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Foundation review: Apple’s slow-burn sci-fi epic thinks big, looks great

It’s a great time for high-minded fantasy classics you haven’t read (or maybe you have, in which case you may be ambivalent about your favorite books coming to the screen). The much-vaunted Dune movie from Denis Villeneuve is in theaters and on HBO Max Oct. 22; Brave New World already came out; and Wheel of Time is still to come. But before that, Apple TV Plus brings Isaac Asimov’s weighty Foundation saga to the small screen.

Apple TV+ Watch Guide | Foundation

Starring Lee Pace and Jared Harris, this glossy sci-fi epic hardly moves at the speed of light. Which means you might need to give it a chance beyond the first two episodes streaming now on Apple TV Plus, followed by a new weekly installment every Friday until the 10-episode season ends on Nov. 17. 

Beginning as a series of short stories in 1942 and expanding to a lengthy series of novels, prequels and sequels, Foundation is a vast cosmic saga. So, of course, the show opens with a voiceover, followed by onscreen captions telling you the names of three planets in just the first eight minutes. It flashes back 35 years, then a flashback rewinds 400 years, then another goes 17 years forward. Look, there’s dense world-building that rewards viewers’ attention, and there’s presenting a story in a way that’s just confusing. Foundation is filled with interesting stuff and big ideas, but it could present them in a more accessible way.

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