How will Amazon adapt the magic system from The Wheel of Time?


We’re now six weeks into the production of Amazon’s highly anticipated adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. With 14 books to work from, showrunner Rafe Judkins and his team have a ton of material to work with, and fans are wondering which aspects will make it into the show and which will be left on the page. One particular thing fans want to hear about is the series’ well-developed magic system. The magic in this fantasy world is essential to the story, and is known in the books as channeling.

For those unfamiliar, channeling is the act of controlling a limitless energy source known as the One Power to manipulate the world around you. Effectively, it’s magic. But in place of wizards casting spells, women of an ancient order called the Aes Sedai play politics with a special advantage. By tapping into the limitless power of the True Source, one draws the One Power into their being, tames it, then channels the power through weaves and threads. These rare individuals use this ability to control five different elements: water, earth, fire, air, and spirit.

HBO’s Game of Thrones, the biggest fantasy show of the last decade, didn’t have much in the way of explicit magic. The Wheel of Time has it in spades, and we hope the show can deliver on its promise. This ultimate power source is complex and adaptable. For example, the channeler can weave a combination of threads to form an invisible barrier to prevent eavesdropping. Or they can increase the sound of their voice. As with any good system, there are rules, in this case natural laws that must be followed. The power is made up of two halves that balance each other: Saidin and Saidar. Only men can use Saidin and only women can use Saidar, and neither can sense the other half.

Robert Jordan built the magic in his fantasy world to be unique. In this world, magical power is a mighty force to be reckoned with and a double-edged sword. Fans are crossing their fingers that Judkins and company get it right down to the last detail.


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If they don’t get it right, it could go very badly. Consider the 2010 live-action film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender as an example. That movie was supposed to kick off a film trilogy to rival The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, but ended up a critical and commercial disaster with no follow-up to speak of, thankfully.

As with Judkins and The Wheel of Time, the people behind The Last Airbender movie had a lot of source material to sift through, in this case three seasons of television rather than 14 books. There was a lot wrong with the film, but one of the most glaring issues the lack of realism when it came to the depiction of bending, which is more or less the show’s take on a magic system and a key element of the story. The magic system in The Wheel of Time bears some similarity to bending, and no one wants to see it adapted as poorly.

The key is to create a world where the magic is believable and fits with the environment. Depth of detail makes all the difference. The locations have to fit with the costumes have to fit with the acting have to fit with the CGI. We want it all.

How will the show pull it off? The Wheel of Time kicked off production last month with a video of the cast doing their first table read. This line from Barney Harris, who will play Mat Cauthon, stood out to me: “The lady does shoot fireballs, so let’s try to stay on her good side, eh?”

Fireballs, eh? A good start.

As with Game of Thrones, I expect The Wheel of Time to introduce its magic slowly, increasing the special effects budget with time. Hopefully viewership tracks along with it. Those who have had the pleasure of reading the books know the possibilities, the sort of spectacles we might see brought to life. For now, we sit eagerly awaiting a glimpse of what’s to come.

Next. How Patrick Stewart’s experience on Logan inspired him to return to Star Trek. dark

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