The next The Lord of the Rings film adaptation will concentrate on the adventures of Perrygrin Took, a Hobbit embarked on a epic adventure to destroy the evil Ring of Power. On Perry’s journey, she will be accompanied by one Frodo Baggins, largely a background character who provides context to Perry’s adventures and sometimes provides vague guidance, at least until he turns into a dragon and flies away. Perry is also joined by her cousin Maridoc Brandybuck, though Mary’s path quickly diverges so she can lead a conglomerate of armies at Amon Hen, Helm’s Deep, and eventually the final battle at the base of Mount Doom itself.
The reboot’s primary antagonist will be The Council of Mordor, a group of witches and other evil magic wielders, led by the General of Mordor himself, Sauron. Frequent sparring with General Sauron will be interlaced throughout the journeys of both Perry and Mary.
As I watched Apple TV+’s Foundation series, I could not help but compare frequently this present adaption of one of the great 20th-century science fiction stories with the king of fantasy novels from the same era, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson’s early 2000s film trilogy. Although Tolkien’s written original story is (obviously) far superior to Jackson’s or any other films based on the novel, I have always felt that Jackson did about the best possible job crunching the story into a mere nine to ten hours of screen time. The core story is intact, albeit with interesting rewiring of The Two Towers books, and the characters are very faithful to those within the novel, in a Cliff’s Notes type of way. When I watch these 20-year old movies now, they have the feel of a lost golden era which will be impossible to replicate due to new cultural and technical norms.
Foundation is quite different from The Lord of the Rings in so many ways that it almost feels unfair to compare the two. The former is a nearly pure science fiction anthology structured as many short stories spanning centuries, while the latter is a fantasy and true “hero’s journey” that has an innate advantage when converted to the film genre. The characters of the Foundation galaxy do not last long, as they live their lives and likely are not around in the next century for the next story. The only pseudo-main and persistent character is Hari Seldon, already an old man when the stories begin, but “returns” via The Vault and his omnipresent imprint on all the events he set in motion (ignoring the “young Hari Seldon” prequel adventures, which came later).
Assuming Apple was planning for their Foundation series to be a long-term affair, I felt they had an amazing opportunity to attempt capturing the essence of Isaac Asimov’s amazing stories for the 21st-century viewer. The premise of psychohistory is the most baseline legitimate science fiction, an anthology exploring how Seldon’s plans worked, and ultimate were derailed by a force he could not have anticipated. Characters are important though fleeting, such that you never should be attached or vested in any of them except the ghost of Seldon.
Unfortunately, Apple went “Hollywood” with their adaptation. Making the story about explosions and character relationships and turning Hari Seldon into a quasi-techno-god effectively misses the soul of Foundation and arguable is 180 degrees from it.
I could nitpick many of the “un-Foundation” aspects of the Apple series, but I instead refer to my The Lord of the Rings satire above. If the folks that made Apple TV+’s Foundation got their hands on The Lord of the Rings, this is what they would do to Tolkien’s masterpiece. Though I disagreed with some of how Peter Jackson adapted Rings, I also believed he genuinely wanted to make his trilogy as faithful to the novel as possible, a conclusion based on the final product. Not so with the contemporary portrayal of Foundation., which more resembles all the ludicrous “Based on the novel by H.G. Wells” movies that had barely anything in common with those works except for the title.
I may sound a little grumpy talking about Apple TV+’s Foundation but that is, I think, only because I cherish Asimov’s stories so much and want to preserve their meaning and perspective to me. Sadly, I have never actually discussed Foundation with anyone in any meaningful way. Most people in my life never even heard of the stories, including the “sci-fi” nuts, despite Foundation being precisely that for a great deal of latter 20th-century science fiction and sci-fi fantasy. But here I talk about all this now, and only briefly. If you, dear reader still here, have anything you would like to share, I anticipate your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with how I criticize the Apple TV+ effort?