y the last man, episode 4 where they show them "hunting a rabbit", where I actually started fast forwarding, and it's like YAWN...  I seriously didn't even think about FF or getting bored/tired at all.

    I am ready to sit back and relax for the next 4-5 years?  I am IN...

    Pumped for S01E02 tonight!

    JWSCwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 40
    Yep, I'm w/ others...it seems "Chicago is the greatest musical ever!" critics never seem to get science fiction movies right, which is a good thing for Foundation:

    Alien – https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/oct/13/derek-malcolm-alien-review
    Game of Thrones – https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/581658/game-of-thrones-season-1-negative-reviews
    Matrix – https://variety.com/1999/film/reviews/the-matrix-1200456768/
    Blade Runner – https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/blade-runner-1982-1
    auxioJWSCbageljoeyrezwitswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 40
    Interested to watch but the truth is the books are not ACTION books. Many readers would say they are boring' or meditative ETC. The action is often in the politics. So I'll watch and I'll be interested to see how they turned it into a TV show.
    patchythepiratewilliamlondonhcrefugeebyronlwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 40
    Aside from falling asleep halfway through (not unusual), I had 1 big complaint. Why is it every “epic story” is full of people with British accents? Did the UK conquer the universe and leave everyone else behind? Star Wars, Dune, so many shows, so many English accents. I know, it’s a small quibble, but it bothers me enough to pull me out of immersion. 
    patchythepiratewilliamlondonanantksundarambyronl
  • Reply 14 of 40
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,523member

     loopless said:
    Those reviewers who hated it probably thought the mandalorian was the peak of sci-fi. Who wants big ideas and something you actually have to think about when watching. What , no light sabers??
    Exactly. Intelligent and cerebral science fiction often does not do well at the box office. I offer movies like Interstellar, Contact, and Arrival as examples. in those movies the aliens were depicted as advanced, peaceful, and mindful of humanity. The schlock that passes for sci-fi these days always depict aliens as monsters out to destroy the human race and conquer the Earth. And to save special effects money the aliens are always able to assume human form or have the ability to inhabit the human host. Most sci-fi is so dumb, stupid, with easily predicted plots, that it’s not worth watching.
    williamlondonrezwitsh2phcrefugeebyronlBeatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 40
    I read Foundation about 50 years ago, and Asimov was one of my favorites SciFi writers.

    It is strange for me to discover this adaptation, after all these years. I think the scenario writers did a good job to add some "flesh" to this story, introducing new characters, to make it watchable, still being faithful to the original idea. Such adaptation is not an easy task.

    I believe the visual choices made (costumes, decoration) are credible (again, not that easy ...).

    I think will have as much pleasure as I had fifty years ago .....

    edited September 24 bakerzdosenrezwitsJWSCwilliamlondonh2pbyronlteejay2012Beatsnadrielwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 40
    ZooMigo said:
    Aside from falling asleep halfway through (not unusual), I had 1 big complaint. Why is it every “epic story” is full of people with British accents? Did the UK conquer the universe and leave everyone else behind? Star Wars, Dune, so many shows, so many English accents. I know, it’s a small quibble, but it bothers me enough to pull me out of immersion. 
    I think part of it is that certain UK accents sound "sophisticated". Cockney? Not so much. Welsh? Nah. But in a lot of English-speaking places, that's where we get our concept of aristocracy, and what aristocrats should sound like.

    I suspect a fair chunk of it also has to do with the British being seen as imperialistic. The kind of people who would develop a galactic empire, because they certainly built one here on Earth.
    StrangeDaysJWSCh2pbyronlBeatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 40
    zimmie said:
    ZooMigo said:
    Aside from falling asleep halfway through (not unusual), I had 1 big complaint. Why is it every “epic story” is full of people with British accents? Did the UK conquer the universe and leave everyone else behind? Star Wars, Dune, so many shows, so many English accents. I know, it’s a small quibble, but it bothers me enough to pull me out of immersion. 
    I think part of it is that certain UK accents sound "sophisticated". Cockney? Not so much. Welsh? Nah. But in a lot of English-speaking places, that's where we get our concept of aristocracy, and what aristocrats should sound like.

    I suspect a fair chunk of it also has to do with the British being seen as imperialistic. The kind of people who would develop a galactic empire, because they certainly built one here on Earth.
    OTOH... If Hollywood wants a bad guy, they often hire a British Actor. This can be because some US actors have a hangup about playing a baddie will tarnish their reputation.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 40
    Well, I'd hoped it could be something my 13y.o. son and I could watch together.

    Turns out, he made it through maybe 20 min of the first episode, so that ain't happening.

    But for me, so far it's been pretty much exactly what I'd hoped (plot twist at the end of ep 2 excluded.)

    Edit: as to the British accent thing: I thought this was initially begun as a Skydance production both in Malta and London. It started life as a UK-based show before Apple ever got involved. I don't think the accent thing was ever brought up other than it being "local" talent hired on.
    edited September 24 byronlnadrielwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 40
    ZooMigo said:
    Aside from falling asleep halfway through (not unusual), I had 1 big complaint. Why is it every “epic story” is full of people with British accents? Did the UK conquer the universe and leave everyone else behind? Star Wars, Dune, so many shows, so many English accents. I know, it’s a small quibble, but it bothers me enough to pull me out of immersion. 
    Whew, hopefully those of us who live in England will be able to watch it without getting “pulled out of immersion” by lots of American accents then …

    Really?

    One of my favourite films ever is in Danish (which I can’t comprehend at all) with subtitles.
    JWSCwilliamlondonh2pbyronlfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 40
    ZooMigo said:
    Why is it every “epic story” is full of people with British accents? Did the UK conquer the universe and leave everyone else behind? Star Wars, Dune, so many shows, so many English accents. I know, it’s a small quibble, but it bothers me enough to pull me out of immersion. 
    LOL.  I always ask the very same thing.  Yes, a small quibble but someone please explain.  It's like watching "Medici" on Netflix.  They are in Italy but everyone is British.
    watto_cobra
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