The television adaptation of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth books hits the screens. I had sinking feelings the moment I saw what the title was going to be. Did they continue missing the point? There’s only one way to find out…
Cast and Crew
Bridget Regan as Kahlan Amnell
Craig Horner as Richard Cypher
Bruce Spence as Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander
Craig Parker as Darken Rahl
Jay Laga’aia as Chase
David de Latour as Michael Cypher
Written by Kenneth Biller and Stephen Tolkin
Directed by Mark Beesley
Based on the Sword of Truth books by Terry Goodkind.
In order to fulfil a prophecy about the defeat of an evil ruler named Darken Rahl, Kahlan crosses the boundary into Westland, a peaceful land without magic, to find a wizard in hiding and bring the Book of Counted Shadows to the Seeker who will destroy Rahl.
There are none. At all. This is mediocrity punctuated by cries of ‘what was that?’ and ‘eh?’ and the occasional groan.
- Kahlan seems to alternate between strength like in the books, and classic TV damsel helplessness and stupidity.
- General, rampant and heedless backstory trampling. Richard isn’t a longstanding friend of Zedd? His father is alive? Richard doesn’t figure out Zedd’s identity? There’s no web to conceal Zedd’s identity? There are too many other things to list.
- Reciting spells. When was that part of this world’s magic system?
- Chase isn’t wearing nearly enough weapons. And what happened to him being a boundary warden?
- A Confessor isn’t supposed to collapse after using her power. Kahlan certainly isn’t, anyway.
- It’s impossible to convey the brutality in Goodkind’s work in a TV show rated PG. There should be limbs and bits of brain everywhere. I’m not sure it’s going to work at this kind of level.
Originality: It’s an adaptation of a book, which doesn’t help the originality if you’ve read said book, but unfortunately it’s been modified into a more generic fantasy than the book itself. Three out of six.
Effects: Kahlan’s use of her power misses out the thunder without sound from the books. There’s some cool eye-darkening going on, but it doesn’t have, if you’ll excuse the term, quite the same impact. The boundary looks fantastic, but the snake vine is rather too obviously fake. It’s possible to do better these days, although perhaps not on the budget this series was given. I should also mention Zedd’s wizard’s fire, which is not as described in the books but does look exactly like a jet of fire coming out of his fingertips. Three out of six.
Story: They’ve turned the story inside out, then torn it up and let some of the pieces settle in a random order. It kind of makes sense, but it’s smaller than the admittedly rather long book, which would make quite a lengthy series (not to mention all the other books), plus there are elements from later books in here, like Richard’s access to the skill of the previous Seekers. Which, incidentally, doesn’t seem very evident in his clumsy-looking swordplay. Three out of six.
Emotional Response: It may be my attachment to the books and my subsequent reaction to what seems like pointless, baseless changes, but this doesn’t really do much for me. It’s not complete disengagement, but some of it’s just because I’m interested to see what they get wrong next. Two out of six.
Acting: Variable, and a bit samey. Most of the characters feel the same. Two out of six.
Production: The landscapes are very beautiful, but rather extreme. Is the whole series going to happen on the edge of an extremely tall cliff overlooking an idyllic forest? The music is also a little overdone and some of the cuts seem a little too fast, and there’s a great overuse of slow motion segments in combat scenes. Two out of six.
Overall: Extremely disappointing. I’m quite sure there was no need to change so much of the backstory or the events in order to make it work on television. Two out of six.
With a total score of seventeen out of forty-two, it’s not good news. I’d always hoped there’d be a television or film adaptation of the books, but there was always the possibility I’d wish they hadn’t bothered. And now that’s what I’m thinking.
Note that since this is a review by a fan of the books, somebody who’s never read them might find it more entertaining than I did.