The hunt for the next ‘Game of Thrones’ rolls on in a ‘Wheel of Time’

Earlier this year, business reporter Brad Stone published Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire. As the subtitle suggests, the scope of the book is much wider than the company’s entertainment arm, which ranges from Alexa to Amazon Web Services to match the breadth of Bezos’ ambitions. But the book produced a memorable – and enlightening – anecdote about running a creative business.

In 2017, Stone reported, Bezos dressed former Amazon Studios boss Roy Price because of the perceived failure The man in the high castle, the dystopian drama adapted from the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. (Later that year, Price withdrew due to allegations that he had sexually harassed an executive producer on the show, who eventually aired for four seasons.) Bezos, frustrated by it The man in the high castle had not become a major hit, lamented that “this should not be so difficult. All of these iconic shows have the same basic things in common. “He then went on to list, seemingly spontaneously, 12 aspects of a fantastic series, including” moral choices “,” positive emotions “,” a compelling antagonist “and” humor. “For a time, Bezos’ words became law, with executives required to submit spreadsheets explaining how each show met each criterion.

Stone later explained that Bezos had since resigned from monitoring Amazon Studios so closely. But the story still hit a nerve, and with good reason. Not only was the anecdote an over-the-top example of seniors getting into an area far beyond their expertise; The mindset on display still seems to steer Amazon’s grand planning. The Prime Video streaming service may not work outside of Bezos’ specific agenda, but its recent efforts – a show based on author Robert Jordans Wheel of Time, of which the first three episodes came out on Friday – has a clear touch of programming after checklist.

Around the time Bezos outlined his storytelling strategy, he also reportedly issued a mandate to Prime Video’s next major milestone: finding the next Game of Thrones. The goal was on one level almost superfluous; is not “the next Game of Thrones“Just another expression for” the next TV mega-hit “, and that is not the purpose every TV show where as many people can watch it as possible? But for a service that won its first Emmy Awards for a Jewish family drama about gender and sexual identity, the sorta pivot made some sense. It would not be consistent for Everything Store to specialize in low-budget series with the look and feel of an independent film – although Amazon has also acquired plenty of them over the years. (Annette, the recently released French rock opera with a singing doll baby, was one of theirs.) As a company, Amazon is nothing, if not large in scope. Maybe so should their productions.

Four years later, the plan is not without dividends. With two seasons under his belt, superhero spoof The boys is popular enough to earn a spinoff and a surprising Emmy nod for excellent drama series. (The show undermines its genre enough to win over skeptics, but has enough mass appeal to compete with Marvel and DC, not just comment on them.) And earlier this year, Amazon announced its plans to buy the studio MGM for more than $ 8 billion, a features that would bring the global James Bond franchise into the fold – and the possibility of launching satellites as a TV show along with it. None of the development is in itself the “next”. Game of Thrones but they are steps in the right direction.

Still, Amazon is the most obvious attempt to do Thrones lightning twice is also its most literal – and least imaginative. They thought badly The carnival series may have had elements of high fantasy and an even higher budget, but it lacked much of a spark, even between its two leads. Other projects are even more obvious to follow Thrones playbook to the letter. HBO hit it big by betting on a book series loved by fans, but too expensive, unwieldy or otherwise unusable to provide justice without complete commitment to a multi-season endeavor. So Amazon bought the rights to two own series. (To be fair, it is not alone in its goal of making Game of Thrones by number; Apple TV + has just completed the first season of a show based on Isaac Asimov’s millennial thriller Foundation, while Netflix adapts the intoxicating, abstract Problem with three bodies with the actual producers of Game of Thrones.) Most famously, there is a billion-plus-dollar Lord of the Rings customization, many details of which remain close under wraps. Until we learn more, let alone see the final result, we must settle for Wheel of Time.

As a story, Wheel of Time hits almost every Bezos’ self-proclaimed sweet spot, from “civilizational high stakes” (just look at that title!) to “wish fulfillment” (who wouldn’t want to go on a road trip with Rosamund Pike?). It also shares many features, at least superficially, with Thrones in particular. Some are the series’ shared legacy from common ancestors like JRR Tolkien: CGI creatures (ogres called trollocs instead of White Walkers), manic cosmology (“light and dark” instead of “fire and ice”), a potpourri of accents from all over world. Great Britain (and some from Ireland too). Others go even further back, to the hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell in the 1940s. Wheel of Time follows five candidates for a prophesied figure known as Dragon Reborn. Before they can move on to big things, Pike’s sorceress must retrieve them from the rural stalemate where they grew up, as most of the elect do. As Tatooine should Star wars, a region called the two rivers exists That The wheel of time.

What Wheel of Time do not share Game of Thrones are the qualities that made the latter a crossover hit that impressed dedicated fans and attracted new ones in the millions. The obviousness of Amazon’s big game makes its failure even more annoying, if expected. There is a lemming-like logic at play that is never a recipe for success, but which feels particularly poorly oriented given the sheer size of this investment. One gets the feeling that companies like Amazon are spending billions-with-aB on their “next Game of Thrones ” without thinking too much about why Game of Thrones became such a smash in the first place. It was never about the dragons and always about the people who feared, fought and rode on them.

Developed by author and former Survivor participant Rafe Judkins, Amazons The wheel of time spends the six episodes shared with critics on giving a crash course in Jordan’s richly detailed world, first laid out in 14 novels from 1990 to 2013. (After Jordan’s death in 2007, the last three books were co-authored by Brandon Sanderson.) however generic some of the landscapes may be – a taverna where city dwellers could have been shot due to the local Renaissance Faire – there is still so much to remember that newcomers may need some flashcards. The girl’s character, Moiraine, belongs to an order called Aes Sedai, which exerts a force (small f!) Called the One Power, historically limited to women. She gathers forces against The Dark One, a satanic figure who caused an apocalypse about 3,000 years before the events of the show; trollocs are his minions, along with creatures called fades and turncoat humans known as Darkfriends. Once Moiraine’s charges were met, they set out on a journey from a region called Andor to a town called Tar Valon, home to Aes Sedai’s white tower (no, not that). There is a lot to do.

Wheel of Time is so busy preoccupied with his story that he barely has time to lay out his emotional efforts. Lost loves and unstable upbringing, the things that are supposed to drive a character the rest of their lives, are wrapped up in minutes by the pilot. Where Thrones found clever solutions to build his world effectively, such as turning the opening texts into a moving map, Wheel of Time shortens its heroes in favor of details we have not been taught to worry about. In doing so, it gets a genre show’s priorities completely wrong. The most finely drawn backdrop in the world is waste when the center of the stage can not hold your attention. And neither the authorship nor the performances are enough to do Wheel of Time‘s protagonists feel like individuals rather than generic archetypes. There is no Arya Stark or Tyrion Lannister that the audience can grab.

But even for longtime fans who already know these characters, Wheel of Time is not the masterful translation Thrones was, especially in its early seasons. Despite all the cost, most evident in the dramatic scenery from all the filming on site, Wheel of Time looks strangely cheap, or maybe just artificial. When the characters cross paths with a nomadic tribe known as the Tinkers, their costumes look like a knockoff Esmeralda pass from the local Halloween store. The trolls do not seem particularly threatening either; people forget Thrones spent years building up to its ice-zombies and adult dragons, whereby knowledge and fear work as much as the special effects. Wheel of Time focuses on spectacle rather than storytelling, but does not make the former effective enough to be worth the trade-off.

The locks opened Thrones have not been without their highlights. It’s hard to imagine Denis Villeneuve getting the green light for his multi-party task Dune, e.g, without the performance as a precedent – and Dune is exactly the kind of ambitious, immersive effort that is rewarded by tackling a difficult source text directly. Outstanding aside, however, the pursuit of the next Thrones rarely feels motivated by infectious enthusiasm. Instead, show that Wheel of Time feel conversely developed from an ideal result. And unlike in fantasies, real-world prophecies are not guaranteed to come true.

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