The Shannara Chronicles (MTV) preview: Will TV finally have its own “Lord of the Rings”?

mgid-uma-image-mtv

Pilot “Chosen” written & produced by Al Gough & Milles Millar (Smallville, I Am Number 4, Spiderman II). Adapted from Terry Brooks‘ novels. Co-produced by Jonathan Liebesman, Al Gough, Milles Millar, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Avengers, Revolution) & Dan Farah. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). For MTV & Sonar Entertainment. 62 pages.

Description: The descendants of the Shannara family are empowered with ancient magic and their adventures continuously reshape the future of the world while they’re running into the beautiful but dangerous wilderness of the Four Lands, full of monsters…

With Austin Butler (Life Unexpected, The Carrie Diaries, Arrow), Manu Bennett (Spartacus: Blood and sand, Arrow), Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth), Poppy Drayton, John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones, Sliders), James Remar (Dexter, Sex & The City), Emilia Burns (Terra Nova), Aaron Jakubenko, Brooke Williams, Marcus Vanco, Daniel MacPherson

PREMIERING JANUARY 2016 ON MTV

rate rate rate

While some may argue Game of Thrones IS the equivalent of Lord of the Rings for TV, others would strongly defend there can’t be any. MTV is boldly trying to make their own with The Shannara Chronicles. But most importantly, they’re still looking for THE HIT scripted show that will help the channel going to the next level. Teen Wolf & Awkward did quite a good job, but since then MTV had a hard time finding something that sticks and generates buzz across social medias, which is a shame when you’re targeting mostly younger viewers. Their last shot, Scream, is not rock solid in that department (or in any other actually). Will The Shannara Chronicles can make that leap? I’m not saying no, but I’m not sure there is so much to crave for. At least at the beginning.

Creating a world from scratch can be excrutiating for a writer, especially when you also have to set up stories for numerous characters at the same time, especially when most of them are… elves. This pilot doesn’t really take the time to do so and have to speed everything up all the time, cos time is running out, with a fair amount of inevitable scenes, the same as in Hunger Games or Divergent movies, like the empowered female heroin passing a test to prove she’s worth whatever destiny has in store for her. Of course, she succeeds. We don’t doubt about it even a second. She’s the only woman standing in the race and in the end she’s even the only human elf standing! That can be boring if you’ve already seen the previous titles. And if you give a chance to Shannara, it means there’s a fair chance you had. When the pilot ends it’s not clear how subsequent episodes will look like. Maybe that’s why epic teen fantasy / dystopian stories are still tough to crack on TV, with the exception of remarkable The 100 after a shacky start creatively. And let’s not forget The CW’s two attempts to adapt The Selection saga that never came to fruition. It’s big and it takes time. A premiere structured as a two-hour episode would have helped. So my best guess is the show will be a weekly adventure to find something or someone in the wilderness while pieces of a big mythology will be put together, with a hint of soapy elements like love triangles, treasons, family secrets… Nothing really new here. But… they’re elves for god’s sake!

I have a question tough: is The Shannara books series the success MTV wants us to think it is? “International best-selling novels” they tout. Well, noboby in my “international entourage” knew about it. Anyway, I guess it doesn’t really matter as long as young people find in it what they’re looking for: beautiful teenagers doing magical things with whatever powers they have, without being too dumb. All of that with a budget that doesn’t stink too much for TV. Choosing breathtaking New Zealand to shoot will certainly help it look like something. The trailer (watch below) proves to be quite convincing but it’s too soon to draw any conclusion. A lot of SFX are required. And we know how bad they can be(come) sometimes, Once Upon a Time-style. If MTV wants to be taken seriously with this, they have to show the money. And they also have not to be too teen-oriented. Adult viewers who are looking for fantasy shows might give it a try. Maybe that’s why adult characters are not just adult characters living in a world of teenagers like let’s say… The Vampire Diaries. Maybe that’s also why there is a little bit of eroticism and not that much of storylines about love stories. Or maybe the authors learned from their Smallville days that teenagers are to be treated with a little more respect for what their aspirations and tastes in life are. It’s not just about finding love, getting married and getting knocked-up.

The Shannara Chronicles is a very important asset for MTV that could turn the network upside down if people tune it and stay. It has the potential to go big but sadly, it doesn’t always show on the page yet. The pilot is meh, very predictable, but the series it can become seems pretty okay. Now it’s time for MTV’s marketing team to play their cards right. Showing a trailer at Comic-Con was just the first of many steps. 

 

One comment

  1. Ron Laverdiere says:

    Internationally known? Definitely. Just not to the younger crowds. The first book was 1977. It’s the book that got me hooked on reading, fantasy and sci-fi. Terry Brooks is a hugely successful writer with a tremendous following. Not from the 16-25 year old crowd maybe, but from anyone in there 30’s to early 50’s that loves fantasy, you bet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *