I will start with saying I’ve not read the book series “The Original Shannara Trilogy” that this new series on MTV is based on. Most of the time, I have at least some passing understanding of the source material before I dive into watching a tv adaptation. But this time, I’m going off of my roommate’s vast fantasy bibliophile knowledge and enjoyment of the original works by Terry Brooks, which predate the majority of Young Adult literature we’ve been inundated with at the theaters the past several years (Katniss, Tris, The 5th Wave, etc.).
Diving right into it. The series takes place in an age post-men. I say this because we see many MANY rusted out vehicles that would be familiar to us; a pickup truck, a helicopter, and other cars dot the lush green landscape. Maybe I should also mention they film in New Zealand, explaining the spectacular locations. Our main story revolves around the royalty of Elves, and their symbiotic relationship with the Ellcrys, a sacred tree that protects the world from demons. Something is dreadfully wrong with the tree as it begins to rot and die, shedding leaves much to the dismay of the Elven King (John Rhys Davies) and his subjects. “Each leaf represents a single demon,” a druid named Allanon (Manu Bennett) explains at one point. “Once they begin to fall, the creatures of darkness will be released from the Forbidding one by one.”
Needless to say, this is the starting point of the main conflict. Someone must save the tree from dying, because if it does, all of the demons in the world will be released, and destroy all life as we know it. Sounds a little Fern Gully, right? Or I guess I should say THAT animated classic stole the story, as the Shannara books were published in the 70’s.
Anyhow, Princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton) is chosen by the Ellcrys to save it, due to her connection with it. When she lays her hands on the bark, dark visions of death and a possible future happen, so the Princess runs from her duties. Without a doubt, Amberle is the main character of the story. She is capable at times, and needs to be rescued at others. My single biggest problem with her is the poor choice of costume accents. I mean really, WHO WEARS THEIR CORSET BONES ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE LEATHER?!
Somewhere in the green fields, an unassuming young half-elf named Wil (Austin Butler) whose mother has recently died but not before giving Wil a handful of elfstones (a source of power for those able to use them) begins his quest. So far, Wil is the best actor out of the younger folks in the series, I don’t cringe when he speaks.
Any show that tries to make high fantasy mundane and sexy (I don’t know how that works, but it’s MTV guys) needs to REALLY be careful with their casting, as the fresh faced beautiful ones can’t always make this type of dialog compelling, no matter how well crafted the lines may be, which in this case they aren’t. Seriously, anytime the characters are talking about big sweeping fantasy things with the big fancy words, it totally works and is engaging, but the minute they try to do basic back and forth romcom dialog, it stops and stutters.
So dear sweet Wil runs afoul of raider Eretria (Ivana Baquero), who drugs him and takes his elfstones to give them to her ‘father’ (really just a leader of her clan of raiders) in order to buy her freedom. Needless to say, it doesn’t work the way she intends. Her character is a bit disjointed, going back and forth between being a capable highwaywoman and a girl who couldn’t land a punch if the bag was standing still. She becomes more important as the episodes charge on.
I think it will be interesting to see how the show does, it has a lot of promise for something on MTV, but Teen Wolf continues to draw viewers and fans. Give it a chance, but remember this is a series built for young teen angst, for pretty people and shippers.
The Shannara Chronicles premieres Tuesday January 5th 2016 on MTV.