Italian X-Files Magazine
#40, May 1999
Many thanks to Daniela for this article
Translation from Italian to English done by Daniela
Is it Xenamania? Looking at US magazines and merchandise catalogues the answer is yes: t-shirts,stickers,trading cards ,comics,dolls,action figures,board and computer games,porcelain busts,lithographs...
All is meant to underline the success of a tv serie that has been able to catch a worldwide audience,even if they(the producers)were going to deal with a bold enterprise:to bring back the main subjects and themes of the epic-mythological movies of the 50's in a more suitable way for the modern audience...
For all the ones who (till now)ignored who the one and only Warrior Princess is we must say that her serie is what is technically known as a spin-off.
Her character appears for the first time in an episodes trilogy of the Hercules serie,produced and partly directed by Sam Raimi(Evil dead 1 & 2,Army of darkness, Darkman,The quick and the dead and A simple plan) ,where we can see the son of Zeus to confront a horde of cutthroats headed by our future heroine.Through these episodes we will find out that Xena is not so bad,but she is the victim of an unhappy past:she decided to become a warlord after witnessing,as a young girl,her village Amphipolis(being) spoiled and her dear killed with no mercy,resolute to retaliate in the full observance of the saying "the best defence is to attack".But Hercules will defeat her turning her on the good way.
A new Xena grieved and tortured by remorse will start a journey through Greece,a land that fears and hates her,trying to make amends for her past sins fighting for justice against the evil in all its forms. In her own serie,(shortly after),she will be soon joined by Olimpia (Gabrielle),one of the first to benefit her turning to good:a happy and optimist girl resolute to follow Xena till the end of the world to praise Xena's adventures and to write an epic poem that will allow her to rival in fame with Homer...the two girls will bind very much. Maybe too much according to same...one thing is sure,the writers will wallow in the double meanings for a long time .
The main Xena's enemies are Ares,God of War,who menages to bring back her on the paths of blood and hate making Xena his queen,and the mad Callisto,ideal nemesis,wanting this blond warrior vengeance for the massacres committed by Xena in the past.And more...Aphrodite who is
jealous,Cupid who makes messes,Ulysses who falls for Xena...and even Julius Caesar who comes,sees,conquers and ...sells Xena as a slave!In short a "pastiche" fantasy-mythological endowed with some hilarious moments,that uses the winning formula of the main serie Hercules and where possible improves it.
The casting is one of the best thing in the show:to play the lead character they neither chose a soap opera starlet nor an ex Miss Iowa looking for affirmation,but an healthy and strong beautiful brunette with a blazing glance,the New Zeland born Lucy Lawless.
Really the producers chose her,infact she used to play a secondary role (in the Hercules serie), after the actress who had been chosen to play the role happened an accident,an american actress we can't even remember the name of. Destiny has never been so generous with a tv serie!Lucy Lawless is not only a very beautifull woman,but she has got the perfect "physique du role" to
play the character of a warrior ready to battle armies with her sword,but also endowed with the necessary humour,a mix that gave Xena that special "something" that Sheena,Wonder Woman or Red Sonja never got:a credible character.
Her studies at the William Davis Center for Actors study gave her a versatility which allowed her to play in one episode of the serie the role of 3 Xena's lookalikes,a beautiful voice that she used to dub her character in the animated musical Hercules & Xena:battle for the Mount Olympus and to
play the character of Rizzo in the musical Grease in Broadway.Another ideal choice,in the role of Gabrielle is Renee O'Connor,who plays with humour the enthusiast and conscious sidekick to the cynical and tormented Xena,someway a funny talking cricket whohas grown up through the episodes becoming in the third season(not aired in Italy yet)a more complex character,that
finds herself to face dramatic events meant to change completely her character.
The comic side of the show is sometimes held by Ted Raimi,brother of Sam,a convincing character-actor who appeared in many successful movies and series(Evil dead,American Gothic) and who plays the farcical Joxer... a blanderer warrior wannabe. But we can't help talking about Hudson Leick,the revengeful Callisto,loved by the fans of the serie,and the excellent Bruce Campbell who plays his character,the exhilarating Autolycus King of Thieves,in both Xena and Hercules series. Important elements for the successful results of the serie are also the direction,trusted to a team of tv professionals that,co-ordinated by Tapert,have been able to bear in mind the directing formula of S.Raimi,as well as the special effects,trusted to the Flat Earth studio,digital technics not used to show the modernity but to repeat the old stop motion of Ray Harryhousen at its best,in this way turning a saving in the budget into a homage.Another saving in the budget is the location,the very cheap New Zeland,naturally gifted with a nature as beautiful and luxuriant as unusual to our eyes that has given an additional and spontaneous fantasy touch to the whole series
A cocktail,of good choices and fortunate circumstances,hard to put together that have been greatly appreciated by the audience.Luckily the producers don't want to sit and enjoy the effects
idly,but they always bring new stuff into the series by welcoming new screenwriters thus dealing with always more and more adult themes.Without spoling things too much we can say that the tones of the upcoming (not aired here in Italy)episodes will get darker and more dramatic,sometimes
shading into horror.Will we ever be able to see these episodes here in Italy Mediaset (tv channels) have showed to be very cautious and so the question is not idle... Will the fear of the tv programmators be able to succeed where hordes of demons from the hell failed delivering Xena to oblivion of the airing? To us, the masters of the remote control,the difficult task.
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