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‘The Wheel Of Time’ Has One Very Big Problem, But Maybe There’s An Easy Fix

I’ve already written a fairly long and detailed review of the first episodes of The Wheel Of Time on Amazon Prime. I’m also penning recaps for individual episodes (you can read the first one here).

But I wanted to address one big problem I have with the show that I’ve received some pushback over from some readers (while others wholeheartedly agree). In my review and in my YouTube review I note that everything feels very clean, as though it’s never been lived in. The village of Emond’s Field looks too much like a set.

Nothing feels real, it all feels sort of fake. My colleague Paul Tassi messaged me after starting the show: “Why does this show look so low budget?”

And that’s the thing. It’s not that everyone is too clean necessarily—it’s not any one thing I can pinpoint exactly. The whole thing just feels super low budget. And that’s crazy, right? Because Amazon is reportedly spending $10 million per episode, but this looks Legend of the Seeker, not at all on par with Game Of Thrones or The Witcher.

I think a lot of this comes down to cinematography and editing / post-production. It’s also, to some degree, the special effects. Magic looks fine, but things like the Trollocs (man-beast fill-ins for orcs) look like they’ve been plucked from another decade. The real culprit, though, I believe is the cinematography.

Maybe a different filter or choice of cameras would help. But right now everything is so vivid it makes costumes and sets look like costumes and sets. This is similar, if not identical, to the problem you get when your TV has the “true motion” setting (called different things on different sets I believe) which results in the “soap opera effect.”

That’s caused when a TV’s settings play back video at a refresh rate higher than the source material via something called motion interpolation. Even the best-looking show will suddenly look fake—ironically, the attempt to make it look more real removes all the camera trickery that makes sets and costumes not look like sets and costumes.

Weirdly, The Wheel of Time and its producers have managed to somehow give the show its own version of the soap opera effect, which makes everything just too vivid fake looking. I do think without this effect, the sets and costumes (which are very detailed!) would look much better.

So yes, it’s a lot of little things but I think with some changes made in the cinematography department, this very distracting, immersion-breaking flaw could be fixed relatively easily.

I am enjoying the show for the most part. There are some big changes from The Eye Of The World and some tonal changes I’m not super fond of, but mostly I think it’s pretty enjoyable. It gets better with each episode and hopefully by Season 2 they’ll have the design elements patched up and sorted out.

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