The Sword of Shannara was my gateway into the world of fantasy. I read the book in 8th grade and fell in love with the world and the characters in the book. After I read it I tore through the next two books of the trilogy and then consumed all of the other books written in the universe. Since then, I have escaped into the countless novels author Terry Brooks has written in the series. He is one of my favorite authors and I have long waited for one of his books to be adapted into live action form. I remember seeing the initial teaser trailer for Lord of the Rings and thinking it could actually be for Sword of Shannara instead. This is the fantasy world I was lost in growing up. I never really got into Lord of the Rings. I have been following all the development from day one about this series. From its initial announcement about coming to MTV and directed by John Favreau (now just producing) to the premier last night. I really want this show to be good. I want it to be a Game of Thrones PG-13 version. The first two episodes didn’t quite live up to that, but they also weren’t horrible.
Manu Bennet is fantastic as Allanon, but he is about the only bright spot on the acting front. I’m willing to hope the acting and dialogue get better as the show goes along. I’m going to give this show every chance to succeed. I’m in for the long haul, regardless if the dialogue and acting don’t improve. The show does seem to try and appeal to a very teen crowd with extremely beautiful people and adding romance at every corner. Bennet does a great job of anchoring all of this with his role as the mysterious druid. Bennet was a fantastic casting choice for the role and he does not disappoint. Some of his dialogue is still rough, but he has the chops to at least pull it off.
The rest of the cast will have to grow in their roles. I do like the three actors who play the main roles. Austin Butler as Wil Ohmsford does a good job of playing the awe shucks everyday man. Poppy Drayton is a believable Elven queen, and Ivana Baquero is good as the typical bad girl. As the story gets past these first couple of episodes and starts on the overall journey I think the chemistry of the main group will grow. This is my hope at least.
The world shown on the screen is expansive and engaging. New Zealand, where this was shot, is breathtaking and adds to the scope of the world. What always fascinated me about Shannara was the fact it is set thousands of years in the future. It is set after a great war and magic took over from science. Magic is again starting to recede, but it still holds sway. They began to tap into this element in the first two episodes, and it should continue to play a big role in the show overall. The scope of the world and history shown in the first two episodes is impressive. It feels like the world displayed is thousands of years in the future.
While the scope of the world is majestic the first two episodes focused too heavily on exposition. There was a plethora of information to explain in the first two hours and they jammed packed it with dialogue about the Ellcrys, demons, previous wars, and druid magic. I’m not sure there would have been another way to get around the expositional dialogue, but hopefully now that the stage is set the writing will advance.
If you enjoy the fantasy genre I would recommend giving Chronicles of Shannara a chance. I personally wanted a PG-13 level Game of Thrones. We got this in story, scope and world. Where the show falls short is in the acting and writing. This has a chance to improve and I think it will. Too much as gone into making this show happen for it not to be good. That is, at least, my hope. I was always a little worried about it being on MTV, but that was countered with Terry Brooks heavy involvement and Jon Favreau producing.
Is the show everything I wanted from the start? No it wasn’t, but it is still a live action Shannara, something I thought I would never see. I’m still in awe that I was even able to watch a show based on some of my all-time favorite books. If the show picks up steam and is well received I hope it can grow into and rival Game of Thrones for a different audience. It has a way to go, but it didn’t get off to a horrible start.
Let me know if you watched Shannara last night and what you thought. Do you plan on keeping watching or did it turn you off? If you haven’t watched will you give it a chance? There is so much good television on right now if a show doesn’t open up well does it doom the show? Let me know your thoughts.