Blood and ashes! How NOT to film the Wheel of Time

News today in the world of the Wheel of Time – a.k.a. the fantasy epic penned by Robert Jordan and finished by Brandon Sanderson – was that a small cable channel made a 20-minute film adaptation of the prologue from the first book in the series, The Eye of the World. Fans were cautious about this, and rightly so.

(Here’s a quick reminder of how much this subject means to me: most people assume I know no greater love than that the Harry Potter books, based on my very overt displays of Potter fanhood. As much as I do genuinely love the world of HP,  by the Light and my hope of rebirth, it’s the Wheel of Time books I would bring to a deserted island.)

The basic plot is that Lews Therin Telamon (Max Ryan), a.k.a. the Dragon, walks around in the blood-stained ruins of a house, calling for his beloved Ilyena, completely unaware of his surroundings. He’s joined by a man, Elan Morin Tedronai (Billy Zane), a.k.a. Ishamael, who points out that Ilyena – and everyone else in the house – is dead. Not only that, Lews Therin was the one that killed them, because he’s driven insane from channeling the tainted male half of the One Power. Lews Therin then decides to End It All.

Let’s see how long these clips stay up on YouTube:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Granted, it could have been worse, and they were on a tight budget, but sometimes I feel that you either do something justice by having a budget that fits what you’re trying to do, or you don’t do anything at all. This was essentially only an exercise in keeping the rights, Dragonmount reports. They’ve done a poor adaptation of the prologue just to get their contract extended, when they should just let it go (let it gooooo!) and let someone else do the story justice. I think I’m not alone in saying that what we’re expecting is something on par with Game of Thrones. Big-budget, epic, awesome. This wasn’t it.

Babylon 5 had better graphics than this,” said the Squeeze, who also seemed disappointed. (For reference, B5 was made 1994-1998, and is arguably one of the best sci-fi TV shows ever made.)

My issue(s) with it, aside from the 90s style graphics (seriously, even Syfy can do better than that), is that it’s confusing. The Squeeze was confused because he didn’t remember the prologue at all, but I’m confused because it’s so poorly done it’s not entirely obvious that Lews Therin (Max Ryan) is insane. He’s a clean, well-dressed man walking around an empty house, and then there’s a mirror which he stares into and then he’s all scruffy and bearded, and then he’s clean again. The clothes – what the heck is he wearing?! From the back, Lews Therin looks like he’s walked out from the set of Suits, and the clothes of the girl who runs past actually had me exclaim “what the hell!?”

There’s Ilyena “Sun hair”, whose hair reminds me of no sun at all, except possibly if you consider a red dwarf star. Then there are the weird pronounciations. The strange acting. Lews Therin is a raving mad man. His behaviour didn’t seem particularly “man driven insane by the taint on saidin” to me. When he temporarily came to, he didn’t even seem shocked that he’d murdered his own family. More matter-of-fact “oh, it appears my family is dead and this man is saying I did it, so I guess I should go and kill myself”. He’s insane and he’s driven even more insane by grief when he realises he’s killed everyone he held dear, and in destroying himself, he created the Dragonmount – and this is not in there, for what I presume are budget constraints.

The cheesy intro over the chapter icons and the spinning Wheel … oh by the Light, no.

Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, has even issued a statement where she distances herself to the production, saying she (or anyone actually connected with RJ’s estate) had no knowledge about it, and was not involved in any way, and if anything, that puts me in a bad mood.

If there is ANYTHING I like about this, and this is comparably tiny, it’s that Billy Zane has aged really well and I’m totally on board with seeing him in any sort of role looking like that, because woah. (A friend and I saw The Phantom at the cinema back in the day just because Billy Zane was gorgeous.) Max Ryan isn’t exactly hard on the eyes either. It’s just that Winter Dragon is so wrong. (Oh yeah, that’s a separate point – the title is Winter Dragon. *cringe*) It’s not even so wrong it’s right, it’s just horrendous.

I’m all for a TV adaptation of the Wheel of Time, in fact I would KILL (figuratively speaking) to be an uncredited extra whose face you can’t even make out on a show like that, but it would have to be on the epic scale currently enjoyed by Game of Thrones. Not something cobbled together in a garage somewhere because there’s a company desperate not to lose the filming rights days before they’re set to expire. If this was a fanmade film, I would have no qualms about it, other than they’re acting it wrong, but this was made by the people who currently hold the rights, and who really don’t deserve them. Not even a shirtless Billy Zane would change my mind.

I are disappoints. 🙁

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