Following the end of the massively good BBC programme (Americans read Show) Merlin, the BBC has recently started another one for the same time-slot, called Atlantis. So far there have been two episodes, and I’ve held off reviewing it until now, I wanted to give it a couple of episodes to get me on board.
Sadly it hasn’t, and if you’ve read the blog before, you know I’m a big Greek Myth fan, all Myths in fact.
Episode 1 opens up in the 21st century with the protagonist, Jason (no foreshadowing there, right?), portrayed by Jack Donnelly, who’s on a big ship and about to go down in a sub to look for the wreckage of his father’s, to try to find out what happened to him. Once down, he gets sucked by a wormhole and spit out on a beach someplace else…naked.
I buy it, it’s cool…but it doesn’t stay that way.
He finds conveniently abandoned clothes on the beach and heads for the town and after making a fool of himself fighting a two-headed iguana, he’s chased by the extremely violent and short-fused city guard. After the obligatory rooftop chase scene, he almost falls to his death but is saved by…Pythagoras?
Sure, Pythagoras (Robert Emms) had a few myths going around him, like being a Scion of Apollo, but putting him in Atlantis is a bit of a stretch, but not as much of a stretch as Pythagoras’ roommate HERCULES (Mark Addy). That’s going out there, really out there, just not the right way…though I do have to admit Hercules might be the only interesting character among them all, since he’s portrayed as fat old drunkard, and episode 1 puts the idea in your head that Hercules’ fame as mostly due to him taking credit for stuff he hasn’t really done, which is fantastic.
Even then I was willing to give it a shot…until the plot reared its head and it lost me: The Minotaur’s Labyrinth. I don’t mind that it’s been done, not at all. Hell, I’ve used it myself. The problem lies when you mix the Minotaur, King Minos of Crete and Ariadne with Atlantis, making them the King and Princess. When you do that you realize the programme is called Atlantis only to spark interest, when it should’ve really been called CRETE.
That’s what I meant with going out there the wrong way. If you’re doing Atlantis, go big, go far, go beyond! Include references to Greek Myth if you want, they’re tied together, but don’t just dump everything from Greek Myth into Crete and call it Atlantis! Take Stargate Atlantis for example, I loathe the show, lost interest in it by its second season, but the concept behind Atlantis, how they shifted that myth and made it work for them, was BRILLIANT. Why not do that here? I don’t mean SciFi, but build your own mythology. Sure, add some references here and there, a couple of cameos, even keep the drunk, overweight Hercules, it’s cool, but do your own thing. Using established myths and just changing the island’s name is just lazy.
Episode 2 doesn’t get better, including some very tame and lame Maenads, the ugliest Satyr’s you’ll ever see (they look like trolls, not goat-men; i suppose they’re recycling CG assets from Merlin) and Medusa, one of the maenads and the only “good girl” among them; and whose fate, according to the Oracle on “Atlantis”, is sealed, so there’s not much of a chance of her becoming anything else but another CG monster to kill later on.
Aside from setting and plot, the acting is more miss than hits. Pythagoras is portrayed as a bumbling genius, though more bumbling than anything else. You’d expect they’d make him an active participant in their exploits, coming up with traps or using math in some very badass ways, but no, he just mumbles and stumbles. Hercules is pretty good, and watching Mark Addy is always a joy. Jason is flat, uninteresting and completely unbelievable. Minos on the other hand is pretty intimidating but that’s Alexander Siddig, who can be whatever he wants to be, and whose talents are pretty much wasted on Atlantis. Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) is pretty good, considering she’s only on-screen for about 5 minutes between both episodes. Finally, the Oracle (Juliet Stevenson) is even duller than Jason, which is sad considering the powerhouse of an actress Stevenson is.
I don’t really have to mention the writing, do I? Merlin had weak moments, several of them, but even at its weakest, it was stronger than both episodes of Atlantis combined.
Even now I’m arguing with myself if I should even watch Episode 3…and I sincerely hope this programme only has one series (read Season) before it’s cancelled.
Should you watch it? Episode 1 with this review running through your head, definitely.
The rest? There’s better ways to waste an hour.