Earth’s civilization was destroyed in war, and centuries later the world evolved into one of elves, humans, trolls and gnomes. And magic…
For those who wish epic fantasy could find a home on television, wait no longer. The adaptation of Terry Brook‘s decades-spanning, popular fantasy series, Shannara, premiered yesterday as The Shannara Chronicles.
The premiere episode has set the bar high from what has always been the most Tolkien-esque series of fantasy books. The television version starts with book two, The Elfstones of Shannara. It has been years since I read that volume, so I can’t comment on how close it follows every detail. I think fans will appreciate the adaptation and what it gets right and forgive most changes, like the obvious focus on the young adults of the Four Lands. Yes, the main characters such as Amberle and Wil are supposed to be young, and the books were for nearly all ages, but not exactly what is now considered YA lit. This is balanced by two things: Some familiar, strong actors in the “older” roles such as John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) and Manu Bennett (Arrow). Secondly, there is a grittier, darker take in many scenes of the show. That evil was always there in the books, just not as visualized (I think the TV-14 rating might be a little low, but TV-MA would be too much. There is a vast, subjective gulf between the two, just as there is with PG-13 and R for films).
For new fans, introducing the history of Earth’s devastated past this early (it came much, much later in the books), makes a nice connection and adds a tad of the ever-popular post-apocalyptic vibe. This is also one thread that distinguishes the world of Shannara from other fantasies. Many are set in fictional realms or the past. This imagining is our world centuries after we managed to destroy each other.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for something not like everything else on television to watch, welcome to the Four Lands.