Foundation marks a seminal moment in science-fiction history. It is the first successful attempt at a cinematic adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s landmark series of novels. These are tales that have shaped the very fabric of sci-fi storytelling for decades, and their influence on the genre is simply immeasurable. With the books finally getting treated as prestigious pieces of weekly television, a lot is riding on just how successfully they are embraced by viewers.
Part of the reason for that is how much money Apple has poured into Foundation as a potential flagship series for their streaming service Apple TV+. Just by looking at the episodes, you can tell that this is an extravagant and expensive endeavor. No corners are cut when it comes to bringing this vast universe to life. Gorgeous location shoots, immaculate costume designs, and blockbuster effects work are all over the place. When it comes to the production side of things, Foundation is quite a marvel to behold. In terms of design and look, it actually triumphs over the upcoming epic take on another seminal sci-fi work, Dune. Where Dune looks like a grey blob in so much of its color design, Foundation surprises with a deep vibrancy that feels so welcome in the current landscape of big-budget sci-fi cinema.
Another major plus for Foundation is its casting. Ostensibly headlined by Jared Harris as psychohistorian Hari Seldon, this is an ensemble even if the show thinks it has a concrete lead in the form of Lou Llobell as Hari’s protege Gaal Dornick. This is an extremely solid cast, with Lee Pace and Terrence Mann practically stealing the show as Brother Day and Brother Dusk respectively. They play clone emperors ruling over a dynasty that has reigned for centuries, but now their control is on the verge of collapse. Frankly, their storylines are the most compelling in the early sections of the show. That makes it both a blessing and a curse to the series’ bigger picture.
That is where Foundation is feeling shaky on the outset. This is a story that will end up spanning an incredible amount of time, but this season looks to be pretty focused on one particular period. As such, there is already a feeling that the show is doing its fair share of wheel-spinning by just the second episode. There is also an air of prestige in the show’s tone that does come off as too stoic for its own good at times. Unlike something like Game of Thrones – which Apple clearly wants Foundation to be when it comes to a cornerstone show – there is a lack of complication to some of the characters that leaves them feeling distant at times. This is an issue that could very well be fixed with more development across the season, but the show at the outset does lack a strong humanistic core in some crucial moments.
Still, it is hard to deny just how impressive a production Foundation is. There are a number of awesome sets in the show that make a strong argument for ditching the green screen warehouse way Disney has been stuck in for so long with their Marvel movies. Not to mention that the entire world of the show gives off some very cool sci-fi vibes. Granted, it’s not the most imaginative when it comes to how things look, but the polish behind the entire look of the show’s world and characters is undeniable.
Perhaps such a dense story needs way more time to get up to speed. Like a lot of shows, Foundation feels less like an actual series and more like a feature film that has been chopped up into hour-long segments. Once it is all done, there is a good chance that this could be a solid piece of binge-watching for sci-fi enthusiasts. As of now, Foundation is a promising but cautious piece of sci-fi epic storytelling. If it can gain some better momentum in its upcoming episodes, it has a chance to be a strong adaptation of Asimov’s game-changing work. But if it can’t find the right mood or it maintains a sense that it isn’t really headed anywhere with a sense of urgency, it might prove to be one of the most expensive disappointments in recent memory.