Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Shannara Chronicles (Netflix)

The Shannara Chronicles, a recent TV show currently available on Netflix, is enjoyable and made all the better for its completeness. The Elfstones of Shannara, the second book in Terry Brooks’ fantasy series, begins and ends within the TV series.

Summary

In The Shannara Chronicles, an old tree called the Ellcrys is dying, and as it dies, it releases demons from the Forbidding where they were imprisoned. Will (the half human, half elf heir of Shannara), Amberle (the elven princess and last of the Chosen who care for the Ellcrys), and Eretria (the human rover without a family) must carry the Ellcrys' seed to the Blood Fire, then bring it back to heal the tree before the last leaf falls and a demon army is released.

I was unimpressed with Brooks’ first book, setting it aside out of boredom and frustration with its poor writing style, so I never read the book this series is based on. The author's stilted writing style and heavy reliance on dialogue over action carried over, but credit must be given for the legacy it began of Tolkien imitation.

Tolkien Imitation

And it is imitation. There are references to Aragorn and Gandalf in the nobler characters (especially Allanon, the wise druid), and the demons, other than the changeling and the harpies, are orcs by another name. The dialogue is stilted, full of stereotypical fantasy lines such as Eretria: "Did you hear that?" Will: "I don't hear anything..." Eretria: "Exactly." 

Plot

The plot was intriguing. I like the idea of carrying a seed. It was certainly a beautiful prop. The "plot twist" where Amberle herself becomes the seed probably worked better in the book. As it was, I didn't care about the characters enough to be invested in their shock, only mildly upset that the prop I like so much went unused!

Characters

I have no respect or sympathy for Will. He slept with both girls and never faced consequences for avoiding making a choice between them. As a result, the relationship among the three of them was always tenuous and there was no sense of fellowship. The girls were constantly pitted against each other and Will never stopped playing the field. The characters themselves had difficulty committing to the quest. As a viewer, I held back emotional investment in their teenage angst and became disinterested in their fates. 

Setting

The show's best aspect is the setting, but even here it lacked continuity. Usually it seemed the whole story took place within a few acres of land, but then the characters would fall off a snowy mountain and land in a shallow river without a mountain in sight. However, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the show's creators, managed to craft a fantasy world among the ruins of our own. The Four Lands are visually impressive.

Conclusion

The show has been signed on for another season, and, despite my criticisms, I look forward to it. There is a great deal of potential if the characters grow into something more substantial!


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