I entered this world, created by author Terry Brooks, with some trepidation wondering if I would be treated to yet another failed attempt at bringing something as vast as Brooks’ fantasy dreamworld onto such a small medium, and from MTV no less. HBO has successfully achieved the feat in bringing George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” to the small screen but the premium cable outlet certainly had the financial chops to pull something as gigantic as that off. But, could an operation like MTV find it within itself to be able to do the same and bring this fantastical tale off with the same stunningly visual beauty as HBO?
Terry Brooks wrote his trilogy over a period of eight years and it covers a great deal of detail and territory. The three main volumes are titled The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara and the Wishsong of Shannara. All three are truncated for this new television series. Most of volume one is dealt with via look-backs through the eyes of Allanon the Druid warrior while the main heart of the TV series seems to be focused on the second volume.
I was pleasantly surprised at the visual beauty MTV was able to capture for this series. Shot on location in New Zealand (as was the Lord of the Rings trilogy) the landscapes are stunning to watch. It boasts of a rather impressive cast including John Rhys-Davies (Sliders, LOTR), Manu Bennett (Arrow, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena), Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), Poppy Drayton (Downton Abbey) and Austin Butler (Arrow, The Carrie Diaries) as the central characters of the story. Major guest roles include James Remar, Emilia Burns and Daniel MacPherson.
Some 350 years after the death of most of humanity the rise of the Elvish, Troll, Dwarf and Demonics led to a global confrontation in which the Elvish community were victorious over the demons that laid waste to the world with the aid of the human magical Druid society and an Elvish tree known as Ellcrys. Three decades after that final battle the Ellcrys is dying signaling the rise of demonic forces once again. The resurrection of Allanon, a mighty Druid magician and warrior (Bennett) awakens the world to the dangers awaiting it once again. Allanon seeks out the aid of a young half-human/half-Elf named Wil (Butler) and an Elvish princess known as Amberle (Drayton). These three are the only thing standing between the total destruction of The Four Lands by the demonic horde that is coming back to life with the death of each leaf that falls from the Ellcrys. The task of the three is to unlock the magic that has lain dormant and has been long lost as an art to the Elves.
Brooks’ novels were certainly quite a fantastic read but if the first TV episode is any indication then fans are in for a real treat as MTV appears to be remaining as faithful as possible to his work within the constraints that any television production can be under. You certainly won’t forget the magnificent eye-candy that is being provided in the overwhelming beauty found in the New Zealand scenery, which in itself is worth a viewing of the series. Also, with Terry Brooks serving as chief scribe for the show viewers can be confident it won’t drift too far off from his original work. Oh yes, did I fail to mention Jon Favreau (Iron Man) is the executive producer? That too should be enough to garner at least a look see.
I was impressed enough to keep watching to see what lies in wait for future episodes.
On a scale of one to five stars I give “The Shannara Chronicles” * * * 1/2 Stars.