Atlantis: 101 “The Earth Bull” Spoiler-Free Review
By Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull.
After dishing out a fair amount of joint big budget productions over the summer – the likes of The White Queen and Top of the Lake spring to mind – the BBC has finally unveiled its own epic series. Atlantis has been teased throughout the year but now with TV entering its autumn season, the premiere is finally upon us.
The Earth Bull is a fickle affair, the first half sets the series out as a bit of a blithe romp with a hebdomadal adventure and a monster-of-the-week before swiftly changing its tune with blood and more brutal action. Our man of the hour is Jason, a young man with an unusual background who sets out to find his father whereupon he stumbles across the city of Atlantis and it’s not underwater… not yet (methinks). After a quick chase across a marketplace, he encounters two citizens, Pythagoras and Hercules who soon become his friends. All the necessary individuals for a fantasy epic are present: the ruggedly handsome hero, the gauche sidekick, the bumptious father figure/sidekick, the prepossessing princess and the eldritch prophet.
The opener bounds along briskly with next to no exposition on our lead character and his entourage. The Earth Bull’s pace could actually be quite a problem as the writers seemingly skip over a lot of key dialogue as well as having events spiral at an alarming rate; almost everything that happens to Jason is pure coincidence. One of the twists the writers pull off at the very beginning is given less than 30 seconds screentime.
Despite having been largely filmed in a disused Tesco warehouse somewhere near Chepstow Atlantis is gorgeous. The gleaming sea that washes onto the shores, the dusty city battlements and the colourful marketplace really fix Atlantis in your mind long after you’ve turned the telly off.
I have never seen Merlin – bar one brief episode some few years ago – nor do I plan on doing so and I’m rather pleased from a professional standpoint. I shan’t be comparing Atlantis to Merlin (although I did so in my jocular trailer breakdown where I used my scant knowledge of the latter show to make gags) even though one is the production/timeslot successor to the other. Atlantis has everything that I saw in Merlin (I saw the first episode of Merlin, mind) and the whole thing centres on Jason, the hero that has a destiny. The whole thing is so Jason-centric; I’m surprised they didn’t put his name in the title.
So that’s Atlantis. How was it? Good. The hero is genial enough as are his sidekicks and there isn’t really a dislikeable character, which is often the case (I expected Pythagoras or Hercules to be annoying but they’re surprisingly good fun). Pace is an issue but I’m sure we’ll discover more about Jason and co. as the series progresses. With this first caper I can expect all subsequent episodes to be the same: a good old-fashioned Saturday teatime romp – it’s just what Britain needs.