Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Shannara Chronicles - The First Four Episodes

First, I must admit that I haven't read the Terry Brooks series The Shannara Chronicles is based on. As I understand it, the TV series starts off with the second book in the series, featuring Wil, Amberle, and Eretria, who are our three leads on the show. That said, I don't think you really need to have read the books to appreciate the show, especially if you are a fan of fantasy.

Poppy Drayton as Amberle Elessedil, Austin Butler as Wil Ohmsford, and Ivana Baquero as Eretria in The Shannara ChroniclesRight now, you can view the first four episodes of the series online and on the MTV App on Roku (and I'm assuming other devices?), which I just finished this morning. Now, you always have to give a pilot a little bit of leeway. There is a lot of information to present to the audience in a very limited amount of time, all while having the pilot episode itself follow its own plotline as well. It's tough, people, trust me. I've written some myself, and they are probably the hardest thing to write well in the screenplay realm. So, the pilot itself was, you know, just okay.

I mean, there was a lot of stuff to tell us. Learning about the Ellcrys tree and its history. How Allanon is the last druid and has just awoken from a long sleep. That Wil is half-elf and has these mysterious elfstones from his father that have some kind of significance he doesn't yet understand. Eretria is a rover who seems trustworthy, but... not so much. And all of this is taking place in a fantasy world that is really our world, just many centuries in the future where humans have evolved into different subspecies.

Got it? I've read some reviews where they say it's a bit confusing and a lot to catch up on, but is it really? These are some fairly common ideas passed down through the history of fantasy series'. A trio on a mission to save the world. Good versus evil. A naive boy who is thrown into a hero's quest. A girl with a destiny. And the Han Solo type who gets pulled along for the ride with the others, despite claiming she is only out for herself. It's classic. It's not that surprising (so far), but it definitely has potential.

That being said, these first four episodes were mostly just a lot of set up for the journey these three will go on together to save the world from the evil demons returning from the underworld, excuse me, The Forbidden. Not until the end of episode four do they actually set out, the three of them, on their journey to take the seed of the Ellcrys tree to some blood something or other to have it be replanted. It all sounds hokey when you say it like that, but it makes sense in the show, okay?

Austin Butler as Wil Ohmsford, Poppy Drayton as Amberle Elessedil, and Ivana Baquero as Eretria in The Shannara ChroniclesThe Shannara Chronicles is an interesting show for MTV to take on, their first fantasy show (unless you count Teen Wolf, but I don't since that takes place in the modern world). It doesn't seem like it would be an MTV show, but more suited for, like, Syfy or something. Nonetheless, it doesn't feel like your typical MTV show either, in that they don't bombard you with what music is playing at certain times, or try to get too showy. Which is good, because that wouldn't fit the tone of the series. The production design is great. These special effects and whatnot must be costing them a pretty penny. It definitely is geared toward a more young adult/teen audience, but that feels appropriate for the story. I mean, come on, you have your love triangle all raring and ready to go right off the bat, here.

So let's talk about that triangle a little bit. While I enjoyed Amberle's introduction because it showed her as a very strong person who doesn't need to be taken care of, after that point she becomes a little too much like a damsel in distress. Hopefully that's just short-lived and she will soon kick some butt again, because I think Poppy Drayton certainly is the best actor of the three so far. That's not to say that Ivana Baquero isn't good as well, because she does a good job at being the snarky girl with a secret soft side, she just hasn't had much to do other than that so far either. Which brings us to our plucky and naive Wil, played by Austin Butler. I've liked him in other things, but I'm not 100% convinced he was right for this one. Something about the way he is talking feels like he's trying too hard or something, I don't know. Perhaps I'm just used to seeing him play more of the smarmy guy rather than the innocent, naive one? Hmm. Time will tell, I suppose.

That's been a little bit of rambling, hasn't it? In the end, the question is this: will I keep watching? And yes, I will. I want to find out what happens next, and despite my misgivings about his acting ability, I sure do like to watch Austin Butler's pretty face. On a side note, my favorite scene so far was when he was tied up at the rover camp and the kids were making fun of his ears. I like the angsty stuff, I guess. What can I say? ANYWAY, if you like classic fantasy and good versus evil, you should give this a chance. As with any show you are interested in, always give it 3-4 episodes before you decide whether to keep it or toss it. By then it should find its footing, and things in The Shannara Chronicles just now seem to be taking off.

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