Judge Jason Panella is all wet.
The legend begins!
As a wise musician once said, there's a such a fine line between stupid and clever. Atlantis: Season One walks that line carefully—the thirteen episodes of the fantasy-adventure show's first outing play loose and fast with Greek myths and get a lot of mileage out of the cheesy, dumb fun.
While looking for his long-vanished father, modern-day everyman Jason (Jack Donnelly, Misfits) washes up on the shores of a very real Atlantis. He becomes fast friends with a gone-to-seed Hercules (Mark Addy, Game of Thrones) and Pythagoras (Robert Emms, War Horse). When he's not making lovey-dovey eyes at the lovely Ariadne (Aiysha Hart, Djinn), Jason searches to find his father with his pals, sometimes getting caught up in crazy adventures along the way. Because, well, that's what heroes do.
Atlantis is the brainchild of Howard Overman (Misfits) and Merlin co-creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy. While Atlantis has some similarities to Merlin, the real touchstones are '90s corn-fests Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Like those shows, Atlantis takes a bunch of Greek legends and goes nuts. The Minotaur is here, as are the Furies, King Minos and countless other characters from myth and history. But there's some twists on the familiar that function well in the context of the show. For instance, Medusa (Jemima Rooper, The Black Dahlia) shows up as an integral part of the story, but her character in Atlantis is so different from any version I've seen before. Different or not, it just works splendidly (and it helps that Rooper is one of the best things about the season). The show is totally campy, of course; there's a joyfulness about how everyone approaches the material, though, that saves it from the worst kitschy excesses.
The playful, infectious interaction between the main characters goes a long way to make the show enjoyable, too. The three guys don't deviate much from their defined roles, sure—Jason is earnest and noble, Hercules is a comically incompetent blowhard, and Pythagoras jibes both with acid-tongued wit. When the three are on the screen, though, they're just a blast to watch, especially when they trade good-natured quips at a rapid pace. The supporting cast, especially the scheming queen Pasiphaë (Sarah Parish, The Wedding Date), also add a lot, and it seems like they're having a blast chewing up scenes.
Atlantis follows a pretty strict Mission Of The Week kind of format, with each episodic conflict revolving around some retooled mythological idea that also contributes the larger serialized story. The way the story plays out is surprisingly fresh, considering how it's the usual Ã¬secret destiny!Ã® thing we've seen a zillion times before. I wish the writing team wouldn't have abandoned the hero-out-of-time angle when they did—Jason goes native in less than an episode, and by the halfway point in the series I forgot he even traveled through time and the astral planes to wind up in Atlantis.
The show also tends to teeter near the end of the season, when the samey-ness—in both plot devices and drab locations—becomes too much. But really, this doesn't detract too much. Atlantis knows exactly what it wants to do and does it well. That the show is funny and blissfully free of cynicism is the icing on top.
BBC's set of Atlantis: Season One features its thirteen episodes on three discs. The standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fine, for the most part (a few scenes use modest CGI in near-pitch black, which looks like a mess of pixels on the screen). The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track captures the dialogue well, and the frequent action-adventure stuff sounds quite full. The set comes with one nice extra: a making-of featurette that features a lot of cast interviews (30:26).
Want family-friendly adventure that doesn't take itself too seriously? Check out Atlantis.
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