From the beautiful opening shot it becomes plainly obvious that this isn’t like the other Netflix original series. The shots are wide, the set pieces grand. The Mongol costumes are extravagant and before the opening credits appear, you’ll likely be hooked.
The locations are just breath-taking, the grandiose rooms and beautiful nature shots are enough to amaze even the most casual of watchers. The cinematography easily capitalizes on this and takes full advantage of what nature, and man-made structures, provided them. The camera movement at times can be overly shaky, but many of the shots, especially the panning shots, are typically smooth like butter. Mmm, butter. The special effects are surprisingly great, but then again, it’s well known that this is a big budget TV show and they used their money well. Even the wide shots that are more computer generated than real look beautiful, which just goes to show how much effort was put in the visuals.
The tale of how Marco Polo came to end up where the Television series starts is far more interesting than one would have previously guessed. It involves a lot of travel, obviously, but the previously mentioned shots help as well as the performances given by the many different actors. One such performance is from the show’s lead, Lorenzo Richelmy. While an unknown in every sense of the word, he quickly proves his worth with a noteworthy performance. Benedict Wong as Kublai Khan is amazing. He transformed for the role, looking nothing like his more recent previous films and acts with such an effortless intensity that you can’t help but fear his power.
The biggest issue is that the only time you really hear a female character speak is in between moans as she is engaged in sexual activities. It would have been nice to have more female characters introduced, in a different fashion than that. But with this only being one episode in, there are enough opportunity for that to change. There is a lot of sex and nudity, take that as you will.
This review is a bit short, mostly because it’s only based on the first episode. Don’t expect a review for every episode, unless the series stays at this sort of level and requires a per episode review. The first episode is well done, one of the best I’ve seen since the House of Cards first episode. If the series can improve on itself, or even just stay on par, it will be one of the best shows in recent memory. I personally can’t wait to watch the other episodes.