MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles is gorgeous and lunkheaded, gory and hilarious, sometimes awful and sometimes full of awe. It’s also quite welcome: Just as Terry Brooks tore the pompousness out of Tolkien with his pulpy, brick-thick Shannara novels, the series — executive-produced by Jon Favreau — shows your Game of Throneses and your Bastard Executioners that there are more possible flavors for Medieval Times–flavored entertainment product than the ol’ grim-dumb.
A giddy, flirty adaptation of Brooks’s second novel, 1982’s The Elfstones of Shannara, The Shannara Chronicles can’t help but be derivative — Elfstones concerns the quest of a young man from the boonies (but with mysterious ancestry!) and his unlikely companions to chuck an item of magical power (a seed!) into something called the Bloodfire (ick!).
They’re harried along spectacular New Zealand countryside by demonic forces of the usual dark god, whose servants are designed and animated with impressive fearsomeness.
And did I mention that it’s gory?
And that its heroes tote around giant blunts?
The fantasy boilerplate is enlivened with a winning lustiness. The elf princess (Poppy Drayton) and the seductive thief (Ivana Baquero) both favor bustiers as outerwear, and each has her moments rousing the loins of gentle half-elf Will (Austin Butler), a dreamy-eyed naïf who has inherited a set of “elfstones” — and also rocks Fantasyland’s first heather-green 1995 Gap hoodie.
Anyway, the show zips right along, with lots of teary earnest teen acting and dialogue that mashes up Brooks’s D&D prose with vigorous soap-opera silliness. Here’s the best talk from the first four episodes, presented without context:
Elf Hunk 2: “Only the ones with parties.”
Drippy Naïf: “The Silver River! Its mud is famed for its healing properties!”
Rover Seductress: “What the hell is an Ellcrys?”
Elf Princess: “Loverboy can fill you in.”
Drippy Naïf: “You’re kidding, right?”
Seductive Thief: “No. I wouldn’t want you tracking mud all over my woodsy little house.”
Seductive Thief: “No. I call it like I see it.”
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