'Foundation' Review: Apple TV series on Isaac Asimov's work is sci-fi extraordinaire
Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation' was one of those unfilmable movies largely due to the saga incorporating chapters, sub-chapters, convoluted plotlines, and spanned several centuries. It was complex and the writing in itself was a work of art that could not be tampered with.
When Apple TV decided that it would take on what could rightfully be called its most ambitious project, there was a sense of euphoria that something magnanimous is on its way, a bonafide piece of content that could join the pantheon of distinguished sci-fi, mythical sagas — 'Star Wars' and 'Lord of the Rings' that have become cult classics. 'Foundation' started off as a string of short tales in the 1940s only to become a solid, mind-bending, and absolutely heavy trilogy of books over the next decade. Those novels saw Asimov attempt to picture the fall of a futuristic civilization.
The Hugo Award winner, who actually was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University by day, had a side to him that saw him become one of the prolific writers in his time. 'Foundation' was inspired by Edward Gibbon's work on the decline of the Roman Empire and by the 80s, the sci-fi epic had two prequels and as many sequels.
The series centers around Hari Seldon (Jared Harris), a mathematician and a psychologist, who uses the science of psychohistory to predict the future using math and historical patterns. By his definition, psychohistory is a predictive representation designed to foretell the psychological and generic behavior of large populations. The model predicts the crumble of the Galactic empire following a lengthy period of barbarism that would ravage the civilization for a good 30,000 years.
He suggests a plan that sees the building of a foundation to act as a storeroom that would preserve all the technology and the knowledge the Galactic empire comprised of so that they could rise again from the ruins. In that scenario, the time of the Dark Ages would see a drastic reduction, and the rebuild would be better than what it was before the fall.
Supporting his theory is Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell), a young mathematic whiz and the only person with the understanding of Seldon's theory, who becomes a vital cog in his plan. In what reminds us of Thanos telling Titan that the planet could see a decline, the Empire dubs Seldon as a traitor banishing him from the planet of Trantor to Terminus, desolate, inhospitable planet light-years away from civilization.
David S. Goyer's attempt isn't just a straight adaptation. He's made some major changes to the original source material and introduced new concepts that add to 'Foundation's depth. Genetic dynasty is one of the alien concepts, but a rather remarkable one where three renewed, differently aged clones of a single person rule the empire. Lee Pace as Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk play the man at the helm of Trantor. Adding to the list of changes was also the introduction of female characters — notable absentees in Asimov's novels. Despite the slow pacing, which is acceptable, what 'Foundation' does is mesmerizing.
The years of work on sets, especially with the pandemic screeching productions to a halt hasn't stopped Apple from rolling out a visceral drama that is quite the stunning spectacle and tugs the heart. At its core, 'Foundation' embraces the concept of hope. Hope after the decline, hope that life could be rebuilt, and hope that would give birth to a new civilization. Something that is in dire need in today's times.
'Foundation' premieres with two episodes on September 24 on Apple TV+. The remainder of the episodes drops in weekly on the platform.