It almost all comes down to this: Wizards: Tales of Arcadia will not quite wrap up Guillermo del Toro’s epic animated saga for Netflix. The ambitious story — set in the suburban American town of Arcadia Oaks, which is kind of a Hellmouthy place of scary monsters and battles between good and evil and all that stuff — began with fantasy series Trollhunters, and its popularity led to 52 episodes and novels and comics and toys and a video game and many awards. Then came the sci-fi portion of the franchise, 26 episodes of 3Below. And THEN came Wizards, a 10-episode arc that’ll lead up to a grandly conclusive fiery cataclysmic big crunch in the form of 2021 movie Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans. And maybe it’ll all be over by then?
Opening Shot: The flying black cat with glasses from the end of 3Below swoops through the clouds over a medieval city. Subtitle: LATE 12TH CENTURY CAMELOT.
The Gist: Brief hierarchy inventory: The flying black cat with glasses is Archie (voice of Alfred Molina), the “familiar” (translation: assistant) of Douxie (voice of Colin O’Donoghue), a wizard-in-training under the tutelage of Merlin (David Bradley), no introduction necessary, in pretty much any context. He is Merlin; Merlin is he. All Douxie does is sweep the floor, and get in trouble when he tries to use magic to sweep the floor. He whines, Merlin lectures, “Magic is mastery over life, so first you must learn how to live, and then your days of pushing brooms is over.” Douxie looks hopeful.
UNEXPECTED SUBTITLE: NINE CENTURIES LATER. A broom in a cafe. Pan up. It’s Douxie. He hasn’t aged a day, but he’s still pushing some serious broom. His magic has gotten better, though — here in Arcadia Oaks, he and Archie (who also hasn’t aged a day) hunt down slithery iridescent creatures with more eyes than sense, capturing them in bubbles and banishing them to Limbo. Merlin appears, and tasks him with rounding up the Guardians of Arcadia, and please do hurry up because it’s urgent. So he tracks down Tobias (Charlie Saxton), Steve (Steven Yeun) and the troll AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore), all adventurous suburban dudes (except for the troll) you know from Trollhunters and 3Below. They meet up with Merlin at GdT Arcane Books, which surely stands for “God damn Trouble” and not “Guillermo del Toro.”
And yet, it’s trouble they find. A group (Pack? Murder? Conglomeration? Snack?) of the slithery creatures attacks and they whoosh up to Merlin’s floating castle in the sky, which is POWERED BY TIME ITSELF, and where the good guy Jim is held in stasis so he won’t die, although I’m pretty sure it’s more complicated than that, but hey, I’m not here to give everything away. Claire (Lexi Medrano) from 3Below is there, and so is the great and mighty knight Galahad (John Rhys-Davies). Something called the Arcane Order is gathering, led by someone who looks like Sauron in his armor before he lost the ring, and it’s bad news. Bad, bad news. It involves some of the villains from earlier Tales of Arcadia series, all coming together to destroy and/or rule things. Then guess who shows up in a giant skull to destroy and/or rule things? Right: the Not Sauron, but probably just as terrible as Sauron. So Merlin conjures a rip in space-time so they can escape, but Douxie, Steve, Claire and Frozen Jim fall through it, leaving the others behind as the gap closes. Merlin calls this a “temporal accident,” but I’d say it’s more like “the beginning of a 10-episode arc.”
Our Take: Wizards is very much the continuation of the Arcadia chronicle, and stands on its own as well as a worm stands on its legs. Starting here isn’t a big deal, as long as you don’t mind being 78 episodes behind.
This is a very plot-dense, action-packed, character-jammed 24 minutes of TV. It doesn’t really let up. There’s a lot to cram in before getting to the meat of the story, which already rolls fast and heavy downhill with the momentum of everything that came before it: classical myths reimagined with modern sensibilities, with vivid animation, crisp comedy and a muscular, but not too heavy, sense of drama. Del Toro’s hand guides the series into creative avenues without ever being off the rails; it’s clever enough to entertain adults with a proclivity for fantasy tales, but absolutely aimed at the TV-Y7 audience. So far, Wizards ropes in some favorite characters from before, shuffles in some new ones, and barrels ahead at full speed.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Douxie, Steve, Claire and Frozen Jim land in medieval Camelot, surrounded by KAAAA-NIG-ITS! One of them says — as one of them absolutely must say, per the Hallowed and Ancient Edicts of Fantasy Storytelling — “What manner of sorcery is this?”
Sleeper Star: If you think the flying cat with glasses voiced by Alfred Molina isn’t the sleeper star here, you must be one of those DOG PEOPLE.
Most Pilot-y Line: “The world as you know it is about to end. Meow.” — Archie says what I’m pretty sure my cat says to me every morning unless I feed him right NOW.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Troll on.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Stream Wizards: Tales of Arcadia on Netflix
Source: New York Post
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