Sam Raimi and the New Zealand Coincidence

I was never a fan of the Xena or Hurcules franchises on television in the 90s, but a few years ago, and sort of by accident, I stumbled onto Legend of the Seeker which is based on the Sword of Truth novels by Terry Goodkind. I didn’t know about these books or Mr. Goodkind before the TV show, but I have since become a fan.  I think they give Game of Thrones a run for their money in the world of high fantasy, but instead of attracting HBO, the novels attracted Sam Raimi.  If you are more of a mainstream fantasy fan, you might know Raimi from the Toby Maguire, Spiderman series. He’s also the guy who brought us Army of Darkness and helped make Bruce Campbell – a dedicated B-movie actor – a household name (if you live in a household like mine). Raimi also produced Xena and Hurcules.

Sam Raimi is nothing if not prolific. I don’t want to write his filmography (that’s what IMDb is for) but he’s a machine, cranking out TV series and movies like a mill. I only recently figured this out this past weekend when I tried watching Spartacus: Vengeance on demand on the Stars channel. Before I discuss Spartacus, let me take a step back. Legend of the Seeker employed a bunch of nominally familiar actors; faces that made me say, “Hey, I know that guy from somewhere.” In this case, I had that experience with the actor that played the wizard Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander and the actor who played the bad guy, Darken Rahl.

Zeddicus is played by Bruce Spence who has a very memorable face, voice, and stature. He’s had a role in almost every major fantasy/sci-fi movie franchise since he came into the acting world. I first recognized him as the train conductor from the Matrix, and then realized he was in the Mad Max series with Mel Gibson. He also played the Mouth of Sauron in the Lord of the Rings and he was the weird character Tion Medon in Star Wars: Episode III.

My favorite actors tend to be character actors. (Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, etc.) Bruce Spence has become one of my new favorites, even though he’s been around for a while.

Now for Craig Parker. I recognized him as an elf (Haldir) in the Lord of the Rings movie.  He was also in the prequel to another of my favorite trilogies, Underworld. He played Sabas, a bit character in Rise of the Lycans, a film that, surprisingly, Sam Raimi had no part in.

What do Bruce Spence and Craig Parker have in common? Besides Legend of the Seeker and L.O.R., they are both from Down Under– more specifically, New Zealand. Apparently New Zealand has about 20 actors total, and anytime anything is filmed in that area, you stand about a 90% chance that Bruce Spence and Craig Parker are going to wind up being in it. L.O.R was filmed in New Zealand. So was Legend of the Seeker. So is Stars’s Spartacus franchise.

I really like Craig Parker. He makes an awesome bad guy (and he’s not too hard on the eyes).  The only reason I even attempted to watch Spartacus was because after IMDb-ing Craig Parker, I found out he was working on this series.  I watched the first episode from the Spartacus: Vengeance last night and felt like it was old home week from Legend of the Seeker (and Xena. Lucy Lawless is in it, too). I saw so many of the same actors that I wondered about the coincidence. The coincidence turned out to be Sam Raimi, who poduces both.

Somebody else will have to tell me why Raimi has an attraction to New Zealand. Maybe it’s cheap to make movie there, plus they have awesome scenery that supports so many setting elements of fantasy novels.  I guess the actors come cheap too. Maybe they don’t have unions in New Zealand. I could research it, but I don’t care that much. 

Alas, however, I will have to beg Mr. Parker and his Legend of the Seeker alums a temporary adieu. I don’t consider myself a prude, but Spartacus exceeded my limits for tolerance of gratuitous violence and sex. I saw more bare breasts, swinging male appendages, and bump and grind than you could hope to pay for on the “adult” channels. I saw more blood, gore, and internal body parts than even Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino would find acceptable, and I generally like Rodriguez and Tarantino.  Spartacus literally gave me bad dreams.  

I loved the 300 movie that came out in 2006 with Gerard Butler, and Spartacus is obviously influenced by 300’s graphic novel styling. 300 was violent and erotic, but I never felt it was purely for shock factor. With Spartacus: Vengeance, I had trouble picking out the plot between the litanies of gross and disgusting. It left me feeling like I needed to wash out my eyeballs.

For now, anytime I want a dose of my favorite New Zealand regulars, I’ll just pull out my Kindle and re-watch Amazon Prime’s free streaming of Legend of the Seeker.

It’s silly at times, but the men are handsome and courageous, the women are fierce and beautiful, and the characters are hopeless romantics. Best of all, the violence is subtle and the romantic scenes feel more like an expression of love rather than outtakes from late night on the Playboy channel.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. yuppie
    Jun 22, 2015 @ 10:25:29

    What’s the continuation of the movie
    Or those the firm ends at season 2…?

    Reply

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